FinCom begins FY15 budget discussions for the Carlisle School

by Karina Coombs

Carlisle School Superintendent Joan Wickman was formally introduced to the Finance Committee (FinCom) at its September 9 meeting before the group discussed how to proceed with planning next year’s school budget (FY15).

After describing the qualities that made Wickman stand out from the rest of the applicant pool, Carlisle School Committee Chair (CSC) Mary Storrs reported the transition from former Superintendent Joyce Mehaffey to Wickman had been smooth. “She doesn’t know how to take it easy,” said Storrs of Wickman.

First steps

Wickman explained that while she had previously worked with a number of boards and finance committees, when overseeing five school budgets, the Carlisle School’s was different. “I’ve seen a lot of budgets,” Wickman explained, “but not as large as this I will admit.”

Storrs asked the committee how best to organize the FY15 budget, noting that discussions would begin the following day. FinCom member David Model explained the school would be assigned a liaison, who would have discussions with the leaders of the Carlisle and Regional School Committees to talk about the direction of the school budgets. Before the end of the year, FinCom will present a guideline for the school to follow. Storrs noted the CSC and school administrators do not wait for the guidelines to begin planning. 

Committee considers new enrollment figures

Of particular concern to FinCom is the number of new students who entered the Carlisle School for the 2013-2014 academic year. The total enrollment is about the same as last year, ending an eight-year decline that had been expected to continue. Model questioned if the enrollment was an anomaly, or if the number of students was on an upward swing. 

“[Looking at one year of enrollment] is not really fair,” said Model, but noted this was a big issue and worthy of a discussion to prepare everyone about where to go. Salemy referred to the stronger-than-expected enrollment as the “new-school syndrome” and predicted a similar effect when construction of the new Concord-Carlisle High School was complete.  

Model volunteered to serve as school liaison. He cautioned that the school budget was more political than most because it receives a lot of attention, but that FinCom trusts the knowledge of the school when setting its budget and figuring out what it needs. Model said that the FinCom takes a high-level view. “A 30,000-foot view of budgeting.”  

Finance Director Larry Barton explained that FinCom would need to have its work done by early March and concurred with Model’s description, “The school is looking at the tree, but FinCom is looking at the forest.” ∆