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Braintree Schools seek savings through outside audit

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 4, 2012 04:08 PM

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Braintree Schools are hoping to find ways to save money with an external audit being done on most of the public school system.

Set to examine everything except teaching staff and curriculum, the audit will review school personnel, school district administrations, accounting systems, purchasing, transportation, cafeteria needs, building maintenance, the athletic department, and revolving accounts for the schools.

According to School Committee Chairwoman Shannon Hume, this will be the first time Braintree has participated in such an audit, using the Abrahams Group to complete the report.

“There are more and more districts doing this,” Hume said. “When I was first looking into this two years ago, Wenham did it, and another community on the North Shore. Hanover is in the process of doing one and using the same group we’re using.”

Superintendent Peter Kurzberg noted that just because Braintree hadn’t done this focused of an audit in the past didn’t mean the system hasn't been audited at all.

“We’re obviously involved in annual audits and also have been involved with audits that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education puts on from time to time,” Kurzberg said. “But we have not hired an outside firm to conduct an audit such as this.”

Still, conducting an audit such as this one will be a useful tool to look at overarching needs, he said.

“I think the purpose for doing the audit is to see if there are non instructional and educational areas that might realize some savings for us that could be used then for a more educational purposes. Or identify some things that perhaps we should have that we don’t have in terms of our operations,” he said

School officials aren’t anticipating any departmental or job mergers at this stage, though that could be a possibility.

The schools are also taking a look at the transportation system and the cafeteria system, debating whether to keep the two internal - as they exist now – or hire outside vendors.

“We’re a great school system and the reason why I wanted to do this, I think we can always be better,” Hume said. “We’re always doing things to improve – changing the curriculum, bringing in more professional redevelopment, this is just another area. If we can be more cost-efficient, we should be doing that.”

Though Hume wouldn’t characterize money as being “tight” in Braintree, she did say that there are always additional needs that could benefit from any savings.

“When space needs is an issue - class sizes, none of our schools except the high school have space - funding is a major issue. We have three schools offline – Foster, Monatiquot, and Eldridge, but if we open those spaces, funding is a huge. Is it possible for us to go in there?” Hume said.

The audit, which was begun in early November, will probably take three to four months to complete. Auditors are currently collecting questionnaires from employees, and will next do focus groups and individual interviews.

“The audit report will be a preliminary that will be presented, [though] not in a public meeting because information in it needs to be factual and correct,” Hume said. “A final report will go to School Committee and will be released to the public.”

The $42,000 audit is being paid for partially by the School Department, which is contributing $2,000 to the cost, and the town.

According to Kurzberg, the town money came from additional state funding given to Braintree at the end of last year.

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