Council, School Committee Start Budget Talks
December is a long way from June, when next year's budget is finalized at the Financial Town Meeting, but you've got to start somewhere.
Town Council and School Committee members sat down together Tuesday for the first time since the election brought two new members to the School Committee and everyone agreed that the spirit of collaboration that began two years ago and continued last year should be continued.
It was the first of what both panels acknowledged would be numerous joint and independent sessions on the fiscal year 2013 budget, which will begin July 1, 2012.
The School Committee, while an independent body, must live under the ultimate budget decisions of the Town Council, which by town charter must pass the budget. The School Committee submits a budget to the Council in March. The Council must pass a budget in May and voters have the opportunity to vote on the budget at the Financial Town Meeting in June (if there's a quorum – otherwise the budget passes as presented).
Despite all the neatly laid out school and town deadlines, final budget numbers depend on the state's budget, which often hasn't been passed by the time of the town's FTM. The biggest piece of state funding goes to schools and the school funding formula may take some of the guesswork out of the budget. But, since it is part of the state budget and anything can happen, it may not.
School Committee Chair David Green said the Finance Committee was already working with the different administrators ("budget owners") on next year's budget.
Town Councilor Jeffery Cianciolo asked about the so-called "fiscal cliff" on the federal level and how that could impact schools. According to Maryann Crawford, director of administration for schools, the district gets between $60,000 and $80,000 a year from the federal government.
Council President Michael Isaacs talked about possible shared services.
"One area we talk about every year is the extent to which we can share services or consolidate services, so I think as we go into the budget ... to start thinking about whether there are any areas in which we could collaborate in which we could reduce expenditures overall," said Isaacs.
The two panels will meet again early in 2013.