WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) received a meritorious award from the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International for its budget planning during fiscal year 2015 (FY15).
“The prestigious award recognizes business officials’ skills in developing, analyzing, and presenting a school system budget,” Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea said.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Regulbuto told Reminder Publications in FY15 a total of 1.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions were cut in the district. The initial budget called for approximately 15 FTE positions to be cut, however the district was able to find funding to restore 13.2 FTE jobs.
“We worked with every single bargaining unit,” she added. “We worked with the towns. We contributed a significant portion of our excess and deficiency funds; reserves, to support the budget [because] we just believe that it’s really important to serve the kids at the level that they’ve been served at.”
The FY15 budget consisted of an approximately $44 million operating budget, she noted. The fiscal year 2016 (FY16) operating budget is $44.9 million.
In FY15, the district also saw a decline in enrollment of 64 students – 1.94 percent of HWRSD’s total student body, she noted.
The requirement for the award was that school districts demonstrate “excellence in their school budget presentation” with high standard for transparent budget development, Regulbuto said.
A set of criteria for the award includes “a story of the district,” including how it went through its budget development process and how decisions were made based on allocated resources, she added.
The presentation to the ASBO also includes sections detailing the district’s finances, curriculum, grants, performance measures, teacher retention, staffing levels, as well as information regarding both Hampden and Wilbraham, she noted.
“We definitely had some pluses [in FY15],” Regulbuto said. “Our excess and deficiency account was certified an all time high, our reserves, basically. It was at 1.3 [million] that year, which came in handy.
“We had a challenge being faced with the deficit division, which is where we’ve been opening the year since I can remember,” she continued. “I’ve been doing this eight years and I don’t think I’ve had one year where it hasn’t been a difficult start to the budget.”
Regulbuto hopes the district would receive a similar award for FY16 as well.
To date the FY16 budget calls for 12 FTE teaching positions to be cut throughout the district due to a $1 million shortfall. Initially, that shortfall was $1.3 million and the budget would have cut 15 FTE teaching jobs. However, the district was able to shrink the shortfall through cost reductions and additional revenue streams.
She added that “a little bit” of additional revenue might become available to reduce the $1 million shortfall through state aid such as Chapter 70 monies.
“The first thing we look to do is to restore to what we need,” Regulbuto said. “That’s what we hope, but it’s getting trickier to do that. We’re close … we manage it very tightly and we work very closely at what we can with our projections.”
The lack of fully funded regional transportation funding, which required to be fully funded and has not been by the state for the last few years, is one factor that contributes to the $1 million shortfall in FY16, she noted.
Chapter 70 monies have been level funded during the last several years, Regulbuto said. She doesn’t anticipate funding to increase in the future.
“I think it’s going to be incredibly tight and it has been for years,” she added. “I don’t see that trend changing, unfortunately.”
Regulbuto said the district is always looking for ways to relieve the budget pressures each year to deliver the best education to students.
“There many sleepless nights and really difficult decisions that come with this role and we always have to keep an eye on what our mission is and the educational experience for kids and excellence in education … what the taxpayers want for their children, what their expectations are and [to] try to balance all of that,” she added.