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School Committee Votes In Favor Of Selectmen’s FY21 Financial Management Plan Amid COVID-19 Concerns

By Kristen Arute
Updated May 11, 2020

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On Monday afternoon after a brief discussion, the School Committee voted to adopt a financial proposal that was presented to them by the Board of Selectmen.  When a roll call of the seven members was taken, six School Committee members voted in favor.  Libby Lewiecki abstained from voting.  One change in wording suggested by Liza O’Reilly was incorporated into the FY21 Fiscal Management Plan.  The Selectmen were also present at the meeting.

Previously the Selectmen had identified two options to address an anticipated budget deficit due to the COVID-19 crisis.  One was to open the FY21 budget and make cuts.  Towns like Brookline and Natick have made budget cuts in conjunction with furloughing staff.  Another was to identify amounts within the $3.3 million fund balance (the Town’s “savings”) that could be used to offset the projected decline in revenues.  The Selectmen chose to explore the latter.  When the idea was brought before one of the Town’s financial advisors, she suggested incorporating financial management tools into the plan.

School Committee Chair Michelle Ayer described the tools that would be implemented.  “If revenues begin to decline,” she said, “these are the levers we will pull.”  The first, known as “Tier One,” ensures that departments focus on essential hires and essential capital projects only.  Departments will also be expected to manage non-personnel operating expenses.  Monthly forecast meetings and quarterly reports to the Advisory Committee will be set up to keep a running tab on progress.  A change of more than $500,000 would trigger “Tier Two.”  At that point, the School Department and the Town would share any reduction in costs with 60% of the cuts coming from the school budget and the remaining 40% coming from the municipal budget.

When describing the impact of adopting this approach, Selectman Mary Power summed it by saying that essentially the Selectmen and the School Committee intend to go before Town Meeting on June 22nd with a message for voters.  “We are saying if you give us 100% of our budgets and the revenue picture worsens,” she said, “we will give some of that money back.  We are telling Town Meeting to trust us.”

The Massachusetts Municipal Association announced on Friday that they expect the impact of COVID-19 to extend well beyond FY21.  “We are going to be dealing with the financial impact of this for several years,” said Mary.

Board of Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson said that the plan will be made available to residents on the Town website on Tuesday.

The School Committee also set up a finance subcommittee “to help John Ferris as he works through all things budget-related,” said Michelle Ayer.  She appointed Nes Correnti, Kerry Ni and Liza O’Reilly to the subcommittee and assigned Nes Correnti the chairmanship.

Hingham School Committee:

Michelle Ayer, Chair: mayer@hinghamschools.org
Carlos DaSilva, Vice Chair: cdasilva@hinghamschools.org
Kerry Ni, Secretary: kni@hinghamschools.org
Ed Schreier: eschreier@hinghamschools.org
Libby Lewiecki: llewiecki@hinghamschools.org
Liza O’Reilly: loreilly@hinghamschools.org
Nes Correnti: ncorrenti@hinghamschools.org


Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.

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