17-18 Budget Deeper Dive: Budget Process (5 of 5)

17-18 Budget Deeper Dive: Budget Process (5 of 5)
Posted on 03/31/2017
  Dr. Jeff Melendez


March 31, 2017
Dear Sherman School Community,

The purpose of this final letter, in our five-part series of deeper dives, is to provide Sherman families and members of the broader community with information regarding our budget process.  

Budgets Year-Over-Year
When analyzing the 2017-2018 proposed budget, it’s important to keep in mind that it represents a 0.0% increase over the current year’s budget.  Because we are only eight months into the current fiscal year, we cannot compare our projections to actual data.  Therefore, some line items, while appearing to be a significant increase over last year, may only be a slight increase in reality.  This often occurs for contracted positions that were not yet finalized at the time the 2016-2017 budget was adopted and approved by the Town. 

A second reminder when comparing budgets year-over-year is to keep in mind that each fiscal year is separate and distinct from another.  For example, in FY 2016-2017 the BOE realized a surplus of approximately $300,000 in excess of budget.  These funds, by law, must be returned to the Town at the close of the year, ending June 30th.  The BOE does not have the choice of keeping those excess funds and it has absolutely no bearing on the next year’s operating budget.

Budget Process
This year a significant shift was made in the process of developing the 2017-2018 budget.  For the first time, discussions around funding did not begin until after the 2017-2018 Master Schedule was complete.  This is an important distinction because it allowed us to have a clear understanding of the opportunities we wanted to offer our students, and to define our instructional needs.  Equipped with those details, and with a solidified Master Schedule, we were able to develop a budget that accurately reflects our school's priorities.  It is important to note that a great amount of time was taken to solicit input from staff in the development of this schedule, and numerous modifications were made based on the feedback received.  Although not every suggestion offered by faculty was acted upon, all opinions were heard.

While the timing of the budget development process shifted slightly this year, there are several things that did not change.  As the Sherman School community has come to expect over the last several years, this 2017-2018 budget was developed through a transparent process of publicly warned budget workshops.  Specifically, four workshops were held during the month of February, each workshop focusing on different areas of the budget so that staff and/or administrators with particular insight in those areas could attend and provide their input.  The Board also received input from one parent.  Rigorous debate, and sometimes disagreements occurred during these budget discussions, which are welcome and encouraged.  Ultimately, after hearing all sides of each issue, every budget decision was agreed upon unanimously.

Meeting  Topics Discussed Administration / Staff Input
2/6/17 Overall Budget Dr. Melendez, Mr. Schoefer, Mrs. Fichtel
2/15/17 Special Education / Exceptional Students, Transportation, Supplies and Equipment, Staffing Dr. Melendez, Mr. Schoefer, Mrs. Fichtel, Ms. Boylan
2/22/17 Facilities and Maintenance, Technology, Fiscal Services, Staffing Dr. Melendez, Mr. Schoefer, Mrs. Fichtel, Ms. Boylan, Mr. Luchsinger, Mr. Spaziani, Mrs. Lawlor
2/24/17 Overall Budget, Psychological Services, Maintenance, High School Tuition Dr. Melendez

A Budget with a Purpose
On February 25th, after four public budget workshops, the 2017-2018 budget was presented to the Board of Selectmen at Mallory Town Hall.  During that meeting, Chairman Rowland Hanley described this budget as one “with purpose.”  His statement resonates because our budget was most certainly developed within the context of a vision that was manifested by the community.   This vision provided the anchor and compass by which every discussion and every decision was guided throughout the entire budget process; our vision gave it purpose.  The 2017-2018 budget is not its own entity, it is simply a tool that represents how this district plans to fund the educational programming that will enable all Sherman students to become the best possible version of themselves. 

It has been encouraging to see the engagement among parents that has taken place over the past several weeks and I am incredibly hopeful for what that means for the future of our school community.  The word “we” in our vision is intentionally a collective “we” and it holds more meaning than this budget could possibly articulate.  It will take all of us – parents, teachers, staff, community members – working together to make these plans a reality.  

Continuous Improvement
Despite everyone's hard work throughout the budget process, there is always room for improvement.  Please know that the Board and I will be soliciting feedback from parents and the broader community to ensure that our budget process for 2018-2019 is more clearly articulated, more transparent, and more effectively communicated.   

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Jeff Melendez
2 Route 37 East | Sherman, CT 06784
P 860.355.3793 | F 860.355.9023 | W shermanschool.com
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