School district holds roundtable meeting to discuss FY19 budget

SOUTHWICK – The Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District hosted a budget roundtable on Thursday night to discuss the beginning stages of creating the FY (Fiscal Year) 2019 school district budget. The town officials involved in the meeting was representation from the Select Boards of Southwick, Tolland, and Granville, along with the Finance Committee.

As part of the regional agreement with the town of Southwick, the school district gets together with the town every November to discuss the potential items that may impact the town budget. They also give an outlook on the next fiscal year school budget.

Since the school district isn’t a department of  any of the towns, Superintendent Jen Willard found the roundtable meeting to be beneficial for all parties.

“It’s just a formal way to start communicating where we are so that we can all kind of get on the same page,” said Willard.

By starting the roundtable discussion, Willard went over the main issues that the district plans on focusing on when trying to put the FY19 budget together. Those issues consisted of Enrollment, Financial Impacts Areas of Concern, Fixed Cost Increases, Technology needs that aren’t in the Capital Budget, and Capital Needs for FY19-FY20.

Superintendent Jen Willard is seen discussing the FY19 school budget with town officials. (Photo courtesy of Greg Fitzpatrick)

For enrollment, the school district discovered that they lost 31 students from October 2016 to now. Included in that, there was a loss of 10 students from grades eight to nine as those students either went to a private school, vocational school, or opted to do school choice.

Financially, Willard pointed out that the district allocated $366,000 this year for the FY17 budget in order to dedicate that money towards the sewer project to comply with Mass DEP (Department of Environmental Protection). There was also $146,000 allocated from the FY18 budget to settle the lawsuit with the town of Granville.

Looking at the technology needs, the district will work to include updating their website, increasing bandwidth in the schools, and addressing staffing needs. During the meeting, Willard noted that the website could use a major improvement.

“It’s not really user-friendly,” said Willard. “We need to update our website.”

After Willard went over the main issues, Jeff Houle, the Chairman of the school committee, notified the town officials about the committee’s plan moving forward with the capital borrowing budget.

“We’re going to continue down the path of $600,000 per year,” said Houle.

Moving forward, the school district will be having a public hearing in the near future to allow the public to give their input on the district’s budget ideas. The school district has to have their finalized FY19 budget approved by the town by April 1, 2018

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