School Budget Information to be Available OnlineSeptember 13, 2013
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan
New website features will easily provide residents access to school district financial documents and budgetary information right from the homepage.
Director of Finance Deborah Payne demonstrated to school board members Tuesday just how accessible information was becoming through the site.
“We have a financial site as part of our website,” Superintendent Michael Delahanty said, allowing residents to access information on budgets and financial documents.
Payne gave the board a demonstration of the new site that includes the district’s budget and a breakdown of departments such as Career and Technical Education, Continuing Education and Food Services.
Board members praised administration for making the information so accessible but recommended ways to make it more comprehendible.
Board member Michael Carney suggested information to organized into a visual representation using graphs to better display data. “We could express our message,” he said adding this was the first time the information was readily available for the public.
Member Peter Morgan agreed. “I find graphs much easier then digging through the numbers,” he said.
Morgan expressed concerns residents may be confused by other aspects of the data citing an over expenditure of heating fuel and excessive funding in the natural gas line item. Delahanty said the staff would use members’ suggestions to help illustrate what the numbers mean.
The board was also updated on plans for an estimated $75 million renovation to the high school.
Plans were presented to board members last month, and Delahanty said modifications were made based on feedback from the board.
A final price has not been determined for the project according to the superintendent. “We are very, very far from having an actual number,” he said. “That number right now is an estimate.
Delahanty said he received questions regarding the tax impact of the project. Offsetting revenues still being sought along with an $11 million grant coming from the state will reduce the price tag for taxpayers. “The state has about $7 million that would be available for districts on a priority basis,” he said.
A request for proposal has been issued to eight firms for the project and at least seven bids are anticipated for next week. Delahanty said up to four firms would be selected for an interview after the proposals are reviewed. He anticipates estimated construction costs to be available by early November.
An informational session will be held September 19 at 7 p.m. in the high school television studio where residents will have the chance to hear more detailed information on the project and provide feedback. The Salem Community Patriot will have coverage of the event.