Deciphering The Numbers | Windham NH School Board Budget
By Dennis Senibaldi, Windham School Board Member
Over the past few months, the Windham School Board has engaged in the daunting task of reviewing the budget. This document contains over 1500 lines and 800 pages to read. Trust me when I say it is not even a tenth as enjoyable as a good novel and I have spent many hours reviewing the budget, page by page, since the School Board first received the budget on November 14th, 2015.
I spent time reaching out through the proper channels so I could engage staff with questions that would help me better understand the complexities of the budget. After many discussions and questions had answered I decided to write this letter of clarification.
This letter is meant to address two items that need further clarification; why there was a significant surplus in the fiscal year 2015 budget and what percentage of the budget goes directly into the classrooms. These two items seem to have been the cause of some recent confusion.
The first point in question is the fiscal year 2015 budget surplus. Many people were shocked when they first heard that there was a $3.3 million dollar surplus in the budget and jumped to the conclusion that the School Board over inflated their budget. With just a cursory view of the budget, this might seem like a legitimate suggestion, but is it? When you thoroughly analyze the budget, the answer becomes quite clear that it is not.
The budget was artificially deflated in the fiscal year 2015 due to significant one-time events that will likely never occur again. These unique items add up to approximately $2 million dollars and include a better than expected health insurance rate, deferred retirements, bond refunding and Health Trust rebates to name a few.
There are are two essential facts everyone needs to understand about the fiscal year 2015 budget. First, and most importantly, it was successfully and strategically utilized to promote and effectuate the education of our children. Secondly, $2.8 million dollars of the surplus was returned to the voters. Which is a general practice not only for this budget but past budgets as well and $500,000 was retained for roof repairs and following year encumbrances (approx. $425,000 for roof repairs and 75,000 for encumbrances). Understanding this information is important because it helps outline how the staff arrived at the current 2016 fiscal year budget and how they came to the 2017 proposed budget.
The second item to address is the percentage of the budget that makes its way into the Windham classrooms. At a recent meeting it was stated that this proportion was a disappointing 43%, and if that were the case, anyone would certainly agree. Fortunately, that is not the case. Windham is on par with many other New Hampshire towns of comparable size with 66% of the budget going directly into the classrooms.
The discrepancy and difference stemmed from they way Windham reports certain data as compared to other towns. While there are many ways to reflect the data, the staff said that they would change their methodology to make future comparisons easier to understand.
As a dedicated member of the school board, I believe it is our fiduciary responsibility to put forth a budget that provides the children of Windham the best education possible and to ensure the residents of Windham understand it.
Dennis Senibaldi, Windham NH School Board Member
Dennis Senibaldi is a member of the Windham School Board and local community advocate. He is dedicated to providing children with the best education possible and has recently announced his re-election campaign for the Windham School Board. For questions, concerns or more information you can find Dennis on Facebook at www.facebook.com/votesenibaldi or Twitter: @dsenibaldi.