GROTON — With its fiscal 2010 budget adopted, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee has turned to details that could either shave a few more dollars off the bottom line or result in more revenue.
Chairman Paul Funch opened the March 18 meeting with a presentation of successful efforts made by the Andover school system to find extra dollars for their budget. At the same time, Andover employed imaginative ways to work with town government to share expenses and bring down costs.
Sparked by municipal exasperation with the School Department practice of robbing its own building maintenance funds to keep cherished educational programs alive, town officials finally decided to step in and administer the maintenance budget themselves.
The action proved successful enough to cause town officials to move on a number of other fronts, including consolidation of school and municipal human resources departments, purchasing functions and copier services.
Work is underway on further consolidation of information technology services and sharing food service duties with other school systems.
Saving money in the area of energy usage became a townwide effort in Andover. An Energy Task Force was formed, comprised of members from every town and school department and a focus plan was developed.
“Every dollar of energy saved is a piece of someone’s salary” became the slogan for the energy saving effort, sure to catch the attention of workers in an era of downsizing.
To increase the efficiency of energy use by the schools and the town and to save money down the road, Andover developed a program of preventive maintenance and operating procedures that relied heavily on turning off equipment such as exterior lighting, computers, space heaters and refrigerators, and boilers that were not in use.
A vigorous inspection program keeps employees on their toes and ensures compliance with the cost-saving rules, while keeping up to date with energy providers’ deals.
So far, with the money retained in the school building fund, Andover officials have been able to retrofit or construct new buildings that are more energy efficient and to buy equipment designed to detect areas where energy is being wasted.
However, given that Andover was quite successful in its effort to make energy use in its buildings more efficient, in the end, the town was only able to save $189,347 from the school budget in FY2009.
For a school system such as that of Groton-Dunstable that is less than a third the size of Andover, a proportionate amount would hardly put a dent in the $2 million plus shortfall to be experienced by the district in FY10 or barely cover the inevitable increases in subsequent budgets.
The School Committee voted on March 4 to adopt a budget for fiscal 2010 totaling $35,903,476.
Nevertheless, looking under every rock for any kind of savings, the district’s director of business and finance Timothy Sheehan said last week that he already plans to move ahead with energy saving ideas.
On a separate front, school officials are looking forward to the possibility of receiving money from the federal “stimulus” package to be distributed by the state.
Although school superintendent Alan Genovese said the funds would be used to restore employees the district had been forced to lay off, he was unable to say just how much money the district would receive.
As to talk that stimulus funding would come with strings attached, such as a requirement that states continue funding whatever was paid for by the stimulus beyond the two years of the program, Genovese replied that the district has no plans to pay for what he termed “unfunded mandates.”