WILMINGTON, MA – School Superintendent Mary DeLai and Director of Administration and Finance Paul Ruggiero recently appeared on Wilmington Community Television to discuss the school system’s proposed FY16 budget.
On Assistant Superintendent Kate Burnham’s “In The Loop” program, DeLai and Ruggiero offered the public tremendous insight into how the $36 million budget was developed. View the episode HERE.
Ruggiero detailed the nearly year-long budget process.
“In October, a budget package is sent out to all principals and school department heads, asking them to submit budget requests, along with justifications, by early November,” said Ruggiero.
The Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Administration and Finance, Special Education Director, and Technology Director meet individually with each principal to go over the requests & justifications, according to Ruggiero. After that meeting, the leadership team is brought together in one room to rank all the new employee and program requests to “see what are the most important new funding requirements for the district.”
Ruggiero then prepares a preliminary budget with the DeLai to show to the School Committee in early December. The two then meet with Town Manager Jeff Hull, Assistant Town Manager Kendra Amaral and Town Accountant Mike Morris, to review the preliminary budget; receive an update on the town’s revenue forecast; and come to a resolution on a budgetary increase “that the town can sustain and the schools can live with.”
The revised budget is then brought back to the School Committee and, after a budget hearing in February, the School Committee takes their vote. DeLai and Ruggiero then go in front of the Finance Committee to review the budget and answer questions, prior to residents voting on the budget at the Annual Town Meeting on the first Saturday of May.
“Kudos to Paul, who does a fantastic job,” said Superintendent DeLai. “He’s very detailed-oriented. It’s a great amount of information one has to pull together to effectively figure out we’re going to spend $36+ million dollars. He’s done a fantastic job in feeding me that information.”
DeLai also discussed some of the school district’s areas of strengths (e.g., higher than average graduation rates, SAT scores, AP scores, post-second education rates) and areas of weakness (e.g., closing the achievement gap with underperforming special education students, low income students, and English Language Learner students).
DeLai then highlighted some of the district’s “budget drivers” (e.g., contractual salary increases, rises in special education tuition and transportation costs), before detailing the district’s FY16 budget priorities.
One priority DeLai discussed in detail was needing to address the behavioral health needs of students.
“Years ago, the focus was on academics and academic performance, but we’re in a different world now, an students come with all sorts of different behavioral, social/emotional, and mental health needs,” said DeLai. “In order to keep a child in a place where they can perform academically, you just can’t ignore these other issues… We’ve got to give our staff the tools and resources to be able to address these needs. The needs must be addressed before a child is able to sit in a classroom, focus, and perform academically.”
DeLai also discussed how the budget process ties in with her entry plan and forthcoming strategic plan, and what it feels like to be Superintendent after serving in Ruggiero’s role in another school district for the past 10 years.
DeLai and Ruggiero encouraged residents to review the school district’s budget, which was posted on the school district’s website. You can find the budget HERE.