The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of October 17 to October 24, 2019

Superintendent and Finance Committee Review School Expenditures and Warrant Article

At the Finance Committee meeting and public hearing on October 9, the Finance Committee and Winchendon Public Schools Superintendent Joan Landers reviewed information about the mid-year school department financial accounts.

At this time, the school accounts show deficits or negative balances in some line items, especially for some salaries. Finance Committee chair Thomas Kane Jr. stated that the FinCom had discussed this situation with Superintendent Landers, and the schools were aware of the negative balances and working to straighten out the numbers.

The apparent deficits are an artefact of how expenses are being posted to line items. The bottom line totals are all in order. The school department currently does not have a full time business manager, and is using a consultant who also works with the Narragansett Regional district. This means that a lot of the accounting work is being done remotely rather than on-site and it takes time to catch up with the errors. The End of Year reports have been filed. The town accountant's office has taken over handling payroll for the schools. The unused money budgeted for the business manager salary is being used to pay for the consultant's services, so there is no extra cost to the school district.

The FinCom notes that this seems to be a chronic problem with the school department books, going back to when Harper's was handing the payroll. In some cases it's a problem with line items: for example, expenses budgeted for custodian's uniforms were all applied to a single line item instead of being distributed among each school's accounts.

There has been an increase in Special Education (SPED) expenditures due to an unanticipated student being added to the program.

The Finance Committee took Warrant Article 10 out of order in the public hearing portion of the meeting, so that Superintendent Landers could make her presentation.

Article 10 asks the town to transfer $124,024 from Free Cash to the school department's Out of District Placement Account.

Superintendent Landers explained that while there had been $124,000 in the Circuit Breaker account (a state program that helps schools pay for SPED services), this money is returned to Free Cash if it isn't used within a set period of time. All of Winchendon's schools are Title I (a federal program that assists schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families). Title I grant monies and funds in the School Choice account have been spent down for teachers, consultants, coaches, a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) specialist, a teacher for deaf students, and other positions needed by SPED programs. No grant money is available to pay for many of these positions. This year there has been a $71,610 increase in expenses for outside placements. Budgets for travel and professional development have been eliminated to help cover these expenses.

If the amount in Article 10 is approved, the money will go into the town operating budget. Anything not used by the schools will be re-allocated to Free Cash at the end of the year. Last year, the schools returned $266,000 in unused funds to Free Cash.

Monty Tech Annual Career Awareness Night on October 21

Montachusett Vocational Technical High School’s annual Career Awareness Night will be held on October 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the school. Seventh- and eighth-graders and their families are invited to attend the event and see firsthand what vocational-technical education is all about and how it prepares students for a successful future.

Visitors will be able to tour the school and see students and teachers working on projects in all 21 career and technical programs offered. Information will be available about extracurricular programs and sports. Administrators will be available to answer questions and help students make an informed decision about high school placement.

Monty Tech is located at 1050 Westminster St., Route 2A, at the Fitchburg-Westminster line.