The Board of Education voted Thursday to go against the recommendation of its Finance Committee and transfer the ’ business office budget to the municipal budget in the 2013 fiscal year.
The question passed 5-2. President Bill Morse and Vice-President Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez, both members of the Board of Education Finance Committee who , were the opposing votes. Barbara Major, a member of the committee who was not present on Wednesday due to illness, supported the proposal and was joined by Secretary Jason Catala and board members Margaret Curtin, Delanna Muse, and Sylvia Potter.
The vote means the City Council’s Finance Committee will consider the business office’s $539,761 budget as part of the municipal expenditures rather than the school budget. The committee suggested such a transfer in its .
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In Wednesday’s Board of Education Finance Committee meeting, Morse and Gonzalez expressed concerns over a potential loss of oversight by the Board of Education as well as the lack of a detailed plan regarding consolidation. School administrators also questioned whether savings would be negated by costs such as moving to a common software and said other districts that had consolidated financial operations did not see a significant savings.
The question was moved with no discussion, but several members made statements once the vote had been taken. Morse said he felt the city was presenting the school district with an ultimatum with little time to react. Gonzalez said she did not support the proposal because she wanted more information on how the savings would occur or whether other districts have implemented such a consolidation and seen savings.
“I didn’t have that information, so that’s why I voted the way I did,” she said.
Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of the district, said he considered the vote a violation of a city ordinance. He said the question of such a funds transfer should have first gone before the Consolidated Administrative Services Oversight Board, which was established in 2011 to make consolidation recommendations to the City Council and Board of Education.
Fischer said, “Basically, one has to pose the question of, ‘Why have ordinances if we’re not going to follow them?’”
Catala said he thought Morse had made false representations regarding oversight of the business office at the committee meeting and said the business office will still have oversight of school funds in the transfer.
“I think in the end we’re going to see savings,” he said.
Potter said she there is a potential risk in the transfer and that there might not be savings right away, but that the transfer was the right move to make.
The Finance Committee will meet at 4 p.m. on Monday at to finalize a budget proposal, while the City Council will vote on appropriation ordinances for the city and schools at their regular meeting on the same evening.