School system fiscal management

By Maria Libby and Matt Dailey | May 19, 2017

As approval of our school budgets and a new middle school proposal will soon go to vote, we wanted to help our community to better understand the fiscal management and oversight of the school system.

Between the two school districts (School Administrative District 28 and Five Town Community School District), our superintendent and business manager are responsible for administering annual budgets totaling approximately $25 million. There is a very long history of exemplary fiscal management of that budget that is validated by a series of checks and balances. Those checks and balances include a thorough and transparent budget process that allows for community feedback, having every expense approved by the business manager, the superintendent, and two board members, a monthly, public review of actual expenditures against budgeted expenditures, and an annual audit of district finances by an independent accountant. Because our practices are so thorough, we have never overspent our budget, nor have we ever received a citation as the result of an audit. Our leadership understands the budget well and is detailed and painstaking in their approach to fiscal management.

In addition to that, our school districts have managed two major building projects in the past 20 years valuing between $13 to $18 million each. A school system does not have the authority to spend more on a building project than what the community has approved, so if circumstances change or unexpected issues arise during the project, adjustments are made to keep the building construction within budget.

For instance, during construction of the high school, the committee appointed to oversee the project made revisions to the project in response to certain costs coming in higher than expected. The elementary school project, which had the complication of being built while kids were attending school on-site, actually came in under budget. For both projects, the school board hired a clerk of the works and an owner’s representative to provide day-to-day expert management and direct oversight of the work. In many cases, these people were able to spot potential problems and have them addressed before they resulted in additional costs or time delays. The board will be hiring for the same two positions for the middle school project. Additionally, the school board has selected Oakpoint Associates as the architect for the middle school project. They have an excellent history in designing and building schools, including Lincolnville Central School, Jefferson Village School, and Vinalhaven School, which have all come in under or on budget. All these layers of oversight and budget management will insure that the middle school project will be completed to the community’s high expectations.

The bottom line is that you can be confident the middle school project would be managed in a professional, transparent, and fiscally responsible way. We have a long history of strong fiscal management with best practices in place to insure that continues.

Maria Libby is the superintendent of SAD 28 and Five Town CSD and Matt Dailey is the chairman of the SAD 28 Board.

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