All-Island school committee makes budget adjustments

An error in the 2016 budget will require a reallocation of monies.

The All-Island School Committee approved splitting the director of student support services position into two. — Michael Cummo

The all-Island school committee met Thursday night for the first meeting of the school year to discuss fiscal year (FY) 2016 and 2017 shared-services budgets.

The shared-services budget encompasses three general areas, including the superintendent’s office (superintendent, secretaries, business administrator, assistant superintendent, curriculum department, director of student services), shared programs (Bridge, Project Headway, and social skills), and other direct services (physical and occupational therapy, Strings program, speech and language department).

A calculation error made in the FY16 budget called for a second look at the budget. The high school accounts for 20 percent of the budget, and the other 80 percent is shared among the five schools based on school enrollment. When the FY16 budget was put together, the enrollment percentage formula was incorrectly entered, resulting in some towns being undercharged and others being overcharged.

“We need to cut this budget to get down to an assessment amount that’s fair to everyone,” school business administrator Amy Tierney said. To do so, the actual appropriations brought in by each town were taken and re-entered into the spreadsheet with the correct formula to identify the correct percentages for each town.

“We need to lower the budget [FY2016] by $76,000 to get everybody to the point where their assessment is correct,” she said. This year there is an anticipated $79,000 savings from the health and dental benefits line, which, pending staffing changes, can cover the $76,000. In doing so, the overall budget total would not change. Rather than an increase or decrease in spending, $76,000 from the benefits line will not be spent.

“If this doesn’t work out, there will be other areas that we can look to,” Ms. Tierney said.

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury said he was uncomfortable with that solution, and preferred to reassess and hold the towns to the correct amount.

“That to me would be fair to all the towns involved,” he said. “The ones that were under-assessed, well, they need to step up and realize that a mistake was made. Those that were over-assessed need to be credited and not have to pay that money upfront. As complicated as it is, it may involve town meetings, I don’t know, but that’s to me the upfront, fair way to do it.”

Ms. Tierney questioned why it was necessary to complicate things when the $79,000 savings could cover the mistake.

“Why go back to the towns and cause all this, when we don’t really need to collect that money right now?” she said.

Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea said he understood what Mr. Manter was saying, and wanted to re-look at the numbers. The committee will revisit the budget at their meeting in October.

Also Thursday, the committee looked at the draft budget for fiscal year 17, which begins on July 1, 2016.

In total, the draft budget is up 2.73 percent, from $5.78 million in FY16 to $5.93 million. The highest increases came from the addition of a middle school Bridge program, which provides continuing support for students with multiple involved disabilities, middle school social skills payroll increases, and early childhood program payroll increases, which increase and decrease based on staffing and student needs.

The budget included a 10 percent increase in medical benefits and 5 percent increase in dental benefits, and between 2 and 2.5 percent possible raises increase pending union negotiations. Those numbers are consistent with past increases.

Savings came from staffing shifts, reduced payroll obligations in several departments, and office maintenance costs that were already addressed within the past year.

The committee voted to take a second look at the draft budget at their next meeting in October, with a more detailed breakdown of staffing, hours, and school-by-school programs.