February 17, 2010

WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING

                                                                 FEBRUARY 17, 2010                                              APPROVED                                                            

 

A.        ROLL CALLActon Elementary School Cafeteria

 

Warrant & Finance Committee Members present were:

 

Debi Rix – Chairman                             Karl Hodgdon – Vice Chairman           

            John Moore                                          James Crowley             Roger Roy                                           

                                                                                                           

Warrant & Finance Committee Members absent were:

           Elias Thomas

 

School Committee Members present were:

            Judie Shain, Vice Chairwoman         Richard Michaud                          Mary Stanton  

 

School Committee Members absent were:

 

            Jeannette Bearse                                                                                               Ted Kayzak

 

Also present were Dennis Long, Selectman; Alton Hadley, Superintendent of Schools; Andy Brazier, Facilities Manager; Carlene Doyle, Finance Officer, Michael Corey, IT Manager, and various members of the public.

 

                                                                                               

B.         APPROVAL OF MINUTES – There were no Minutes approved.

 

           

C.        NEW BUSINESS

 

School Committee’s Presentation and Overview of the 2010-11 Fiscal Year Budget – Ms Shain distributed the following documents:  Cost Savings Budget Cuts for Two Years Including Current Year to Date, a Bulletin from the Maine School Management Association and Programs/Services Supplemented by Grant Applications.  She referenced the updated budget summary sheets distributed this evening to the Warrant & Finance Committee and stated that Mr. Hadley will be explaining the reductions made since the last set of the budget summary sheets.  She mentioned there are certain portions of the budget that increase every year because of contracts, tuition, fuel costs and transportation.  She said while those costs do increase yearly, the School Committee has attempted to make other cuts to offset those increases.

 

Mr. Hadley explained that school budgets have been difficult for all school districts this year because of the loss of State funding and in this budget the School Committee has attempted to create as little impact  educating Acton’s children as possible.  He advised there were some revisions made to this budget as late as this afternoon which is reflected in the department summary sheets distributed this evening.  He stated for the upcoming fiscal year the teachers have agreed to forego the 3% pay increase that is in their contract.  He said the only raises any staff members are getting is the step raise and they have also agreed to a one day furlough for the coming year.  He mentioned although discussed, those steps have not been finalized with the support staff and those discussions are continuing.  He stated other departments such as maintenance, technical, special education, etc. have frozen their budgets to the current year figures.  He informed he has reduced his work week by one half day for both this fiscal year and the coming fiscal year.  He stated the proposed budget indicates a reduction of two teaching positions in the elementary portion of the school which is due to a reduction in the number of students attending school next year.  He said with regard to insurance benefits, Blue Cross has requested a 23% increase, but this budget contains a 15% increase while hoping that account will not be increased by more than 7%.  He mentioned this is the last year the Town will be paying the debt for the school which will be $169,000 as reflected in the documentation distributed this evening.  He stated while most of the salary increases are based on the step raises, there are some employees who didn’t receive the appropriate increases this fiscal year, but will get it in the upcoming budget.

 

At this time, Mr. Hadley gave an overview of the following departments:

 

Guidance – Page 11 - There has been a salary increase in this department because the employee didn’t receive an increase originally.  That increase will come to 6.8% over the next two years.  There has also been an increase in the health insurance because of changes to the plan chosen.  Everything else has remained as it was this year.  The procedure for a step raise for those employees entitled to it in the upcoming fiscal year was explained with Mr. Hodgdon requesting a copy of the teachers’ contract for the Committee to review.  It was noted that the teachers’ contract is negotiated in three year cycles and the step raises are contained in the contract.

 

To a question concerning the reason for the increase in this department’s salary line, Mr. Hadley advised he would research it and inform the Committee at their next Meeting.

 

Nurse – Page 21 – This department is represented by a 70% employee and the salary is based on the teachers’ salaries which is prorated to the 70%.  With the step increase, there will be a 1.7% increase. 

 

Co-Curricular – Page 31 – This account contains the clubs and organizations for the students such as Odyssey of the Mind, the Math Team, etc..  This account has a 6% increase for the coming fiscal year. 

 

Extra Curricular – Page 41 – This account was reduced a few years ago and it remains as requested for the current fiscal year.  The coaches’ salaries were reduced by one half.  While there has been nothing definitive decided at this time, depending on the whether other school districts retain their sports programs, Acton may go to an intramural program which will reduce the costs in this account.

 

Library – Page 51 – This account contains a part time salary position which is prorated and the ed tech’s pay will be increased due to a step raise.  The entire budget for this department has been increased by 5% or $1,696 which includes books and the ed tech’s pay increase.

 

Explore Program (formerly Gifted and Talented) – Page 61 – Although this program is State mandated it is not State funded.   This program is good for not only the children who are identified as being eligible for it, but all of the other students since some of the work is done in the classrooms.  The funding for this program is taken from the special education department.  When questioned about the large increase in the Dues and Fees line, Mr. Hadley advised he would research it and get back to the Warrant & Finance Committee.  The reason for the transportation costs which were not included in previous years’ budgets is due to the fact that two 8th grade Acton students are transported to Sanford to take algebra at the high school level and the funds in the Transportation line are used to reimburse the parents who take those students.  The reimbursement amount is at 50.5ยข a mile as per the IRS.  It was noted that the Programs line supports the performances by the Hampstead Teachers’ Company who come into the school to expose the students to various types of theater productions as well as other groups who do the same.  Regarding the Group Insurance line, it was noted that the 1% increase is built into the budget and includes disability insurance rather than medical insurance.  Also mentioned was when the teachers’ contract was last negotiated, one of the changes was to go to a less expensive health insurance program which saved over $30,000 for the three years of the contract.  In place of that, the staff was given short term disability.

 

Improvement of Instruction – Page 71 – This is a contract obligation the school has with the staff who wish to take courses to improve their skills as a teacher or ed tech and includes the Teachers’ Mentoring Program which is mandated by the State to assist first or second year teachers during the time when they first begin teaching.  Without that program, the new teachers cannot be certified by the State.  The State provides a certain amount of time for that to occur.  There are three certifications for ed techs:  an Ed tech One can work one-on-one with students with teacher supervision; an Ed Tech Two can provide some services with the supervision of a teacher and an Ed Tech Three is permitted to do some teaching.   It was pointed out that administration courses for teachers are helpful as they know what they are expected to do.  Staff taking administrative courses do not earn more while they are teaching even with an administration certificate.  The Tuition Reimbursement lines represent the courses necessary for the staff to continue teaching or being an ed tech and is only contained in this account and not anywhere else in the budget. 

 

School Administration (Principal’s Office) – Page 81 – It was noted that this account has been increased by 1.8% due to a salary differential.  There was a need to increase the Office Manager’s salary because it wasn’t included in the current year’s budget which makes it appear that there is a 3.8% pay raise for that position.  That person is entitled to a longevity increase similar to the other staff.  The 262.5% increase in the Equipment line is because one of the computers in that office needs to be replaced. 

 

Regular Instruction (Grades 3 – 8) – Page 91 – This account has two less classrooms in the elementary section which is based on the current enrollment figures. 

 

Regular Instruction (Grades K – 2) – Page 101 – Depending on the number of students, there might be a change at the Kindergarten level.  This fiscal year another teacher was added to the Kindergarten class because of the increase in enrollment over the summer.  At this time, it appears there will be 15 to 20 students for the coming year, but that may increase depending on the number of new students that may come in before the beginning of the next school year.   It was mentioned that under the teachers’ contract positions have to be eliminated and not people, therefore, teachers can be moved to wherever they are needed.  There is a 6.1% decreased in this department.

 

Secondary Tuition – Page 111 – It was noted that two years ago, the School Committee capped the tuition paid to private schools.  There will be a meeting with Sanford to discuss the tuition Acton pays for the high school students in an attempt to reduce the tuition paid at this time.  It is hoped that it can be reduced to the cost per pupil that Sanford pays, but it’s doubtful Sanford will reduce it to that level.  The contract with Sanford will expire in 2011, therefore, a new contract will be negotiated during the coming fiscal year.  Although Sanford has also loss considerable State funding, the School Committee hopes they will be successful in reducing the tuition.  There was a brief discussion about the possibility of sending the middle school students to Sanford as well, but it was pointed out the research that was done indicated it would cost more for the district than educating those students in Acton.  It was noted that according to the Maine Education Association report the cost per student for Sanford is $4,030 with

the cost per student in Acton being $6,100 which only covers basic education.  As of 2009, the cost per student for Acton, which includes all services as well as the debt service, is $12,221 while the cost for Sanford students was $944.  It was mentioned that it is less expensive to educate more students in a larger school system than it is for a smaller system.  It was noted that the cost per student might increase if other grades were sent to Sanford because items such as transportation, etc. will increase as well as the fact that sixth, seventh and eighth grades might not do well going outside the Acton system.  Acton students attending Sanford have a 50% honor roll rate.  It was suggested by the Warrant and Finance Committee that it is a topic for discussion with Sanford.

Special Education – Page 121 – While in the past, Acton maintained its own school bus for special education students, in the upcoming fiscal year that service will be provided by private vehicles.  That line covers both K – 8 and high school students.  Using private vehicles has created a 63.9% decrease in this department’s budget.  Although summer school is not a State requirement, if the Individual Education Team (IET) determines summer school is in the best interest of the student, the school is obligated to provide that service.  Federal grants fund most of the summer school program except for transportation.  It was determined that the final transportation figure is more than likely incorrect as it appears for this department.  The 54.3% increase in the 9 – 12 grade line was pointed out as a large increase.  It was mentioned that line represents the transportation costs paid to Sanford for transporting Acton students to special schools as well as the students that are transported by Acton itself. 

 

Special Education Resource Room Placement – Page 131 – The 10.7% pay increase is due to step raises as well as the fact that one of the staff members who replaced an outgoing staff member earns more than the former person.  It was mentioned that instructors, tuition and ed tech costs are required to be placed in this budget by the State and was not part of the former reimbursement to the district.

 

Special Education Self-Contained Placement – Page 141 – There is one full time teacher and three ed techs in this account and the increase in salary are step raises.  The teacher tuition reimbursement of $1,400 is due to a request to take a particular class by the teacher.  That individual is taking one or two courses a year which is the same as the ed techs.  Those classes benefit the students directly because of what those individuals learn with regard to dealing with the pupils.  The health insurance increase is due to one of the staff changing plans because of the loss of the spouse’s job. 

 

Special Education Administration – Page 151 – This account contains the costs for the Special Education Director and secretary and reflects a 7.1% decrease.  The reason for the increase in the health insurance could be due to the individual being enrolled in the family plan.  It was noted that the district has 75 special education students.  To a question concerning how many students does the district provide funding for, Mr. Hadley advised he will obtain that information for the Warrant & Finance Committee.  There are tuition charges to Sanford or whatever special school the students attend.  Acton pays between $35,000 to $50,000 a year to special schools.

 

Special Education – Other Special Programs – Page 161 – This department represents contracted services such as psychological, speech pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy which range from $55 to $75 per hour.  Those services are determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student.  The service is provided and the district is billed by invoice.  Some of those costs were covered by Maine Care, but the State is attempting to eliminate that funding which then transfers the burden to the school district.  Generally, $50,000 to $70,000 a year is included in the budget with the actual cost being $90,000 last fiscal year, but that will change.  A suggestion was made that the district should discuss the situation with its State Representative.  It was noted that any services identified by the IET are required by State law without any reimbursement for some of those costs.  The change to the transportation line from $5,000 to $3,000 is again due to the fact that service will be contracted out as opposed to the district providing and maintaining a bus.  That line reflects additional students so that there will be no shortage of funds.  It was noted that the students do not attend summer school for the entire week and generally come in for certain types of services, but they still need to be transported as determined by the IEP.

 

Instruction Related Technology – Page 171 – There has been a 10% increase in this department because sufficient funds were not allocated in the current budget to maintain and repair the laptop computers the State gave to the students in the last four or five years.  While the computers were free, their upkeep falls to the school district which accounts for the increase.  This account deals with the students laptops as well as whatever upkeep and maintenance is required for the school’s computer systems.  There was a brief discussion concerning past conversations about charging the students a fee for the maintenance of the laptops and Mr. Hadley advised they are still exploring that option.  It was felt that since 49% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, charging a fee may not be equitable because some of those families may not be able to afford it, therefore, it doesn’t seem fair to charge only those who can pay.  As stated, the School Committee will explore the fee option as well as the possibility of self-insurance.  Mr. Long advised if there is a State requirement for students to have computers, given Acton is a public school, there should be no discussion about charging the students a fee for maintenance of something the State requires them to have.

 

System Administration – Page 181 – There has been a 27% decrease in this account from the current fiscal year because Mr. Hadley was hired in December, 2009 and he has reduced his hours to two days a week which will continue through 2010-11.  The Finance Officer’s salary has been frozen and the other staff member, who is covered under the support staff, will receive a small increase.  The health insurance line has increased slightly due to a change in plan.  The legal line has increased by 500% because of the need to set aside funds in order to deal with the State’s decision in not allowing Acton to be a stand alone district from the consolidation provision.  Mr. Hadley gave a brief overview of Acton’s attempt to partner with other towns in order to comply with the law as well as the district’s attempts to work with the Department of Education.  The district has decided, if necessary, to challenge the DOE’s decision in order to avoid the penalty that is supposed to be assessed to any school district that isn’t in compliance with the law.  The various amendments to the law currently before the legislature were referenced which may assist Acton.  It was pointed out that while the district has not been able to partner with another school district, there have been a number of other ways that have resulted in a reduction of costs such as purchasing fuel oil, supplies and other items with Sanford or other districts which indicates the district’s desire to comply with the law as much as possible.

 

Operations and Maintenance – Page 191 – It was noted that the salaries line has been reduced by 6.8% which is due to the reduction in the number of days the custodians work in the summer as well as the freezing of the Facilities’ Manager’s pay.  Since the custodians are not a part of the collective bargaining staff, they will not be getting a step raise.  There is a minute increase in the health insurance and a $250 increase in the travel line.  This department has a total reduction of 3.5% over the current fiscal year.  At this time, there was a discussion regarding the purchase of fuel oil and propane and the fact that the district is part of a consortium that purchases fuel oil in bulk in an effort to obtain the best price.  The Facilities’ Manager gave an overview of the installation and operation of the generator that was done recently. 

Capital Enhancement – Page 201 – Although this sheet was included in the department budget sheets, it hasn’t been funded since 2008.

Nutrition Program – Page 211 – The biggest reason for a reduction of 5.2% in this department is because a position was not filled once it became vacant.  The Contracted Food Service Director’s salary was increased because Sanford increased that individual’s pay.  The Food Service Director position for Acton was eliminated two years ago at a savings of $30,000+ which is when the district partnered with Sanford for the nutrition program. 

 

Debt Service – Page 221 – It was noted that the coming fiscal year will be the last payment on the debt service and since the balance due is $169,726 which is less than the previous $196,726 there is a reduction of 13.7% in this account.

 

Student Transportation – Page 231 – This is the final year of this contract.  Currently, the district makes five bus runs at a cost of $228,420. 

 

Budget Summary – Page 241 – The total budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year has increased by 1.8% with tuition being one of the reasons for the increase because it was under budgeted for the current fiscal year.  The figure could be decreased after the discussion with Sanford about the tuition matter.  Regarding the dates for payment of the tuition to Sanford, it is paid four times a year as agreed to by the two districts. 

Summer School – Page 251 – It was noted that this department no longer exists, but it has to be carried for three years before it can be removed from the budget entirely.  It was primarily for the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

Grocery List – It was noted that this category is basically a “petty cash” account for each teacher so that they will have funds to augment their budget requests for items they didn’t know they needed at the time they drafted their budget.

D.        OTHER BUSINESS

 

There was no other business to come before the Committee.

E.         NEXT MEETING

 

It was noted that the Warrant & Finance will meet on Monday, February 22, 2010, at 6:00 PM at the Town Hall.

F.         ADJOURNMENT - The Meeting was adjourned at 10:15 PM.

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

           

 

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ANNA M. WILLIAMS,