FRAMINGHAM – Last week, I wrote about the MASC Summer Institute that I attended recently and the key points related to Goal Setting and Monitoring that I took away and will be considering as we start another school year later this month and as we plan to transition to a new 9-member School Committee in January of 2018.
This week I will discuss the second of the three sessions that I attended – School Finance and Budgets 201: Beyond the Basics
Aside from setting an overall vision, mission and goals for the Framingham Public Schools and then hiring a Superintendent to achieve those goals, approving and overseeing the school budget is one of most important functions of the School Committee. Although the budget is not an actual policy, it becomes a de facto policy document because it conveys the priorities for the district. Specific to this point, in the session we reflected on the quote from Joe Biden “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” Other key takeaways for me included:
- Because the budget conveys the spending priorities for the district, the School Committee needs to make sure that it is aligned with the goals that I discussed last week. On the surface this may seem like an easy thing to but it’s definitely not; despite the strong support of Town Meeting we do not have unlimited funds for the school district so we must assess to what extent each expenditure supports the goals of the district and in some cases reduce expenditures that provide less benefit to our students.
- Since the budget should tie back to the goals for the district and given that we have a new Superintendent with whom we have not yet done goal setting, I believe that the School Committee needs to start doing goal setting early this fall despite the transition to the new city government in January. The school year and the budget cycle are not going to stop simply because we decided to change our form of government, so we need to do everything in our power to make sure that the budget process goes smoothly and that the budget (the overall number and the detailed breakdown by area) are appropriate.
- With the transition to the city government in January, we need to make sure that budget discussions between the school leadership and the city leadership continue to happen on a regular basis. Education funding represents a significant portion of our municipal budget; this coupled with the risk of reductions in state and federal aid makes it irresponsible to not have ongoing financial discussions.
- Between the School Committee and the FPS leadership, we should review our practices to make sure that the School Committee has appropriate oversight and visibility into the budget throughout the school year without interfering with the operations of the district. My personal perception is that we rightfully have full trust and confidence in our business manager Ed Gotgart, however that trust and confidence does not relieve us of our fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Framingham. Appropriate oversight and controls also benefit everyone; in the words of one of our speakers (Mary DeLai, Business Manager for the Watertown Public Schools), oversight and transparency “helps me sleep better at night”.
If you would like to discuss this or any other topic, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up Next Week – Servant of the Assembly: The Role of the Chair
Candidate for Framingham School Committee – District 3