August 24, 2018WOLFEBORO — The budget process for the Governor Wentworth Regional School District was front and center at the Aug. 9 school board meeting, as Chairman Jack Widmer spoke in response to a request for Finance Committee minutes from Ed Comeau of Brookfield, who expressed concerns about the district's budget.
Comeau, who films and posts governmental meetings online, including those of the school board, has expressed the desire to form a budgetary oversight committee, comprised of members from the district's towns.
On the matter of minutes, Comeau said he was "shocked" to find that there were none. Widmer explained that there is never a quorum, no motions are made, and no votes are taken in any of the standing committees.
Information pertaining to the particular topic area (according to the web site: Academic Affairs, Buildings and Maintenance, Finance, Human Resources and Public Relations) is collected and discussed and shared with the board. The board as a whole entertains motions and takes votes if warranted. School Board minutes are then posted online.
Nevertheless, Widmer said he "would be more than happy to add minutes to the process." Superintendent Kathy Cuddy-Egburt supported the idea, too, and after discussion about the mechanics, such as who would be designated to take minutes and what turnaround time would be expected, board members agreed to provide minutes of their work sessions.
As for the budget process, Widmer explained its development through to final presentation at the annual Deliberative Session. First, the building administrators put forward their requests from "teachers to paper clips" to the Supervisory Administrative Unit (SAU). At that point, the superintendent and the business administrator apply their red pens.
Second, the Finance Committee (comprised of elected school board members), reviews the requests and "scrubs everything down...Remember, 75 percent of the budget is people related," noted Widmer – salaries, benefits, and retirement.
17 percent of the budget is for operations – including heating, bus transportation, and fuel.
Next, the board gives a detailed PowerPoint presentation of the budget in public hearings, from preliminary to final draft. Those are followed by the annual Deliberative Session at which amendments are entertained from the floor.
Mailings are sent to every resident in the district to keep the public informed, said Widmer, and board members' phone numbers are provided for feedback and questions. The phone numbers are included on the GWRSD website as well.
Widmer commented that citizens have been very supportive over the years, turning out for a 75 percent approval of the Kingswood Complex renovations.
"We are here to listen," he stated, as he welcomed visits to any of the work sessions.