Day-long workshop sets Pittsfield school budget season in motion
PITTSFIELD — The city school committee and Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless will soon jump into the fiscal 2017 budget season with an aggressive meeting schedule that includes an all-day session to hear from every school principal.
The committee has approved a schedule that will begin with a budget preview on Dec. 9 and is expected to produce a final budget for next year in April.
With adoption of a new city government charter in November 2013, the school budget now must be completed by May 1 for consideration by the mayor and city council by the end of each fiscal year, June 30.
The coming budget season will feature an all-day session on Jan. 13, which McCandless said is scheduled for council chambers at City Hall because it will begin in the morning and continue for about eight hours.
The superintendent said this week the exact hours are still being determined, "although we are leaning toward 8 a.m. to 5 p.m."
He said using the council chambers will avoid any disruption of the school day at Pittsfield High School, where committee meetings normally are held, and the format will be better for speakers addressing the committee — standing or sitting closer to the board members.
The session will be shown on Pittsfield Community Television and available afterward online through the PCTV website. One of his goals, McCandless said, is to give each principal time to present their budgetary needs and talk about their schools.
He noted that each year the administration has reviewed budget requests from principals and other department heads and then developed a preliminary budget for presentation to the committee. This year, he said, he believes it's important that the "unfiltered" requests and school needs be described to the committee and to the public.
"There is great power in hearing from the people who directly oversee the work in our schools," he said.
Annually, there also are numerous worthy budget requests that never reach the committee level because of anticipated limitations on the city budget as a whole. During the fiscal 2016 budget season, McCandless said the administration heard requests totalling $3.5 million more than the preliminary spending plan he submitted to the committee.
That early budget itself was significantly reduced before the school budget for this year was submitted to the council for approval.
Next year, Mayor-elect Linda M. Tyer, who takes office on Jan. 4, will replace outgoing Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi as an ex-officio member of the committee. The six regular committee members all were elected to new terms on Nov. 3.
The committee's budget schedule begins with a preview on Dec. 9 during a regular meeting; includes the all-day workshop on Jan. 13, and continues with a Feb. 10 discussion on enrollment projections and grant funding, a budget overview on Feb. 24, a line-item budget review on March 9, and a public hearing on March 23.
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