In what Winthrop Chief Financial Officer/Town Accountant Michael Bertino described as “really the beginning of the budget process,” Superintendent of Schools John Macero last Thursday night unveiled a $16,373,553 level-serviced budget for the School Committee to consider for fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1.
In total, the budget presented at the public meeting would reach $17,223,244.99, when adding in revolving accounts for food service delivery and the athletics department budget, which are both revolving accounts, the funds from which can only be spent in their dedicated line items.
The $16,373,553 dollar budget is the amount that the School Department will be seeking from the Tow Council, when budget appropriations are made later this spring and summer, it marks a $730,819 increase in last year’s Town appropriation for the schools, which Macero explained was largely due to known increases in certain line items and the loss of some funding streams that were utilized to balance the current year budget.
“It is important to mention that the school department had previously unveiled a budget that we believed was in the best interests of providing for the needs of the schools and the students,” said Macero, during his presentation of the budget. “However, with the way the fiscal year is looking, going toward next year, there is no way in my mind that we can talk about what it would be best to have, when I know it will be difficult to get a level-serviced budget approved.”
A level-serviced budget is different from a level-funded budget, in that the level-serviced budget seeks to maintain all existing programs and activities in current operation, inclusive of any increases in cost that would go along with that from one year to the next. Level-funded budget simply delivers the same funding from year to the next and department leaders, in this case the schools, are forced to make cuts equal to whatever increases the budget would normally see from inflation and negotiated pay raises, etc.
Macero used his presentation to explain to School Committee members and the public that he is hopeful that working together with the Town Council and town administration that the schools will be able to appropriate enough funding for the schools.
“We’ve made some progress with the budget we had this year, in terms of things like class sizes and offering various programs, and I would like to make sure that we don’t lose that progress,” he said.
Macero explained that the nearly $750,000 difference between the current Fiscal Year 2012 budget and the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, can largely be atributed to three areas, including: approximately $250,000 in grant funding that is not available this year; $222,789 for steps and lane increases for school department contracts; and approximately $230,000 in special education tuitions, which were under-funded in the current fiscal year.
Following the superintendent’s presentation of the level-serviced budget, members of the School Committee. Including Todd Sacco, Bill Holden, Mary Alice Sharkey and Melissa Polino asked the superintendent for clarification of various line items in the budget, before opening the budget discussion to the public for comments and questions.
In the end, Macero and Bertino both noted that much is still unknown about what will be available to the town for funding from the state in the coming fiscal year.
“Ultimately, the town will tell us what they will be able to appropriate and we’ll then have to make some difficult decisions,” said Macero of the annual process to achieve a balanced budget.