Saturday, December 17, 2011

Line Item Transfers

During the course of school year the Longmeadow School Committee routinely makes a series of line item transfers to modify the allocation of budgeted monies.  These changes are usually developed by the SC Finance Sub-Committee and then presented to the full SC and adopted without much discussion.  SC meeting minutes usually do not include the details and only reference a document that is called FY2012 General Fund Revision #__ or FY2012 Grant/ Special Revenues Revision #__.

At the SC meeting last Monday night (12/12/11) there was an agenda item to discuss and approve three General Fund line item transfers- two of which included movement of budget dollars to be utilized for purposes different than originally targeted.

Here is an outline of the three line item transfers as best I could understand from the discussion...

Transfer #1-  Transfer $2500 from Williams Middle School "supplies" line item for the purchase of 5 new Apple iPads.
Transfer #2- Correct line item mistake for a Bookkeeper salary (simple entry error)
Transfer #3- Transfer $47,000 from two "salary" line items to be used for the purchase of 2 MacBook computer carts.

I credit new committee member Jim Desrochers for initiating a more thorough discussion of Transfers #1 and #3.  Without this discussion much of the detail would have been missing from public view.

Below are the highlights:
  1. Williams Middle School received 2 iPad carts (50 iPads) as part of a larger School Dept technology purchase.  They now want 5 more iPads to be used by teachers to develop lesson plans and not have to share with students and worry about having to recharge them after they had been used all day in the classroom.  Transfer #1 takes $2500 originally allocated to supplies and moves it to purchase computer hardware.

  2. LEEF provided grant money to Center/ Wolf Swamp ES for the purchase of 2 MacBook computer carts.  However, this money was used to fund the purchase of 4 -iPad carts (25 iPads each, total = 100) rather than being used for the intended purpose.  Teachers at Center and Wolfswamp Schools objected to this "repurposing" of LEEF funds so a transfer of funds of $47K from two budgeted salary lines is being proposed to correct the "error" and purchase 2 MacBook computer carts.  The 4- iPad carts will remain at Center School and Wolfswamp schools to be used in classrooms.

    According to the Superintendent Doyle, there was some miscommunication between the schools and the IT department about what type of "computing devices" were to be purchased.  Since the money used was provided by LEEF for a specific purpose, there is a need to purchase the two MacBook computer carts.

  3. Mr. Desrochers asked an interesting question:
    If Transfer #3 is needed to correct a mistake because 100 iPads were purchased by "mistake", then why is there is a need to purchase 5 additional iPads (Transfer #1)?

    It was explained by Superintendent Doyle that taking 5 iPads from the carts would cause problems with not having enough iPads per classroom and interfere with instruction.

Below is a LCTV video clip (courtesy of LCTV) with the discussion that accompanied this agenda item.

It is worth watching this short video clip to hear additional comments by Ms. Jester and Mr. Desrochers.  Here are a couple of quotes...

Mr. Desrochers stated...  "technology is a thing that everyone is focused on... but it might not be the right thing to spend our money on"

In closing remarks on this subject, Ms. Jester said:  "we need to be cognizant of the expectation by the community that we do not see unexpended funds as kind of a 'candy shop' and a new way to spend money... there is an expectation that we will turn back unexpended funds at the end of the year."

The three proposed General Fund line item transfers were approved by the SC.

Let's hope that this latest series of line item transfers is not the beginning of how the School Committee plans to fund the School Department's growing appetite for new technology!