The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 28, 2003


Business manager keeps school running on budget

Since stepping in as business manager of the Carlisle School in January, Steve Moore has been busy negotiating a new bus contract, helping to shape the budget for next year and keeping the business side of the school running smoothly.

Steve Moore
A school business manager is like the chief financial officer of a small corporation, says Moore who is responsible for managing this year's $7.2 million school budget. The business office fields everything from employee questions on health insurance to arranging buses for field trips. It handles many of the daily operations of the school, including purchasing, human resources, technology administration, and the school lunch program. "The business office manages things so that teachers don't have to track everything down. We optimize the resources we have and pass them on to teachers and students," says Moore.

Budget 80% labor

The school budget is 80% personnel or labor costs. Along with personnel, utilities, facilities and maintenance are all fixed costs. In addition, special education costs which account for about one-quarter of the total school budget, are mandated by the state.

With school supplies, textbooks and other costs making up the remainder of the budget, Moore says, "If you make big cuts, you cut people, because there's nothing else to cut. The school is a service business. The costs represent people." He praised the importance of funds received from the non-profit Carlisle Education Foundation this year in helping to retain the school librarian's full-time services, a position that would have been reduced to part-time without outside aid.

"The school is the largest service business in town," adds Moore and the product is education. In working out the annual budget the business office identifies the costs associated with programs, helping to "put the puzzle together. The budget is a financial blueprint to accomplish in a given period of time."

This year's $350 fee for Tuesday and Thursday full-day kindergarten, for example, was determined by taking teacher and aide salaries and other costs and dividing the total cost by the number of kindergarten students expected. The $375 fee for school bus service for seventh·and eighth-grade students implemented this year was determined by a similar cost-based method.

Moore has looked into changing the way teacher supplies are purchased. Massachusetts bid laws require schools to purchase supplies for the best value. The goal is not to find the lowest price but the best value, and low-priced supplies that are poor quality are not the best value, he says. The school will also implement an on-line ordering system this spring to allow teachers to place orders via computer, updating the ordering process while using the state's contract for discounts.

Of the substantial reduction in state aid to towns and cities this year he says, "It's still all shaking out. Carlisle is certainly going to get less state aid, but the figures are still being worked out."

However, Chapter 70 aid, state money for schools, makes up only about 10% of the overall Carlisle school operating budget. In comparison, he says, the city of Lawrence receives about 90% of its operating budget from state funds, because of the state's needs-based formulas. For FY03, the current year, state Chapter 70 aid for Carlisle is $733,000, with an additional $50,000 for transportation reimbursement.

School lunch goal to break even

The school lunch program operates close to the break-even point and is supposed to pay for itself. Faced with rising costs, the school announced it will raise the price of lunch from $1.75 to $2.00 at the end of March. For each lunch sold the school receives 25 cents from state and federal subsidy programs, to which the school provides a monthly statement accounting for lunches.

Moore is now starting a School Lunch Advisory Council made up of interested parents, students and teachers to look into ways to improve food service, including having more nutritious meals, improving lunch lines and the cafeteria environment, and to look for ways to increase student participation in the lunch program, which will help the program continue to remain self-supporting.

As business manager, Moore attends school committee meetings on budgetary issues, is a member of the school building committee and is also the school's representative to the town FinTeam meetings held every other week with other town boards. These meetings get the schools more connected to the town, he says, and help inform town officials about what's going on at the school. Business assistant Sue Pray handles accounts payable and receivable and payroll for the school, and Denise Casper also assists in the business office which often works with Town Hall.

Before Carlisle

Before Carlisle, Moore was assistant school business manager for the Hull school system, where he did most of the accounting and purchasing for the schools. A Quincy resident, he has a BA in community service management and is currently working on his MBA.

"My philosophy is teachers are here because they care about kids," he says. "I'm here to take care of things, so teachers and the administration can spend more time taking care of the kids," adding that he also appreciates the high parent and community involvement in, and commitment to the school that he sees in town.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito