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South Portland council gets School Board financial data

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South Portland council gets School Board financial data

SOUTH PORTLAND — The data is in, and discussions about School Board finances will continue at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at a joint City Council and School Board workshop at City Hall.

Financial records back to 2010 were submitted Tuesday to City Manager Jim Gailey by School Board Chairman Rick Carter, after Gailey requested the records on behalf of the City Council on April 10.

Carter said he looked forward to next week's workshop.

"I think the council will say thanks for the information. It was a fair question. My hope is we have met the guidance," he said.

Councilor Jerry Jalbert, who initially called for an independent audit of school board budgeting on salaries at the April 10 workshop, said he is still reviewing the nearly 50 pages of data and notes.

"We knew there would be a lot of information because we asked for a lot of information," he said.

The records detail budgeted versus actual salary expenses from fiscal year 2010 through March 31; list staff retirements and how those positions were filled, and shed light on School Department budgeting practices and how surplus funds are shifted to designated accounts.

Carter said what should become evident is how retirements can cloud the School Department budgeting for salaries. While salary savings have occurred annually, he said, the School Department frequently replaces retired or departed staff at near the same salary.

Beginning with fiscal year 2010, records show actual salaries paid ranged from $578,000 to $250,000 under what was budgeted.

In fiscal year 2010, $24.1 million was budgeted and $23.62 million spent on staff wages. In fiscal year 2011, $22.73 million was budgeted with $22.48 million spent. Last year, $23.32 million was budgeted and $22.74 million was spent.

The School Department paid $48,000 in severance for teachers and administrators in fiscal year 2010, $124,000 in fiscal year 2011, and $118,000 in fiscal year 2012.

When the fiscal year 2014 budget was drafted, Carter said the School department anticipated three retirements. He said now there might be at least 15.

"Part of the great difficulty of this is we can't tell people when they have to retire,” Carter said.

Jalbert and Carter praised School Department Finance Director Rafe Forland's work in compiling data and presenting it in a readable format.

“The amount of time it took Rafe and the staff was astronomical. I knew this would take a lot of time and it did,” Carter said.

Jalbert said he is also reformatting data into his own spreadsheets, but appreciated Forland's work.

He said the workshop will shed light on questions that may not have been asked over the last decade, but he does not see the issue in confrontational terms.

"I think we are past the awkward stage and looking at this in a much more professional way," he said.

Carter said he would like to move forward, so the School Board can approve specific budget "cost centers" May 13 and the $42.9 million fiscal year 2014 education budget can face a council vote a week later.

"(The data) shows every dollar has been accounted for," he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.