BENNINGTON -- A contract finalized this week has Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union providing all business functions to its neighbor to the north, Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union.
The two-year agreement expands the business services SVSU began providing the Arlington supervisory union last school year, at a cost of $76,500 this school year and $80,300 next year.
Last year -- the first in which BVSU did not have its own business manager -- SVSU provided oversight of BVSU’s accounting, assisted in budget development, generated financial reports and represented it at statewide business meetings.
After its accountant and administrative secretary left this summer, the supervisory union that includes the districts of Arlington and Sandgate asked for further assistance.
"Now we’re doing everything," said Richard Pembroke, SVSU’s chief financial officer, who is also business manager for BVSU now.
In addition to taking on more accounting and payroll responsibilities, SVSU is also working with treasurers within the BVSU for the collection, safekeeping and distribution of funds, reconciling all accounts on a monthly basis, arranging and managing the independent auditing of accounts, and training BVSU staff on financial software.
The majority of the financial work is being done in Arlington, as the contract also calls for SVSU staff to spend at least 24 hours per week in the BVSU Central Office. Almost all nine of the employees in SVSU’s business department are spending some time working with BVSU, Pembroke said.
While the contract was just signed by the final party this week, the services have been provided to BVSU since the fiscal year began and the relationship has been raved about by BVSU staff at school board meetings.
"It benefits us immensely in the fact the SVSU business office has many talented people working there and they have been diligently working with us to straighten out our budget and accounts," BVSU Superintendent Karen Gallese said Thursday. "These people on the SVSU staff have a wealth of knowledge about accounting systems in schools. Many have been at this for a long time ... it’s a wonderful thing we have them here."
If not for contracting services, Gallese said BVSU would be required to hire three to four more staff members, including a business manager. The additional expense it would cost the smallest supervisory union in the state would be "considerable," she said.
In addition to the contracted amount, BVSU is responsible for reimbursing SVSU employees for travel related to BVSU work.
From SVSU’s vantage point, Pembroke said the agreement helps offset some costs that would solely be on SVSU. Additionally, Pembroke said he supported the cooperation because, he said, it is the right thing to do.
"I supported it from the standpoint I think we’ve got to help the neighboring districts," he said.
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