School District Holding Its Own in Second Quarter

 

Londonderry is holding its own in the second financial quarter of the fiscal year.

Business Manager Peter Curro gave an update on the current budget in the Jan. 17 School Board meeting. While the budget is tight, Curro reassured the board and television audience that, barring unusual circumstances, the district should make it to June 30.

Curro wrote in a memo that the district’s general fund is running “very close” to the approved budget for 2016-17.

He and Superintendent Nate Greenberg have ordered a “freeze” on all non-essential purchases. Curro wrote, “If we make it through the rest of the fiscal year, especially the winter months, without any unplanned events, we should be able to purchase all budgeted and planned supplies and equipment.”

The “unplanned events” include the mercurial winter weather and the prospect of children moving into the district who need special education services, especially out-of-district placements. The out-of-district placements are expected to overrun the budgeted costs by up to $350,000. But the district has a $150,000 buffer for out-of-district placements that will be available till the end of the year, he added.

Pupil Services, which includes Special Education, 504 plans, the homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Act and English as a Second Language, is expected to be over budget by $200,000 by the year’s end.

Employee benefits should come in at budget, with the exception of Workers Comp insurance and employee retirement, according to Curro. The Workers Comp was on his radar from the beginning of the year as new contracts were negotiated, and is currently at a cost overrun of $98,430. As for the retirement, the cost of “end of career” payouts is based on who will or has submitted for retirement, he said.

While the district hired several new employees to keep pace with the growing elementary population, it also saw a significant number of retirees, leading to a reduced overall cost in the personnel line.

Regular education should come in at or under budget, Curro said, in part because of savings from staff turnover.

The savings plan includes continuing to monitor the use of substitute teachers, over which, Curro wrote, the district is keeping a “tight rein.” The district underfunds this account, with funding to come from savings from staff turnover due to retirement.

Buildings and Grounds will come near its approved budget, he said. The subgroup of utilities should be under budget, unless the weather turns colder. He reminded the board that snow affects the rest of the accounts in Buildings and Grounds, and not just the overtime line.

Information Technology (IT) saw several cost overruns, with $85,437 in professional services, $38,960 in software and $57,769 in replacement equipment. The three areas are necessary to support the services and stay in line with curriculum and program needs, and the money will be found in other General Fund accounts, Curro wrote.

The second-quarter report gives a good picture of where the district stands financially because it can incorporate six months’ worth of data, according to Curro. But with the end of the year still six months off, “It allows us to make any adjustments,” he told the board.

Anticipated revenues are on or below target, according to Curro. Expenditures are also on or below target, he said.

Curro predicted a “modest” surplus of $50,000 to $100,000 by the end of the year, although he warned that, “We’re only halfway through the winter.” It’s not necessarily the amount of the snow, but the timing of the storms, Curro said. If no significant storms occur over the next six weeks, and the district can keep some of its snow removal budget, that money can be used to defray other costs.

The budget is tighter than it was in previous years, Curro said.

“With snow and special education, we will just have to see,” Vice-Chair Leitha Reilly observed.

The Dining Service expects to break even or generate a small profit, Curro said, incorporating capital costs, transfer from the General Fund to cover free and reduced lunches at the high school, and deduction of commodity foods after the district withdrew the high school from the Federal school lunch program. Unbudgeted expenses included new ovens at Matthew Thornton and North elementary schools.

Curro also informed the board that he has been in contact with the Federal Department of Education, and that the DOE will not require Londonderry to have a price hike on its school lunches next year.

In other business, Greenberg gave a brief enrollment report, noting that enrollment is up 47 students over December of last year, and that the bulk of the increase is still in the elementary schools.

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