Portsmouth schools end fiscal year with surplus of over $400K

Tuition revenue down significantly, however

By Jim McGaw
Posted 9/20/23

PORTSMOUTH — The school district will have more than $400,000 to spread around for school construction projects, thanks to a surplus left over from the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Chris …

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Portsmouth schools end fiscal year with surplus of over $400K

Tuition revenue down significantly, however

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The school district will have more than $400,000 to spread around for school construction projects, thanks to a surplus left over from the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Chris DiIuro, director of finance and administration, announced the surplus at the School Committee’s Sept. 12 meeting.

“This is unaudited, but I believe it represents the final results,” he said.

Despite the surplus, revenues were down in several areas. “For the year, as I’ve been telling you over the last several months, revenues were coming in below budget. They ultimately did come in below budget by $275,000 — or 0.65 percent of the budget,” DiIuro said.

The primary drivers, he said, were $312,800 less in tuitions from outside districts — mainly due to fewer Little Compton students going to Portsmouth High School, but also fewer career and technical education (CTE) students at PHS than what had been budgeted. In addition, Medicaid reimbursements were reduced by $137,400, he said.

Those reductions were offset, however, by better-than-expected federal impact aid — $187,100 more due to a higher payout percentage than anticipated, DiIuro said.

Because the district knew revenues were coming in below budget, administration “really pulled back on the reigns of that early,” he said.

So expenditures, which ended June 30 at $41.53 million, came in below budget by $684,162 (1.62 percent of the spending plan). “A lot of that came through employee compensation and benefits, but we also pulled back on some purchase services and some other items as well,” said DiIuro.

That means that overall, the district had a surplus for the year of $409,000 (0.9 percent of the spending plan). DiIuro said he had been projecting a surplus between $200,000 to 300,000.

“Per policy, once the audit is complete those funds will be swept into the school capital fund and will be available for use, potentially for the bonded projects or whatever else you decide,” he said.

Emily Copeland, who chairs the school board, said the extra funds will come in handy.

“It will be necessary to have that sort of cushion for those bond projects due to construction costs,” she said.

Rachel’s Challenge

In other matters at last week’s meeting, Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy gave an update on what’s new in the district this academic year, including the new bathrooms at Melville School and the high school which “are definitely a hit with students.”

With new administrations at the middle and high schools, and with staff support, the district is bringing an initiative known as Rachel’s Challenge to the district, Kenworthy said.

“Rachel’s Challenge is a program that attempts to address the root causes of school violence, bullying, prejudice, and self-harm, through student wellness programs that build connection, hope and resilience,” he said. “Our goal here is that both the middle and high school work this thing into advisories and other activities that they have. By participating in Rachel’s Challenge, the PMS and PHS school communities will be striving to improve school and community culture so that students are able to reach their full academic and emotional potential. This is a well-renowned national program that we’re excited to bring in.”

To acquaint the school community with the program, student assemblies were held this week at both schools, and a community assembly for parents was scheduled for Wednesday night in the PHS auditorium.

For several years, Melville and Hathaway schools have been involved with the “Start with Hello” program as part of Sandy Hook Promise, and will continue doing so, Kenworthy said.

“We see this as a great followup connection at the middle and high school,” Kenworthy he said.

Upcoming presentations

Deputy Superintendent Christine Viveiros unveiled a list of special presentations scheduled for School Committee meetings in the coming months:

• Sept. 26: Enrollment update

• Oct. 24: College and career readiness update — secondary regulations

• Nov. 14: NGSA, RICAS, PSAT and SAT 2023 update

• Dec. 12: 2024-2025 PHS program of studies

• Jan. 16, 2024: School district’s climate and culture update

• Feb. 27: Special education update

• March 26: Update on summer 2024 capital projects

• May 28: 2024 summer programs

• June 25: STEAM: outdoor learning, AgInnovation Farm, Clean Ocean Access

The content of the presentations differs from those in the past, many of which focused on celebrating accomplishments around the district.

“I appreciate the changes that were made,” said Juan Carlos Payero, the board’s vice chair. “I want us to get away from the successes and celebration presentations. I really want to hone in and focus on where our weak spots are, (and) where was the investment the school district made for our taxpayers to know: ‘This is what we are doing.’”

New hires, resignations

Kenworthy also announced several new hires to the district:

• Sadie Phelan, Meagan Silva as teacher assistants at PMS

• Kerry Vye, teacher assistant at PHS

• Autumn Hoffman, English teacher for one year only (OYO) at PHS

• Ryan Bailey, English/audio visual (OYO) at PHS

• Margaret Shaw, grade 4 (OYO) at Hathaway

• Kate Viera, grade 3 (OYO) at Hathaway

• Julie Haskell, general school aide (GSA) at Melville

The superintendent explained that under the contract with NEA Portsmouth, any new hires after Aug. 1 must go through the job assignment process at the end of the school year. “They know that up front,” he said.

Kenworthy also announced several resignations:

• Laura Barth, GSA, Hathaway

• Lori Stone, grade 3 teacher, Hathaway

• Amy Brown, registered behavior technician, Hathaway

• Patricia Greene, GSA, Melville

• Deana Dufficy, student support specialist for elementary grades

• Avery Maynard, school nurse assistant, PHS

Upcoming meetings

The committee will next meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Town Hall.

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