PLYMOUTH – With the imminent departure of the school district business manager, the mayor and school officials are considering combining the town and school district financial departments.
Business Manager Phillip Penn recently announced he will be leaving to go to work for the Town of Canton. There he will be the finance director for both the town and the school district. He said he does not yet have a final date for his current job. He expects to be around at least until Feb. 14, when the Board of Education votes on its 2018-19 budget.
Superintendent Martin Semmel said he and Melissa Johnson, board chair, have already met with Mayor David Merchant to start talking about the possibility of combining the two departments.
“There are a lot of conversations that have to happen,” Semmel said. “If there’s a way to gain greater efficiency or reduce costs around this position we want to make sure we do that. I have no idea where those conversations will take us, but the recommendation is that they need to happen to at least explore the possibilities.”
In the meantime, Semmel said he is working on finding an interim business manager for the district.
Merchant said he is already meeting with school officials over finding ways to save money in the current school budget to make up for cuts in state aid due to budget problems at the state level.
The overall loss of state aid to the town so far is $1.5 million, mostly in Education Cost Sharing funds, so the board is looking to trying to cut $1.1 million in spending, and the town is trying to cut $400,000, he explained.
It’s never a good time to be losing the school business manager, but especially now, Merchant said.
But on the bright side, it’s an opportunity to explore combining the financial departments, he continued. “There are other communities that have done this and I’m not sure if it will work here until we put an organizational chart together. It’s something we will at least look into. It’s going to take a lot of planning.”
Penn said he will have been with the Plymouth schools for close to three years by the time he leaves.
Canton has recently combined its finance departments and Penn said he will have to chance to work on creating a combined accounting software system.
A lot of municipalities are heading in this direction, he said. “I think Canton is a bit on the vanguard with that, and Plainville has already gone that way as well. Especially for smaller districts I think it makes more sense.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.