Welcome to the Marblehead Public Schools
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
Preparation of the annual school budget endures as one of the most important yearly duties undertaken by the School Committee and Administration. The budget process, commencing with needs assessment and identification of district goals, is the opportunity for the district to communicate and ask for support for its priorities, educational programs and operational needs. Our guiding vision continues to be academic achievement and the intent that all students fulfill their greatest potential academically and emotionally.
The budget developmental process begins with the Superintendent’s Preliminary Budget Goals presented to the School Committee and continues with a series of public discussions vetting new priorities and initiatives, as well as the continuation and level services projections of existing operational expenditures. Internal requests from Principals and Department Heads are funneled through the Business Management Team and Superintendent, and discussions with the Town Finance Office are held verifying contractual increase requests and corresponding supporting data. These collaborations are compiled into a final Superintendent’s proposed
budget and is presented to School Committee for approval as well as posted publicly on the Schools' website and presented to the Town Finance Committee and ultimately Town Meeting.
Changes and Updates in Budget Process for FY15
This year the budget process includes internal budget requests based on needs assessment from principals and department heads. While historically the model to fund expense accounts was a level services assumption, needs-based requests better serve to identify and prioritize building-specific needs in instruction and facilities. While not every identified need can be funded, tracking and prioritizing these requests will allow the Schools to commence a longer term, five-year, budget plan. This plan will allow for a staggered fulfillment of high-level needs with the realignment of existing non-recurring or ‘off-year’ operating funds. This year there will, and should be, serious and thoughtful discussion about the direction of the Marblehead Public Schools, its long-term budget and the educational goals and priorities desired for our children
and our future.
This year during the FY15 budget process, Building Principals and Department Heads were asked to submit the following:
- School/Building Operational plan – narrative supporting budget plan including building/department specific missions, goals, activities and performance objectives and indicators
- Total appropriation and account line request breakout by School/Building – with notes and supporting data where appropriate or non-level request
- Requests to create and fund new account lines to better track specific new programs or initiatives
- Staffing FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) requests – with notes and supporting enrollment data or specific student service needs
- High Priority Needs – new this year. Building and Department heads were asked to indicate top three ‘needs list’ items specific to their School or Department and approximate estimated expense. This could be staffing needs, facility needs, grounds or equipment needs. The goal is to compile this information to get a feel for high priority requests and assess the ability to address them in a strategic long-term budget plan.
The Administrative team has looked closely at current and requested appropriations and realigned where possible based on need, rather than following the traditional level fund rule for each account line appropriation. We have requested an increase in professional teaching staff FTE and have provided to the School Committee, Finance Committee and Town Officials enrollment, backup and historical data to support this request. Requests above realigning existing level funds outside of contractual increases will be vetted through School Committee and appropriate Town Departments and incorporated into the Superintendent’s preliminary FY15 budget proposal.
During this process we will also continue to collaboratively review centralizing relevant funding to the district level expenses such as 504, testing and assessment and curriculum/instructional online service annual subscription contract expenditures. This centralization for specific expenses provides us with the ability to not only track these funds in detail but to also report certain expenditures on state mandated reports in a more detailed manner which can successfully affect grant funding.
District Goals Summary FY15
The past two budget seasons have seen many positive changes to our operating structure. Fiscal 13 successfully brought senior leadership positions to the district, rounding out and strengthening the administrative team. Fiscal 14 budget initiatives included major curriculum adoption, accompanying professional development, and large scale technology upgrades to infrastructure and equipment.
In Fiscal 2015, district level goals will continue to include planned technology upgrades, initiatives in student academic assessment, and recommendation in aligning curriculum to common core with priority on ELA (English Language Arts). Additionally, our notable uptick in enrollment, as well as historical understaffing, has called for top priority to be placed on our professional staffing needs, particularly at the High School level. It is likely that the High School's NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation study results require us to address professional staffing and course options and we must prepare now for anticipated funding increases in FTE staff and course offerings.
FY15 budget recommendations will also look to ensure the maintenance of sufficient resources to sustain planned and strategized long-term curriculum, technology development and five year building and capital planning initiatives. The Superintendent has had the opportunity to collaborate with Marblehead Department Heads and Residents with specific areas of expertise in the newly formed Superintendent's Safety and Security Advisory and the Superintendent's Facilities and Maintenance Advisory. Results of these volunteer-based committee collaborations, including needs-based budgetary recommendations and long-term planning are outlined by category below.
The FY15 budget process will develop analysis of FTE allocations specific to building and special subject areas aligning with internal initiatives as well as the High School's NEASC review findings. While we assess current and future staff needs in regard to academic programs, we will also look to enrollment data which early indicators point to a strong need to increase our FTE count with the highest need at the High School level.
Budgetary Staffing/Employee Assumptions for FY15 include
- Contractual increases across all units/step and grade increases
- Last year of three-year union contracts
- Negotiations of new contracts will begin in FY15
- Town continues to pay insurance costs associated with School employees paid out of the operating budget appropriation (payroll drawing from special funds and grants-School pays associated insurance costs)
- Continue to monitor FY14 substitute lines and properly fund FY15
Additional Staff requests to support and align High School initiatives with specific needs referenced from the HS Principal and NEASC Accreditation study recommendations include 4 FTE High School professional licensed teachers. These teachers will address High School goals including; compliance of Massachusetts DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) guidelines for Physical Education, recommended four-year math requirement, and updated program of studies which will lessen study periods, and create additional course offerings. The ELL (English Language Learner) program will add two .8 FTE licensed professional teaching staff to address the notable uptick of our student English Language Learner/English Second Language demographic. The staffing budget will also look to add/increase office support staff at the building level.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
The School FY15 budget will continue to support systematic curriculum and program evaluation to ensure that students are receiving excellent instruction and coherent high-quality curriculum in every subject area. New math programs across all grade levels continue to roll out and are supported with materials, publisher professional development and staff ‘liaisons’ for internal training and professional development. The ELA committee continues to build and update curriculum with Science, Social Sciences and Fine Arts in the pipeline for curricula assessment. Teaching and learning standards and initiatives are strategized and aligned with the Common Core and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. FY15 funding will be available to implement improvements recommended in the program evaluations. Consideration and assessment will also be given to
development of alternative measures of achievement where appropriate. The ELL program will need funding for additional staff and program initiatives to address the dramatic uptick in enrollment. Funding will also continue to provide for assessment initiatives including the expansion of the AIMSweb and Galileo assessment tools, implementation of MKEA (Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment), and study and revision of existing report card models. Lastly, funding will support the identification and development of District Determined Measures and associated initiatives.
The FY15 School budget will partially fund Year Two of the Technology Supervisor’s five-year plan. Fiscal 15 will increase staffing by one instructional technology specialist, increase in FTE for the Central Registrar and continue summer intern program where possible. Infrastructure priorities include upgrade FIOS internet speed, completion of Village WiFi network, upgrade of existing Village network and expansion of High School WiFi. Equipment priorities aligning with year two of the technology plan are district wide PC replacement, High School projector replacement and district wide smart board projector replacement. Technology operations will continue to fund renewals and licenses as necessary and purchase supplies, repairs and upgrades where possible.
The School FY15 budget funds an increase in Water and Sewer expenses across all buildings based on five-year historical underfunding. The budget seeks to appropriately fund standard assessed usage without going over the Water and Sewer budget as a whole. Energy costs at new Glover School are anticipated to grow with the addition of educational technology and updated HVAC and air quality systems. All Eveleth utility funding will be absorbed into additional funding for the Glover School energy budget lines. The School Department will again benefit from the Town Engery Reserve program which will fund up to $250,000 in electric, gas and heating costs after School level-funded school utilities lines are exhausted at the Town/School agreed operational energy budget threshold (not applicable to water/sewer
FY15 Administrative goals for School facilities are planning, parity and growth. This year the Superintendent has formed the Superintendent’s Facilities Maintenance Advisory Committee (SFMAC) to assess and strategize current and long-term planning needs regarding Town and School buildings, facilities and grounds.
On-site building audits have been conducted by the advisory council consisting of members from construction, planning, engineering and additional backgrounds, as well as additional areas of expertise aligning with our Schools' facility goals. A five-year capital facilities plan has been initiated based on prioritized findings of the SFMAC. The advisory holds ongoing meetings to update the plan as funding sources become firm. Budgetary allocations aligning with School facility initiatives will be in consideration of these Facilities Advisory collaborations and its recommended strategic plan outcomes and priority.
In this fiscal year's facilities plan we also seek to improve parity among buildings and to update, where appropriate, identified problem buildings and areas, as well as properly maintain our newer buildings and renovations. FY15 will see the closing of the Eveleth School and the incorporation of the Eveleth line item budget absorbed by the larger capacity new Glover School. In fiscal 2015 we will also continue our requests and communications to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to evaluate and confirm our need for a new elementary school for the Gerry/Coffin district by submitting our updated ‘Statement of Interest’ for the project.
The FY15 budget provides specific funding for security needs based on recommendations and findings of the Superintendent’s Facilities and Maintenance Advisory. Needs include identification badges, keys/locks, blinds/shades for classrooms (police recommended for lockdowns) and security camera, monitoring and video equipment with priority given to currently unmonitored schools and school nursing offices and stations.
Grant and Revenue Sources
Based on to date indicators including State and Federal FY15 budget planning, we are anticipating approximately level revenue from both State and Federal Grants for fiscal 2015 with the exception of the loss of the Race to the Top grant which funded its final year of educational initiatives for the current FY14 school year. The School FY15 budget will have to fund existing educational initiatives including staffing, curriculum materials and supplies to maintain those services as level.
Pre-School and Kindergarten tuition funds remain stable and the School Committee recently approved a level tuition rate for the full day kindergarten program. The anticipated uptick in Kindergarten enrollment and tuition collection will offset the reinstatement of a 12 district classroom Kindergarten model up from 11 classrooms in school year 2013-14. Similar revenue streams in additional revolving funds, including athletic, student user fees and building rental are expected to remain relatively level and should fund those services directly related to their fee collection.
Special Education tuition in/out and subsequent special education transportation needs are unpredictable and are directly proportionate to those students coming into district to receive Marblehead Public Schools special education services and those Marblehead residents placed in out-of-district programs.
Marblehead Public Schools continues to collaborate and benefit from the industrious work and generosity of local community and private grant partnerships. Through these grant awards we will be able to complement our general budget appropriation with funding toward our overall student success-driven goals including; technology, curriculum, enrichment and fine arts initiatives.
Funding Realignment and Five-Year Budget Cycle
Many School budget conversations stress our reliance on ‘level funding realignment’ from year to year. What is the source of the funds to be ‘realigned’ for newly anticipated budget year initiatives, and do these realignments reduce instructional or operational excellence? To answer this question one must understand the cyclical trend of the School Budget. While level funded staffing will draw on equal to, or greater, funding from year to year to maintain current staffing without reduction of force, non-staffing operational expenses vary from year to year. These sources include non-recurring expenses, which in many cases are offset by new initiatives in the same department, and ‘off-year’ expenses such as audits, facilities compliance inspections, and accreditation visits. These interval expenses may occur bi-annually, or in some cases every
three to five years. Standard budgeting practices indicate it is typically not appropriate or cost effective to utilize ‘off-year’ expense monies to fund an increase in staffing as this would create an unsustainable expense in the subsequent years the funding was needed again for its purpose. That said, the staggering of these non-staffing expenses does allow the budget to fulfill short term, or non-recurring needs, particularly curriculum, materials and facilities, as part of a long term budget plan. The FY15 budget allows for curriculum, assessment and technology initiatives with funding from non-recurring or off-year High School NEASC accreditation study, financial audits and operational costs associated with the Glover build and move of FY14.
Cost Savings and Operational Efficiencies
While annual priority is made on the proposal of funding for staffing and expenses aligning with prioritized programming, it is notable to understand the efforts of operational cost savings and the expense offsets of grants and special funds revenue. Our Administration has made significant recent and ongoing initiatives in cost savings which directly and proportionately boost funding for instructional and staffing goals. We are working to continually run internal audit and procedural reviews to identify efficiencies in all areas of operations, work flow and spending.
Our continued initiatives for FY15 in this area include:
- Careful monitoring and assessment of fuel and energy, and adoption of group, cooperative and fixed rates where applicable
- Application of special revenue funds for applicable operational and staffing charges as agreed to with the Finance and School Committee policies regarding Schools revolving and tuition funds
- Project funding from grants, state aid and reimbursements (Circuit Breaker)
- Identify new sources of Grant monies at both the Federal and State level
- Identifying general opportunities for savings through ongoing audit of current budget. Potential costs savings includes bulk supply orders, annual maintenance contracts as preventative rather than reactive expenses and identifying duplication of efforts or duties at the operational level
- Adhering to best practices and legal guidelines in procurement and utilizing vendors from State Bid List where appropriate to ensure lowest cost to district
- Identifying and implementing operational efficiencies including cross training, procedural documentation, ‘ticket’ database for technology and facilities, all intentioned to minimize the outsourcing of service.
The School Administration looks forward to working closely with School Committee, Finance Committee, Marblehead residents and community and Town officials during this budget process. Discussions, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. Thank you for your continued interest, support and input as we continue to finalize and vet our district-wide FY15 School budget to present to Town Meeting.
Superintendent of Schools