February 24, 2010

WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE WORKSHOP

                                       FEBRUARY 24, 2010

 

                                                                                                                       APPROVED

 

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; Judie Shain, Mary Stanton and Ted Kryzak, School Committee Members; Andy Brazier, Facilities Director; Sylvia Emery, Jennifer Goodwin, Tina Gagnon, Elise Miller and Jeannie Howe.

                                                                       

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

           

C.        OLD BUSINESS

Warrant & Finance Committee’s Review of the School Committee’s 2010-11 Fiscal Year Budget – Mr. Long apologized for what he said at the last Meeting about the School Committee not being present then.  He said it appears there was a miscommunication between the Board of Selectmen and the two Committees.

 

To a question of what do the figures in the Addendum column represent, Ms Shain stated they are the stipends received for longevity and are increased every five years.  She said that is part of the contract and are contained in the budget totals.  She explained “AWC” on the sheets stands for “Adult with Child”.  Regarding the 15 ed tecs, one is for K - 2, another for 3 – 8 and the others are in the special education program.  There is also one in the library.  She stated the reason only 14 are listed is because that is the number they budgeted for and the others are in the special education program for which they receive grant funds.  She said there is an ed tec who runs the computer lab and is listed under special education.  She advised from what she remembers there are two ed tecs for regular education, 2/3 of an ed tec for the library,  eight for special education and one for remedial reading which is paid through a grant.  She mentioned not all of the ed tecs are enrolled in the insurance program. 

 

The Committee began its review of the school budget at Operations and Maintenance which is where they left off at their previous workshop.

 

Operations and Maintenance – To a question whether the Facilities Director was a contract position and if so, the Committee would appreciate having a copy if it, Ms Shain confirmed it is a contract position, but it wasn’t provided to the Committee because contracts with individual employees are private.

 

To a question of why was the water damage work contracted out since the job description for the Facilities Director includes structural repairs and remodels, Ms Shain explained that particular work was part of a stimulus grant which was only applicable for certain types of work and that job was one of them.  Since that was part of the mold problem the school had, it required an engineer who then recommended the company to do the work because it is something that can’t be done without proper protection for the individuals performing the work. 

 

It was noted that winterization of the sprinkler system was contracted out because it requires specific equipment so if the school did it, that equipment would have to be purchased and if there are any subsequent problems after the work is done by the contractor, it would be that company’s problem and not the school’s.  While there is a figure of $750 in this budget, it was a little less last year, but that figure was increased by 10% to account for any increase in the cost.

 

Student Transportation – Ms Shain explained this is the third year in a three year contract with Laidlaw, therefore, the school will be negotiating another contract at the end of this year.  She said while they have included the cost for this year in the budget, that is an item that generally goes out to bid.  There is no fuel escalation clause in the existing contract which is why it is less.

 

Debt Service – It was noted the Town will make the last payment in November, 2010 and then the school will be fully paid.

 

Nutrition – Ms Shain advised the cost of the students’ lunches went from $1.50 to $1.75 at this time and

in the fall it will be $2.00.  The cost for the 49% of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch

is paid by the Federal government, therefore, the increase for those students will be covered.  If the

eligible student count reaches 50%, the school can then offer a free lunch and breakfast program for all

the students.  Currently the cost of lunch for an adult is $3.50 and that will more than likely be increased

also.

 

To a comment that it would be good if the food service program paid for itself, Ms Shain mentioned the Food Service Manager just wanted to cover the costs for the program.  There currently are two people in Acton’s food service program which is down one from the prior budget.  At this time, the paperwork is done at Sanford’s central office and the custodians do the clean up. 

 

Other Topics - It was mentioned that the total budget appears to have a large increase in health insurance costs and it seems to be answered by the fact that some employees have gone from the single plan to the family plan with this budget being $24,814 less than it is for the current fiscal year.  Also, noted was that the Town pays 100% for the single plan and 90% for support staff and 89% for teachers for the family plans.  There can be no changes to the contributions until new contracts are negotiated.  During the last negotiations with the teachers, the health insurance was reduced for short and long term disability coverage. 

 

The questions  compiled by the Committee at their last workshop were answered as follows:

 

1.         Underfunding of the high school tuition costs - It was mentioned there are reductions in this budget that should cover it.  An exact figure can’t be given at this time as that is something that is calculated at the end of the school year.  Also, the School Committee will be meeting with Sanford on March 8 to discuss tuition.

2.         Where will the funds for the non-consolidation penalty be taken – There is no penalty, but rather a curtailment of the State’s subsidy to the Town.  The State will not be giving funds to the low

subsidy districts which includes Acton, therefore, the Town owes nothing for its failure to consolidate.  There was a brief discussion about the Bills before the legislature to amend some provisions of the consolidation law one of which should benefit Acton’s request to be a stand alone school district based on its efforts to consolidate even though the attempts have been unsuccessful.

3.         Where did the funds come from in this year’s budget to pay for the new Kindergarten teacher –The funding came from the elimination of a fourth grade teacher.  While that was able to be done for this school year, but there will be two fourth grade classes for the coming year because of the number of students that will be going into that grade.  When grades increase in size, the teachers change grades in order to provide education for the larger classes. 

4.         What does “grocery” money represent – That is the term used to describe a petty cash account which is used to purchase items the teachers find they need throughout the school year, but for which they didn’t budget because they weren’t aware they would be required.

 

Other questions answered were:

a.         Why the increase in the leased equipment account – The district doesn’t pay for the photocopiers, it leases them so there is a per copy charge which covers supplies and maintenance of those machines.  This year there was an increase in the number of copies that were made which accounts for the increase in that account.

 

b.         Why the increase in the computer software account – Because the price of the programs has increased over this year.

 

c.         Why a 10.7% increase in the special education salaries – There was a change in personnel which basically is going from a long term substitute to a regular teacher who has a Masters Degree and that is the reason for the increase.  For this type of program, a Masters Degree is required.

 

d.         It was confirmed that the nurse is covered under the teachers contract and that three continuing education courses were approved for that individual.  There are times when the courses requested are not taken.  The plan is to remove that position from the teachers contract when this individual retires, but her benefits are such because of the length of time she has been with the district.  Currently, the individual holding this position doesn’t have the requisite BA which accounts for the courses she is taking that will allow her to retain her certification.

 

e.         When a position is eliminated, it doesn’t mean the individual in that position will also be eliminated.  Elimination of an individual is based on seniority within the entire State school system.  What that means is that the last person hired is not necessarily the first person to be eliminated.  It could well be that the last person hired has more seniority than other teachers in the school and that is the person who will be retained.  That is in keeping with the teachers contract language.

f.          The person holding the IT position is responsible for all the repairs and maintenance to both the school’s computer system as well as the laptop computers the State provides to the students.  Having an IT position in-house has saved the school a good deal of money because of the cost incurred with sending equipment out to be repaired or maintained. 

 

To a question whether the support staff wages will be frozen like the teachers, Mr. Kryzak explained

the support staff has chosen to negotiate the contract at this time rather than waiting until next year when

the teachers contract is scheduled to be negotiated. 

 

To Mr. Roy’s comment that while the School Committee has done a good job with the budget, it is still 2% more than it was last year for the support staff, Mr. Kryzak explained because the contract with the support staff hasn’t been negotiated or finalized, the School Committee felt it would be prudent to

 include a raise.  He stated that the School Committee must negotiate in good faith.  If there isn’t an agreement by June, this year’s wages will continue.  He mentioned that “good faith” bargaining means that all points are open to negotiation and not begin with preconceived plans.  The School Committee always negotiates with the best interest of the Town in mind.

 

Ms Stanton pointed out that their job is to be sure the children in Town are taken care of with regard to their education and she understands that this Committee must look at the money.

To a question of how many hours a day does the teaching staff work, Ms Shain replied from seven to twelve hours.  They are required to be in school for at least seven hours a day, but very few of the teachers work only that amount of time.  Also, there isn’t any overtime as they have to work no matter what amount of time it takes for the same salary.

 

When Ms Shain explained that she, the Superintendent and the Principal will not be able to attend the Committee’s March 3 Meeting as they will be meeting with Sanford to discuss the tuition situation, Mr. Hodgdon asked if they could discuss paying the tuition in accordance with the Board of Selectmen’s request.

 

When Ms Stanton advised they had done that and it is paid in four installments with Sanford accruing the interest on the funds, Mr. Roy stated the Town asked for it to be paid in two payments of December and June..

 

Mr. Long gave an overview of why that request was made and stated if the Town didn’t have to pay the tuition until after the real estate taxes are collected, it means it wouldn’t have to borrow money to cover the Town’s expenses. 

 

It was noted that Acton’s taxes are paid in October and April of each year, therefore, the payments to Sanford could take place in November and May. 

 

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, March 3, 2010, at at the Town Hall.

 

F.         ADJOURNMENT - The Meeting was adjourned at .

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

           

 

 

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ANNA M. WILLIAMS,

                                                                                    Recording Secretary