February 22, 2010

WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE WORKSHOP

                      FEBRUARY 22, 2010                        

                                   

A.        ROLL CALLActon Town Hall

 

 

            Members present were:                        Debi Rix, Chairperson

                                                                        Karl Hodgdon, Vice Chairman

                                                                        John Moore

                                                                        James Crowley

                                                                        Roger Roy

 

            Members absent were:              Elias Thomas

 

Also present was Dennis Long, Selectman.

 

                                                                                               

B.         APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

February 8, 2010 – A Motion was made and seconded to approve the Minutes of the February 8, 2010 Meeting as submitted.  Hodgdon/Crowley – Unanimous.

 

           

C.        OLD BUSINESS

Warrant & Finance Committee’s Review of the School Committee’s 2010-11 Fiscal Year Budget – Mr. Long distributed a copy of the Facilities Director contract which the Committee requested previously.  He gave a brief history of what this position did in the past and what was done after it was combined with another position.

 

Mr. Long expressed a concern that Mr. Kryzak is the only School Committee Member present for this important workshop with Mr. Kryzak advising he came this evening because he wasn’t able to be at the joint Meeting with this group and the School Committee.  He said he thought this was just a Warrant & Finance Committee workshop and not a joint Meeting. 

 

At this time the Committee discussed each department as submitted by the School Committee as follows:

 

Regular Instruction Grades 3 – 8 – It was noted the teacher salaries covered 14 teachers not including music as that is not a full time position.  Also, there were no individual salaries as the sheets contain a breakdown by grade.  There will be one less teacher in this category and also in K – 2.  The reduction for this category was 11.4% for 11 teachers plus art, gym and music.  There was a discussion about the fact that while $19,675 was budgeted for substitute teachers for this fiscal year only $17,000 was spent, but that can’t be controlled.  It was noted this budget contains funds for 300 substitute days which equates to 21 days per teacher while the contract allows the teachers 20 days.  There was a brief discussion about possibly reducing the art, gym and music programs to 80% reducing them to four days a week.  It was noted that the shipping and handling costs have increased for this budget.  There was a brief discussion regarding the increase in the IT Department.

     

A list of questions as follows was begun to ask the School Committee the next time the two groups meet:

 

1.         Why have the shipping and handling charges increased; 

2.         What does “grocery” money represent; 

3.         Where did the $80,000 come from in this year’s budget to pay the new Kindergarten teacher;

4.         Where will the penalty funds be taken for the non-consolidation of the school district;

5.         Where will the money be taken for this year’s shortfall in the high school tuition; 

6.         Were did the reductions in this budget go if they were used to offset another portion of the budget; and

7.         Was any of the high school tuition shortfall used to finance the hiring of the new Kindergarten teacher this year.

With regard to the penalty for non-consolidation, Mr. Kryzak explained it is taken from the subsidy the State would generally give the Town.  He said the State has already taken $270,000 and there isn’t any more for it to take.  He advised there will be no additional money to pay because it has already been paid.  He stated that amount will have to be made up by the voters since the Town will not be getting it which is why this budget has been increased as much as it has.  He said he thinks the equipment lease is for the copy machines and anything having to do with computers is for IT.  He thought the software in the 3- 8 category might be educational, therefore, it wouldn’t come under IT.

 

Regular Instruction K-2 – It was noted that there will be only one Kindergarten class for the coming year which is a reduction of one class and the retention of one multi-age class and accounts for the reduction in two teachers.  There were no further questions or comments about this account.

 

Secondary Tuition – It was noted the School Committee will be meeting with Sanford in March to propose a reduction in the per student tuition Acton pays for its high school students.

 

Mr. Kryzak stated Sanford’s per student cost is lower than the average and is made up with Acton’s tuition costs.  He said the School Committee will attempt to lower the tuition by half of what is paid at this time.  He mentioned SAD 60 would like to reopen discussions about sending Acton’s high school students there.  He explained the shortfall in tuition this year has been taken into account in this budget by cutting non-essential spending such as field trips, teacher training, reduction in the superintendent’s time from two and a half to two days a week.  He said the music teacher retired and the position is being filled with a substitute.  He stated he isn’t sure how much those efforts net in savings, but the School Committee will know in March.  He said the School Committee will be estimating the number of students attending high school this year rather than using the actual count which was the problem this year.  He mentioned in the past that method worked because students would drop out and there was extra money at the end of the school year.

 

Special Education – The account is basically for transportation of the students in this program which will be contracted out alleviating the need for the school to maintain its buses.  It was noted in 2008 and 2009 there were overdrafts in this account of $17,000 for each year.  To questions from the group regarding a 10.7% in the teachers’ salaries for this department, Mr. Long explained some of the funding that is being requested for this department was in the Guidance Department budget this fiscal year and the increase is due to the fact there wasn’t sufficient funding in the 2010-09 budget for the change in personnel. 

 

Mr. Kryzak explained the increase in this and other departments is because the high level of education

results in an increase in pay.  He said it could also be due to a step raise or longevity increase.  He mentioned that the School Committee is currently in negotiations with the support staff and will request they agree to freeze their pay at the current level, but what the result will be with that request won’t be known until April. 

It was noted because of job losses by spouses, health insurance plans are being changed to a family plan thereby increasing that cost for this budget and that probably may be the reason for the overdrafts in the last two years.  Also, since this department’s budget has increased 8.8%, there shouldn’t be another $17,000 overdraft like there has been for the past two school years.

 

Special Education – Self-Contained – This account contains an increase of $1,073 equaling a 2% increase in the ed tec salaries, but it appeared the increase was due to an increase in health insurance.

 

To a question whether that item will be addressed during the negotiations with the support staff, Mr. Kryzak said he could only say that the School Committee must negotiate in good faith and everything is on the table for discussion.  He stated they will go line by line and work through the negotiations in that manner.  He mentioned there are some tentative agreements which could change after further discussion.  Regarding the payment of 90% of the health insurance premiums for support staff and if that continues if the plan is changed to a family, Mr. Kryzak answered in the affirmative.  He stated the School Committee can’t take away something currently in effect.  He mentioned they were successful in discussions with the teachers whose contract is not ready for renegotiating since the School Committee got 80% of what was requested.

 

There was a comment made that the Town has no control over contract negotiations as that is just a School Committee job.

 

It was noted there is an increase in ed tec tuition reimbursement of 3.15% and 1.42% for reimbursement to the teachers.  The Committee felt the Town shouldn’t be reimbursing staff or teachers for administrative classes that are taken if they are not associated with the individual’s current position.  Also noted was that the six credits required for the retention of a teacher’s certification equal two courses yet the contract reimbursement is for three courses a year, but a BA is the level of education that is required for a teacher.

 

Mr. Kryzak explained the State requires that teachers have so many continuing education credits in order to retain their certification.  He said tuition reimbursement has been negotiated into every contract.  He acknowledged some people use the benefit to go on to another career.  He explained tuition is not reimbursed unless the individual completes the course and obtains an “A”.  He also referenced the new teacher mentoring program that is required by the State to assist novice teachers in working through any problems they have for the first three years they teach. 

 

Special Education Administration – To a question of how many hours does the Special Education Director work, Mr. Kryzak replied four days a week.  He stated if this position were to join with Sanford, there would be no administrator to make decisions for the Kindergarten to 8 grades.

 

To the Committee’s suggestion that there might be a cost savings if Acton’s 6th, 7th and 8th graders were to go to Sanford, Mr. Kryzak explained the School Committee has looked at that option, but  determined it would cost Acton more to do that than keep them in the Town’s school since additional bus trips would be required as well as other things.

 

Special Education Other – There is a $3,000 increase in this account which is due to an increase in physical therapy services.

 

Guidance – Mr. Kryzak thought the contract for this position is an individual contract and not part of the teachers’ contract which is why it isn’t scheduled for a raise.  He said with regard to the 6.8% increase in this department, he wasn’t on the School Committee when the contract was negotiated.

 

Nurse – It was noted this position falls into the teachers’ contract, therefore, is entitled to tuition reimbursement.  The Committee reiterated allowing tuition reimbursement make it possible for personnel to be trained for other careers and that benefit should not be allowed if the individual is taking courses that go beyond what is required for their current position.  It was mentioned that continuing education credits are also given for in-house workshops. 

 

Mr. Kryzak felt it may cost more to do an entire staff in-house workshop than having the staff take individual college courses.  He also pointed out the college courses are taken on the individual’s own time while the in-house workshops have to be given during school hours.

Co-Curricular – This program includes Odyssey of the Mind, Legos, etc..  The Committee felt this program should be treated the same as the sports program and require the students to pay for participating.  It was noted approximately 49% of Acton’s students qualify for free or reduced lunches, therefore, those people more than likely wouldn’t be able to pay for this program.  It was suggested that possibly the PTG could help fund this program for the students who don’t have the money to participate.

 

Extra Curricular – Since this is the after school sports program, it was noted it might either be reduced or eliminated because of the possible lack of other school district teams to play against.  There was a brief discussion about the possibility of developing an intramural program since eliminating the extra curricular sports program would be detrimental for the students who don’t play on teams such as Little League, etc..  Also, going to an intramural program may result in the elimination of the transportation costs associated with the extra curricular programs.

 

Explore – There was a brief discussion about the transporting of two 8th grade students to Sanford for advanced algebra classes because of their advanced abilities in that subject.  There was a question as to whether providing this program is State mandated and Ms Rix advised she would find out.

 

Improvement of Instruction – It was noted this account contains tuition reimbursement for administrative courses as well as for required courses.  There was a line indicating that the Kindergarten teacher who will not be here next year is scheduled to take three courses.    

 Mr. Kryzak explained a Masters Degree is the next step after a BA and the Masters Degree courses teach the participants about education law.  He thought it might be required to retain a teachers’ certification.  He pointed out that teacher may not be leaving since the number of classes for any grade is based on the number of students enrolled and it isn’t known at this time that there will be only sufficient students for one class.  He advised the mileage reimbursement in this account is for teacher conferences and not college courses. 

It was mentioned there are figures missing for the tuition paid to Sanford or the support staff as well as some information concerning the teachers and the School Warrant must be ready in the next week and a half.

Mr. Kryzak stated that is not unusual because a budget is based on what has occurred in the past and what might occur.  He said the only way to present finalized figures is to develop the budget at the end of the school year in June and the School Committee can only work with the deadlines they are given.  He mentioned the insurance rate will be finalized very soon as the State is working on that currently. 

 Library – Ms Rix advised she would check on why there is a $60 increase for the ed tec knowing that insurance isn’t a factor here.

IT Department – Mr. Long gave a brief history of how this department and the position came about.

Mr. Kryzak stated there is a good deal of work required to maintain both the school’s computers and the laptop computers the State gives to the students.  He mentioned this department’s funding has increased this year because it was discovered during the current year that there wasn’t any funding for repairing and maintaining the students’ laptop computers.  He said the School Committee has discussed the possibility of requiring the students purchase an insurance policy, but it is doubtful that would work because of the large number of free and reduced lunch students.

System Administration – It was mentioned that the Superintendent has reduced his work week from two and a half days to two now and for the upcoming school year. 

Mr. Kryzak explained Mr. Hadley works whether he is paid or not.  He mentioned the Superintendent’s contract will be reviewed at the end of this calendar year at which time, the School Committee can extend it to whatever period they feel is appropriate.  He said he hasn’t heard anything about transferring the work of paying bills, payroll, etc. to the Town Treasurer and eliminating the position currently responsible for that work and mentioned that position is also responsible for filing reports with the State which are contained in the software in her computer with Mr. Long advising that work was previously done by the Town Treasurer.

School Administration – To a question of why the school office manager doesn’t handle calling the substitutes as it is listed as another person’s job, it was noted that the individual doing that job is paid approximately half of what the office manager is paid.   

Mr. Kryzak explained the office manager does more work than just a secretary and gave a brief overview of what he knows she does.  He mentioned some of the benefits for that individual may be different than the other support staff’s contractual benefits since she has been with the district for quite sometime and is grandfathered.

Operations and Maintenance – Mr. Kryzak explained that the overtime built into this department probably covers snow removal, but the Committee should ask the Superintendent to explain what it represents.

There was some discussion as to whether the Facilities Director position is a foreman or a custodian as that would put it in a different class.  Also, it was noted a good deal of the work is being contracted out.  The Committee just received a copy of this position’s agreement or contract and will review it for future discussions.

The remainder of the budget will be reviewed at the Committee’s next workshop. 

 

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 Wednesday, February 24, 2010, at at the Town Hall. 

 

F.         ADJOURNMENT

 

The Meeting was adjourned at .

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

           

                                                                                     ______________________________

                                                                                    ANNA M. WILLIAMS,

                                                                                    Recording Secretary