On April 29, 2020

School finance guru to leave July 1

By Curt Peterson

Finance and Operations Manager Mike Concessi is leaving his post at Windsor Central Unified School District after June 30. He started the job on Sept. 9, 2019, meaning he will have worked 10 months in the position.

Concessi will start in a similar position in Danville for Caledonia Central Supervisory Union (CCSU), a consolidation of students from Barnet, Cabot, Danville, Peacham, Twinfield, Walden and Waterford.

“[The CCSU] combined budgets are more than 3 times the size of [WCUSD’s],” Concessi told the Mountain Times, “$65 million versus $20 million.”

There are also personal reasons for the move – Danville is 30 miles closer to his home than Woodstock. He and his wife Edda and three sons, 12, 14 and 16, live in Orange.

His most terrifying commute?

“Ironically it was one of the first big storms in November. About half the trip was white-out conditions – I had to not only go slow, but was ‘white-knuckling’ that steering wheel. Definitely NOT fun,” he said. “I did a lot of praying on that ride.”

He’s been coaching youth baseball in the greater Barre area since 2012, and says working closer to home will allow him to do more coaching.

Concessi, 47, was hired when Richard Seaman left WCUSD for a similar position with SAU 6 headquartered in Claremont, where he lives and where he had served as school board chair at one time. Seaman had been with WCUSD for five years, according to Superintendent Mary Beth Banios.

School consolidation under ACT 46 was a challenging transition for many districts in Vermont. Concessi took the reins from Seaman near the end of the process. Since Barnard voters approved merging their elementary school into the new district, the next budget (FY21) will be the first single-budget financial plan for the seven towns participating in the WCUSD – Barnard, Bridgewater, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Reading and Woodstock. Barnard will be merged July 1.

According to Concessi, consolidating finances wasn’t as simple as it might have been.

“This job probably aged me at least 5 years from the stress,” he said. “I could probably fill an entire news column with the mess [we] have been able to clean in the past six months alone.”

He said his major accomplishment is a “ground-up” budget for FY2021 that will make accounting during the year, and auditing at the end, much easier. Previously there were three budgets to reconcile – Barnard Academy, the old umbrella organization WCSU, and the WCUSD consolidated budgets.

Knowing exactly where it all stands fi nancially on July 1, when the new year begins, is crucial for the new district. Accomplishing that goal and making corrections and adjustments, Concessi said, has taken his “team” months of research, journal entries and reconciliations.

My right hand gals – Julie Stevens/accounts payable, and Jane Flynn/accounting and grants manager, were completely dedicated to this cause,” he said. “Honorable mention should also go to Sarah Walker and Linda Loprete, Joe Rigoli, Gretchen Czaja, Rayna Bishop and the entire [special education] team – Sherry Sousa, Shelly Parker and Kelly Keough.”

Re-allocation of $1 million in medical expenses fronted with WCSU cash for Barnard and WCUSD, collecting $115,000 in overdue tuition due from other districts, identifying $500,000 in unaccounted revenue, “clawing back” from the Agency of Education $340,000 in erroneously paid education taxes, and harvesting $50,000 in overlooked grant opportunities helped Concessi and his crew mitigate a feared worst-case deficit of as much as $900,000 going into FY2020, he said.

Ironically, reduced expenses due to closing the schools in response to the pandemic will help keep FY2020 from ending in the red. According to an email “Update” from the district office, “The hiring process for a new director is underway. The Finance Committee, Central Office leadership, direct reports, and the full WCSU Board will all be part of the process of selecting the next person to take on [Concessi’s] critical role.”

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