Finance Advisory Group: Charge, Membership, Timeline, and Assumptions, November 9, 2010

Finance Advisory Group
Chappaqua Board of Education Finance Committee
November 9, 2010

Board Policy 2005 provides for the occasional establishment of advisory committees, "for the purpose of studying significant issues within the school community." During the 2010-11 school year, in anticipation of another challenging budget process for 2011-12, the Board's Finance Committee sees benefit in the creation of an advisory group. This advisory group, consistent with provisions of the policy, will be asked "to gather information about and/or examine the advantages and disadvantages of particular options under consideration by the Board."

Charge to Advisory Group:

  1. Assist the Board Finance Committee (and therefore, the Board as a whole) by helping to identify what members of the Chappaqua School District community want and need to know about the school budget. Provide feedback on the budget to the Board.

    1. Consider the possible usefulness of a community survey on these budget questions, and if warranted, assist in the development, dissemination, and interpretation of such survey.
  2. Offer advice specific to the development of the 2011-2012 budget on the Board's Strategic Question 1 (budget/operations): "How can the District ensure continuing excellence in academic and extracurricular programs while developing a budget that is fiscally responsible?"

    1. Consider budget data trends and ideas from comparison districts, 2008 to present. (See "Contract Analysis 2009-2010" from Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES Negotiations Clearinghouse, and "Contract Analysis 2010-2011" when published in February, 2011)
  3. Provide other assistance and advice to the Board Finance Committee in areas mutually agreed to hold potential for insight.

    1. Review and provide insight and ideas on cost implications of State and federal mandates (e.g. retirement system contributions; all other mandates)?
    2. Review and provide insight and ideas on benefit costs, projections (e.g. health insurance, other benefits)?
    3. Assist in development of "Q and A" portion of the Board's annual budget publication for April, 2011?


Board policy calls for membership of such committees to be "representative of the entire school community." In keeping with that aim, while at the same time recognizing a need for a working group to be reasonable in size, the Board will seek diverse membership for a core group of approximately a dozen members; volunteers are encouraged to contact the Board.

This will be a "working group" which aims to provide opportunities for meaningful contributions from all members. Potential volunteers who cannot commit to all the meetings or the tasks of the group may elect to attend meetings as their schedules permit, even without formal membership.

The meetings of the advisory group will be open to all interested members of the community, as one more way to access information and participate in the budget process.

The advisory group will be chaired by the two members of the Board of Education who serve as the Board's Finance Committee, Jeffrey Mester and Randall Katchis.

Timeline and committee work:

Committee members will be asked to engage the Board's series of public meetings on budget development, either by attending or by reviewing the recordings of as many of these meetings as possible. In addition, the advisory group will hold six meetings, as noted below, interspersed between the cycle of Board budget sessions. At each of the six meetings, the advisory group will look ahead to subsequent dates and Board budget presentations. At each meeting after November 9, the advisory group will review the preceding Board meeting in light of their charge:

  • November 9 (Tuesday)

    Review charge. Consider the possible use of a community survey, and other potential inquiries.

  • November 23 (Tuesday)

    Review November 16, 2010 Board of Education meeting -- "Budget Preview." Provide feedback. Further consider the possible use of a community survey, and other potential inquiries.

  • December 22 (Wednesday)
    (rescheduled from December 7)

    Consider community survey - development and dissemination.

  • January 22 (Saturday)

    Review January 11, 2011 Board of Education meeting -- "Non-instructional Budget and Overall Cost Saving possibilities". Provide feedback. Consider community survey -- interpretation for Board.

  • March 8 (Tuesday)

    Review February 15 Board of Education meeting - "School Programs and Staffing." Provide feedback.

  • March 22 (Tuesday)

    Offer final comments to the Board in anticipation of the public Board meeting on April 12, where the Board has the obligation of adopting a budget for 2011-12.

The advisory group will complete its charge at this stage. After evaluating the degree of success and usefulness of this process, the Board may consider whether to call for a similar effort in subsequent budget years.


  1. The Board's Strategic Question 1 on budget/operations is at the heart of the advisory group's work: "How can the District ensure continuing excellence in academic and extracurricular programs while developing a budget that is fiscally responsible?"
  2. School budgets through 2008-2009 increased at rates that are no longer sustainable; going forward in the midst of new economic realities, the Board must consider very carefully what the community will sustain and support.
  3. While school budgets aim to directly serve the needs of students K-12, the interests of the school community as a whole must be considered in budget development. The Board is mindful of the fact that households with children of school age are fewer than those without children of school age; the ratio is estimated in the range of 45/55% to 40/60%.
  4. It is important -- even essential -- to maintain civility and respect between individuals and groups in the discussion of even the most difficult budget questions. Our discourse is a model for our students and the whole community.
  5. The role of this group is explicitly advisory. Decisions about the budget proposal which must be submitted to a community vote on May 17, 2011are the statutory responsibility of the Board.
  6. Certain budget considerations are reserved by law to the Board; they in turn delegate certain other matters to district administrators. These include contract negotiations and specific budget proposals, including any proposal for additions or reductions involving personnel and/or the education program.
  7. The work of the advisory group will go forward on a time-line parallel to the work of the Board and administration in developing a budget proposal for 2011-2012. While two district administrators will attend the meetings of the advisory group, their primary responsibility is to the Board's own budget process.