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Windham schools proposal seeks to change administrative spending authority

WINDHAM — A policy that would drastically change administrative spending authority will go before the Windham School Board next week.The proposed changes will be presented by District Business Administrator Adam Steel during the Tuesday, July 29 school board workshop meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the district offices.


In a letter sent to Superintendent Winfried Feneberg in late March, Steel said the district’s purchasing procedures “need to be examined and altered to provide more transparency for district operations to stakeholders.”

Steel said the district has received clean annual audits over the past several years and that there have been no findings relative to purchasing procedures.

He noted, however, that about a third of the district’s budget is spent via purchase orders, while roughly two percent of the budget is spend on single-source purchasing methods.
Steel is recommending a new purchasing procedure that would require board notification at “specific purchasing levels” and board authorization whenever a bid or request for proposals process (RFP) is “used in excess of $25,000.”
So far this fiscal year, the district has spent $14.4 million on purchase orders, according to Steel.

Under the new policy, the business administrator would be authorized to spend up to $25,000 on discretionary purchases without school board authorization.
The school board would have the final say on bids or RFPs in the $25,000 to $50,000 range, though when it comes to quotes or single-source purchases in that range, the business administrator would decide.
Public discussions on the policy changes raised conflicting opinions at the July 1 school board meeting.

Board member Michael Joanis said he felt it was the board’s responsibility to provide guidance, noting the policy should have a written stance on a dispute process for instances where the board disagrees on an expenditure.
However, he added that he felt “very comfortable with the numbers and ranges proposed by administration” and that he felt comfortable delegating authority to the business administrator and superintendent.
“There’s a lot of mistrust right now and we need a nice, clean policy that works,” Joanis said.

Board member Jerome Rekart shared his thoughts too, noting he felt the board should not be approving single-source items and they should instead rely on “the experts in the field.”
This week, at least one board member said he wasn’t in favor of the proposed changes, which he believes would prove costly to local taxpayers.

“If approved, this proposal would vastly increase (administrative) spending authority — at the expense of vastly diminishing school board oversight,” Board member Ken Eyring said.
Eyring added that he’s extremely uncomfortable with the implications of the policy change.

“If all of the recommendations in the public packet are implemented as written, the school board will delegate away one of its most important responsibilities: fiscal control over district spending,” he said. “This could have very serious repercussions for years to come.”

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