The authority to transfer among accounts is vested solely in the school committee !

One of my major concerns is the transfer process or apparent lack thereof here in Lowell. . This Supt. appears to have ignored even the basic transfer policy now in place and has signed PO’s without School Committee votes. Yet this School Committee wants to give him a contract!

I’ve looked up some guidelines and comments about transfers and what School Committee’s responsibilities are in regards to transfers

MGL 71: 34 -Section 34. Every city and town shall annually provide an amount of money sufficient for the support of the public schools as required by this chapter, provided however, that no city or town shall be required to provide more money for the support of the public schools than is appropriated by vote of the legislative body of the city or town. In acting on appropriations for educational costs, the city or town appropriating body shall vote on the total amount of the appropriations requested and shall not allocate appropriations among accounts or place any restriction on such appropriations. The superintendent of schools in any city or town may address the local appropriating authority prior to any action on the school budget as recommended by the school committee notwithstanding his place of residence. The city or town appropriating body may make nonbinding monetary recommendations to increase or decrease certain items allocating such appropriations.

The vote of the legislative body of a city or town shall establish the total appropriation for the support of the public schools, but may not limit the authority of the school committee to determine expenditures within the total appropriation.

A major area of budget contention stemming from the Mass Education Reform Act which adjusted the dynamics between superintendents and school committees, concerns the authority to transfer among accounts.

Various school committees have adopted policies or rules that allow a superintendent to transfer up to a certain amount, usually five thousand dollars, from one line item to another without the approval of the board.

Both the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) counsel and the Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services, have opined that, based upon M.G.L.Ch. 71, Sections 34 and 37, the authority to transfer among accounts is vested solely in the school committee, and therefore may not be delegated to the superintendent or other officer.

While a school committee may not delegate the statutory authority to transfer among accounts to the superintendent, they may grant authority to transfer within an account by following the guidance offered in 1994 by the Division of Local Services: “The school committee could grant the superintendent more discretion by limiting the number of allocations to fewer, more general categories in its budget vote and by labeling subcategories as information only.

For example, despite education reform, the school committee could budget general teacher salaries as a cost center with information items for each school. The superintendent could then use amounts shown for one school in another school without the necessity of a formal transfer vote. Conversely, the committee could give principals more authority by voting to allocate actual budget items to each school, requiring a formal committee vote to transfer from one school to another.”

School committees that want to scrutinize the annual operating budget more closely might have many “cost centers” identified in their promulgated budget; others that want to allow the superintendent more discretion could have fewer such accounts.

One of the things that I have found is the Lowell School Committee at least in what is available for the public to view, has a very vague and general policy regarding budget transfers and one that needs to be addressed ASAP.

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Some communities have very clear transfer processes:

The Town of Belmont
Budget Transfer Authority
Once an annual budget is approved by the School Committee, no transfer of funds from one program area to another may be made except with approval of the School Committee.

Reallocation within a program area may be made at the discretion of the Superintendent but only for purposes included in the original budget.The decision not to expend funds for a budget item may be made by the Superintendent.

The decision to expend budgeted funds on a non budget item may be made only by vote of the School Committee.

Legal References: MGL 71: 34, 37

The Town of Brookline: The Superintendent and/or his/her designee shall keep the School Committee informed, and where appropriate, give the School Committee the opportunity to review and approve the management of the budget in accordance with the restrictions stated below:

1. The School Committee shall be furnished with a quarterly financial summary report
showing the various organizational areas with total expenditures, remaining balances, original budgeted amounts, transfers between programmatic categories in any amount, and modified budget amounts. The Administration will also review monthly reports, with the Finance Subcommittee that list all funds transferred between or among accounts.

2. In addition to the quarterly reports and monthly reports, the School Committee shall be
furnished with narrative analysis and summary reports as detailed below:

September:
Presentation of transfers from the prior fiscal year as they affect the programmatic categories, with confirming votes as necessary for transfers.

December:
An analysis of staffing changes that affect the budget, the non-resident tuition accounts, the general instruction personnel account, as well as consideration of repair and modernization projects completed during the summer and fall months.

June:
Discussion and vote of known transfers, as well as discussion of potential transfers that may be necessary in closing the books for the fiscal year, with votes for transfers between programmatic categories as needed to accomplish the needed transfers.

Beverly Public SchoolsADVANCE APPROVAL OF EXPENDITURES AND ENCUMBRANCES

It is the expectation of the Beverly School Committee that the administration will operate the School Department in accordance with the line-item annual budget approved by the School Committee.

Therefore, it is Beverly Public Schools policy that all purchase orders, personnel hires and other encumbrances of funds must be approved by the Director of Finance and Operations, who shall ensure that adequate funds are available in the appropriate budget line and that relevant purchasing laws have been complied with.

If there are not sufficient funds available in the appropriate budget line, School Committee approval for transfer of funds from elsewhere in the budget must be obtained.

This transfer of funds must be approved before the expenditure is completed, unless the amount of the transfer needed is less than ten (10%) percent of the total expenditure, or compelling circumstances make immediate approval of the expenditure necessary, in which case(s) the Director of Finance and Operations may approve the expenditure after ensuring that adequate funds are available to be transferred from elsewhere in the budget to cover the shortfall.

School Committee approval for the required transfer will be sought at the conclusion of each fiscal year.

For the purposes of this policy, a “budget line” is defined as any individual line on the budget format voted on by the School Committee and presented to the public.

Foxborough Public Schools -BUDGET TRANSFER AUTHORITY

In keeping with the need for periodic reconciliation of the school department’s budget, the Foxborough School Committee will consider requests for transfers of funds as they are recommended by the Superintendent.

The Foxborough School Committee wishes to be kept abreast of the need for these adjustments so that it may act promptly and expedite financial record keeping for the school system.
All funds in the general account not expended by the close of the fiscal year will be returned to the town.

SOURCE: MASC Policy adopted: 9-8-08

Walpole Public Schools – BUDGET TRANSFER AUTHORITY
In keeping with the need for periodic reconciliation of the school department’s budget, the
school committee will consider requests for transfers of funds as they are recommended by
the superintendent.

The committee wishes to be kept abreast of the need for these adjustments so that it may act
promptly and expedite financial record keeping for the school system. All funds in the general account not expended by the close of the fiscal year will be returned to the town

Even the Town of Wellesley which has a great school system had a review done on their School Dept in 2012 especially their School Finances and part of the recommendations included:

School Committee issues – Recommendations involving the School Committee are:

financial reports on the status of the current year budget from the Superintendent and
Business Administrator should be required on a quarterly basis;

instead of approving current year budget transfers once a year in June, approvals should
be done on a quarterly basis; these approvals should be between function codes (such as
2000 for instruction) and not individual line account;

along with School Finance Dept issues: Review of Statutes

The following statutes should be reviewed thoroughly by all administrators that are responsible for the implementation of financial operations in the district:

o Chapter 41 Sec 58: Spending in excess of an appropriation
o Chapter 44 Sec 31: Liabilities in Excess of Appropriations Forbidden
o Chapter 44 Sec 53: Receipt and Appropriation
o Chapter 44 Section 64: Payment of bills in excess of appropriation

If the City Manager approved PO’s without a Council vote, would the Council sit quietly by and be more concerned about offering him a contract than wondering why he is not informing his bosses.

Funny how people thought Bernie Lynch was arrogant but he never told his bosses through the newspaper, if you don’t like it fire me. This school committee apparently doesn’t mind being disrespected

“The beauty of me in all of this is you can go ahead and fire me any time you want. I’m ready to retire, so I don’t really care about any of the politics.”

I’m hoping that based on what we have seen in the year end reporting from this Supt’s office that the Lowell School Committee develop strict, clear transfer processes so that confusing reports like the July one cease and that there is no gray area concerning what the role of the School Committee is regarding oversight of all transfers and financial issues in the Lowell School Department.

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