For information about the FY15 budget that is currently being proposed, click here.
Seven things you should know about our school budget:
1. The total budget for the schools is not $30M or $31M, it is closer to $50,000,000. The difference between what we vote for at town meeting and the real total is made up in grants, fees, and state & federal aid. The U.S. Dept. of Education shows last year's revenue and expenditures in Wayland as $49,678,000 and $48,783,000, respectively. (Fiscal data from 2009-2010)
2. Once the money is in the door, the administration can decide how to spend it, regardless of any specifics that were stated in the budget request the year before. For example, they can say we want $1.8m for new computers and ultimately decide to spend it on paper clips instead. (Don't worry, that's just a far-fetched example to make a point.)
3. The Abrahams Group (TAG) recommended that we de-centralize the budget, so that each school be responsible for its own budget. It is common for the Business Administrator to put a spending freeze in place at some point in the year and ask each school to return any unspent money to the Central Office. In 2009, according to John Kaveleksi, this order to return money came from Business Administrator Joy Buhler earlier than he'd ever experienced - in October, just one month into the school year. TAG's recommendation of de-centralization would mean that if, for example, the MS budgeted and received funding for books, the Central Office would not be able to take that money back for another purpose, without going before the SC and making a very specific, formal request.
4. For many years, there has been no accountability or oversight of the budget, to speak of. Our new administration says they are working to correct the problem.
5. There has been, and continues to be, no segregation of duties between the inflow and outflow of money. This is a real no-no. Best Practices call for a clear distinction between Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable. It should not be the same person(s) performing these duties.
6.The controls on the MUNIS software set up by former Business Administrator Joy Buhler were turned off. This allows for a free movement of funds from one part of the budget to another. Not surprisingly, this is not considered Best Practices according to the Abrahams Group and will need to be corrected.
7. The $48,000,000 that our schools spend annually is spread out over the course of the year. Some portion of that total, ranging from thousands to millions, is put before the SC at each of their meetings and they are asked to approve it. Until Shawn Kinney came on to the School Committee in 2010, the approval process consisted of one member making a motion to approve the accounts payable, followed by a unanimous vote to approve them, without any member of the SC ever looking through the pile of invoices. They really had no idea what they were approving. Shawn's presence has introduced a slight variation in the mix. Because he is not provided a spread sheet or summary, he abstains, but the rest of them vote to approve it anyway, sight unseen.
In 2011, Wayland's school administration provided 52 pages of detail to residents for our $48,000,000* school budget.
Lexigton provides 204 pages.
Brookline provides 329.
Needham provides 559.
When this fact was pointed out, a former School Committee member dismissed it, saying that they've got more graphics, photos and redundant information without actually providing more detail.
Click on the links under the photo.
to see if you agree.
Wouldn't you like to know more?
Wayland's school budget has been an enigma for many years. As recently as 2008, the ± $30,000,000 budget (actual expenditures = over $48, as explained above) was presented to the town in 9 pages and the "detailed" version for those who sought it out online, was a mere 15 pages. By comparison, Weston's was 155 pages.
After much noise from citizens in letters to the editor of the Town Crier and emails to the administration and School Committee, it has now grown to 33 pages. However, Lexington and Acton's budgets are over 300 pages each and Needham's is 559 pages. It's still not clear why the entire budget in extreme line item detail is not available for anyone who wants to see it or download it. However, it is clear that our efforts have paid off, as the administration has realized that they really do need to make this information available.
Facts to consider:
• The Central Office employs 7.8 secretaries, working for 3 administrators.
• Our Superintendent’s salary is $185,483. He also has a town provided car and fuel card (This is public information and can be found here) as well as 3 secretaries.
• His assistant’s salary is $136,065, and he has a secretary.
• The business administrator, whose duties include designing and implementing the bus routes, as well as oversight and disbursement of the $30,000,000 budget, makes $128,957 annually. And she also has 2.5 secretaries and/or assistants working for her.
• This School Committee voted unanimously to give administration a raise last year, even though the bottom had already begun to fall out of the economy by that time and several Superintendents around the state were taking voluntary pay cuts, in light of the downturn.
• To their credit, the Administration did not put in for raises for themselves in this budget, however, they also did not recommend voluntary pay cuts, in order to keep from "dismantling the school system" (Dr. Burton's words to describe his FY11 budget), as so many other towns' school administrators have done.
• In February, 2010, the School Committee signed off on another $30,000,000 budget based on a 10 page “detailed” version and a partially redundant 28 page “Personnel” version. From this and the very little breakdown they asked for, they determined that this $30 million dollar budget, like the one last year and the year before that and the year before that, seemed about right, without ever getting into any serious breakdowns or details.
* The number we hear most often for our budget is not $48, but ±$30 million, which represents what the voters are asked to allow out of the town's coffers. However, through federal & state aid, fees and other revenue streams, the actual amount listed by the U.S. Dept. of Education shows last year's revenue and expenditures as $48,442,000 and $48,522,000, respectively.