Even though it is only October, the fiscal year 2012 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012) budget process has been progressing along since last month with the September meeting of the Financial Forum (a meeting of the Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Library Board of Trustees). During the early months of the process, there are numerous conversations with Town officials, school department administrators, and local boards to begin to identify the needs of the school district and town government, the revenue projections for the overall budget, and the projected expenses for next year. In addition, we are currently having discussions as a community on ideas to generate additional revenue and to consolidate costs and reduce expenses.
There are still several months to go in this process and it is much too early to identify what the budget picture will look like for next year. One key piece of data that will not be determined until late January will be how much state aid the Town of Reading will receive. State aid makes up about 18-20% of the revenue coming into the general fund for the Town of Reading.
There are also several other unknowns in the FY12 budget. We will be going out to bid for a new natural gas contract, a new substitute teacher contract, a new bus transportation contract, and new copier lease contract. In addition, we will begin negotiations over the next few months with all five of our collective bargaining units. Each of these unknowns may have an impact on the FY12 budget.
Over the last several weeks during my meetings with school groups, community groups, and neighborhood coffees, we have discussed the priorities for this school district and what must be maintained at all cost. These meetings have been extremely productive and are continuing over the next few months. I will be using this data as I draft the FY12 budget. In addition, as I mentioned in last week’s post, there will be opportunities beginning in November at our community forums to give your thoughts on budget priorities, revenue generation, and cost savings ideas.
Another way that you can be involved is to become a budget parent. we are still looking for a few budget parents to be a part of the process. Any parent who has children attending the Reading Public Schools may be a budget parent. The role of the budget parents is as follows:
- Participate in meetings with the Superintendent of Schools and Director of Finance and Operations in November and December to learn about the school department budget and the budget process
- Work with the Superintendent and the Director of Finance and Operations to review, critique and give input on the budget and the budget process
- Understand how the budget process works and advocate for the entire school department budget
- Act as a liaison between the school department and their child’s school by reporting back to other parents both formally (PTO and School Council meetings) and informally
- Participate in November Community budget forums
- Attend School Committee meetings and other pertinent meetings during the budget deliberations in January, February, and March.
We are looking for two budget parents for each elementary school, three for each middle school, seven from the high school, and one from the Special Education PAC group. The purpose of having multiple budget parents for each school is so that everyone does not have to attend every meeting. The meetings will begin in November and will last until March. If you are interested in participating in being a budget parent, please contact your child’s building principal.
As we learned last year during the FY11 budget process, there are always many unknowns, particularly in these current economic conditions. Our goal is always to develop a budget that uses our resources as effectively as possible with the final goal of doing what is in the best interest of our children. What we need from you is to become involved early in the process and to stay involved and educated about our budget. If there are ways that we can communicate the process to you more effectively, please let us know.
Stay tuned, this year’s ride has just begun!