Erving Schools face $300,000 deficit


Staff Writer

Published: 05-22-2023 4:00 PM

ERVING — Elementary School Director of Finance and Operations Caitlin Sheridan has projected a Fiscal Year 2023 deficit of approximately $300,000 approaching FY24, a figure that alarmed town officials during Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.

According to Sheridan, this deficit was projected in December, primarily due to unanticipated out-of-district tuition and transportation expenses. At March’s Special Town Meeting, the Selectboard committed $150,000 toward offsetting this amount, conditional upon the projection being accurate, with the school department expected to pay the difference out of its budget, she explained. Contrary to expectations—based on previous years’ budget flexibility—the schools don’t have the ability to contribute this $150,000 difference, nor does the town have remaining Free Cash to pay its $150,000 share.

Although the town had previously earmarked $150,000 in Free Cash to put toward school expenditures if needed, a motion passed at last week’s Annual Town Meeting that appropriated all of the town’s $372,551 in Free Cash toward capital projects. Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith, who made that motion, expressed frustration at the School Committee meeting that nobody had communicated on the Town Meeting floor that the school faced a major deficit.

“Someone asked me — at least one, if not multiple people — to clarify when I made that motion to use up all of the Free Cash, including the remaining $150,000 that we had earmarked, ‘was the school going to have enough to cover the additional costs without that extra $150,000?” Smith recalled Tuesday, noting that he “confidently said ‘yes.’”

“I, by far, would not have made that motion, or been confident, or would have retracted it on the floor and said, ‘no, that isn’t the solution,’” he stressed. “Why is it six days later, when these reports are seven days old, that we’re hearing there’s a huge deficit and not nearly a balanced budget?”

Sheridan said the motion was “a complete surprise” to her when it was made, explaining that she was not prepared to speak up because she “did not anticipate that FY23 would be part of the Town Meeting.” She stressed, however, that the potential for a large deficit has been discussed since the end of last year.

“As a business manager of a school district, when you know that on town floor we’re going to have lengthy conversations about a school budget both for this year and for next year … why wasn’t all the information available to make informed decisions?” School Committee Chair Mackensey Bailey said, audibly upset. “As Jacob just said, had this been available, he would not have made the decisions that he made and we as voters might not have the decisions we made.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Smith, School Committee member Jennifer Eichorn and Sheridan each expressed a lack of surety as to how the town or district might accommodate the necessary $300,000. Sheridan said solutions could potentially be discussed beyond the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

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Not including expenses contributing to the deficit, there remains a projected $455,388 in expenses accounted for in the school’s balanced budget to be paid by June 30, according to Sheridan. This includes invoices from prior months, as well as any expenses incurred within the next six weeks.

The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Erving Elementary School.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or