Cape Elizabeth school budget plan: Needs before numbers

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board will begin the fiscal 2018 budget process next month, but won’t be discussing actual figures until March.

Joanna Morrissey, chairwoman of the board’s finance committee, on Dec. 13 laid out the budget schedule for the board, which is scheduled to meet seven times between January and April to finalize the budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

“This year we’ve actually put our nose to the grindstone early,” Morrissey said last week.

Typically, the budget process begins with an overview of the budget numbers, but that won’t happen until the third meeting, Morrissey said.  

“Our focus this year is, right out of the gate, instead of going right into numbers and the nuts and bolts, is to start by going over and reviewing our budget from a needs base,” she said.

Morrissey said it’s important that both the board and the public understand what the schools need in order to be successful. She said the board will start by telling “a story” of what is needed.

The first budget workshop will be held Jan. 24, when the board will talk about teaching and learning considerations, student demographics, and new programs. At the next workshop on Feb. 28, technology, support systems and infrastructure will be discusses. 

Then, on March 7, board members will meet for a 3 1/2-hour workshop on the budget numbers.

“We’ll go over a review of the numbers in the budget and how those numbers tie out to the story that we’ve just been hearing about in the previous meetings,” Morrissey said.

The board will then meet March 21 and 28 to continue discussing the budget and take questions from the public. All of the meetings will be held at the high school library.

On April 11, members of the board are expected to meet in Town Council chambers to formally adopt the budget. They will present the proposed budget to the Town Council on April 25; the council is expected to vote on it May 8.

The School Department budget referendum will go to voters June 13.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.