March 03, 2010

WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE WORKSHOP

  MARCH 3, 2010

 

 

                                                                                                                        APPROVED

A.        ROLL CALLActon Town Hall

 

 

 Members present were:            Debi Rix – Chairman

                                                Karl Hodgdon – Vice Chairman                                                                       

            John Moore                                                                                         

James Crowley

Roger Roy                                                                                                        Elias Thomas

 

 Also present was Dennis Long, Selectman; Jeanette Bearse, Judie Shain, Richard Michaud Mary Stanton and Ted Kryzak, School Committee Members; Alton Hadley, Superintendent of Schools; Andy Brazier, Linda Heon and Sylvia Emery, school staff, and Carlene Doyle, School Finance Director.

 

                                                                                             

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 – Ms Rix distributed a new spreadsheet which was revised based on the Committee’s previous Meetings.  She also referenced the answers to the Committee’s questions as prepared by Carlene Doyle of the Superintendent’s Office.  She stated she followed up with the DOE regarding the questions the group had concerning the $218,000.  She advised she was told that sum was waived for the 2009-10 fiscal year.  She said she spoke with the Mr. Hadley today and he explained the 2010-11 allocation to her which will go from 30% to 35% based on the fact that the State has received additional funds.  She stated that the Town will be penalized 50% of the 35% because of non-compliance with the consolidation law.  She asked the State what Acton could do to become compliant and was told the only thing Acton can do is to consolidate with another school district.  She said the Bill that will be voted on this week in the legislature will not affect Acton.  She was told that the Town will continue to lose funding until it complies with the law. 

 

Ms Shain stated although the Bill being voted on this week doesn’t affect Acton, there are other Bills before the legislature that will remove the number of students required for a school district to be exempt.  She said currently only the Commissioner of the DOE can grant a waiver for that to occur.  She advised that while what Ms Rix said is accurate, the School Committee is still waiting to officially hear from the Commissioner.  She mentioned that the School Committee will continue to pursue an exempt status.

 

Ms Rix stated the individual she spoke to at the DOE told her he didn’t see how the Commissioner could grant that waiver unless Acton is a K through 12 school system.

 

Ms Rix informed that after Mr. Hadley explained the subsidy amount to her, she made some calculations and determined that the Town will be responsible for the debt service itself. 

 

At this time there was a brief discussion regarding the health insurance figures as submitted by the School Committee.

 

Ms Rix mentioned that this Committee would like to increase the amount paid by the employees and the figures given to this Committee of 100% for single plan participants, 90% for support staff and 89% for teachers don’t equal the figure on the sheets given to them and explained where she thought the discrepancy was.  She stated the difference of 1% makes a big difference. She advised she made some calculations at a 75% contribution by the Town which she will review again.  She confirmed that the K-2 teachers salary line was reduced from five to four since there will only be one kindergarten teacher next fall.  She stated another question was how much of the special education amount was reimbursed by the State and it appears that is the same as the State subsidy. 

 

To a question of how many special education students does Acton have, the Special Education Director said approximately 50 with an additional 28 in the high school.  She stated that number is approximately 18% of the students which is the usual amount for a school this size.

 

To Ms Rix’s comment that the teachers’ contract requires they have to work five days more than the students attend school and it is her understanding those days are set aside for workshops and staff development, Mr. Hadley answered in the affirmative and explained exactly what those days are for.

 

To a question of how many hours a week are required to make an employee eligible for health insurance, Ms Doyle stated that it is 30 hours for the support staff and 50% time for teachers.

 

Mr. Roy felt the Committee should address the attorney’s fees which has been increased by $25,000. 

 

To Ms Rix’s question whether the School Committee has any intention of pursuing consolidating with any area schools if the situation doesn’t change, Ms Shain stated there aren’t any [school districts] left.  She said the School Committee feels it is in the best interest of the Town to continue to pursue an exemption from the DOE.  She mentioned that one of the attorneys that wrote the law has encouraged them to do that as it is the best chance they have of eliminating the penalty.

 

To Mr. Crowley’s question whether there were any Minutes or other information of the School Committee’s efforts to consolidate with other districts as Ms Shain originally told him that talks with SAD 60 were just telephone calls, Mr. Hadley stated there are e-mails between superintendents in an attempt to form a RSU.  He said the e-mails from SAD 60 indicated it was not interested in consolidating until Acton’s contract with Sanford for the high school students expires.  That contract will expire in June, 2013 and it would cost Acton to attempt to break the contract with Ms Stanton advising that the Commissioner of the DOE told them they couldn’t break the contract.

 

Mr. Hadley explained that the law states all contracts will be honored and since Acton had two years left on the former superintendent’s contract, they would have  had to honor it until the expiration date.  He mentioned there are school districts that have three or four department heads because of that provision.

 

Both Ms Bearse and Ms Shain mentioned the district’s efforts to consolidate with Wells-Ogunquit and  after the vote failed, Wells-Ogunquit was granted an exemption from the law.  They also explained the procedures that are in place after consolidation as they pertain to the budget.

 

Ms Rix stated that the individual at the DOE felt Acton’s biggest problem was that it wasn’t a K-12 district. 

 

Mr. Hadley mentioned the attorney advised there is a Bill before the legislature that would exempt school districts that are too rural to find a partner.  He said the attorney felt that was a good argument given that the district has attempted to consolidate, but has been unable to find a partner.  He stated at this time they are waiting for the Commissioner’s Findings of Fact as to why Acton should not be given an exemption.  Once that is received, the attorney will review them and tell the School Committee how to proceed from there.

 

To a question of whether there is a pool of substitutes, Mr. Hadley explained they are called on an “as needed” basis and no one is paid unless they work.

 

To a question of what State funding the special education department is qualified for, both the Special Education Director and one of the teachers in that department explained it is 90% grant funded and they obtain the other 10% from another category. 

Ms Shain explained that the Computer Lab Director’s salary and benefits  are grant funded.

 

 

To Mr. Thomas’ question regarding the staffing of the nutritional program, Mr. Hadley explained that Acton doesn’t employ an individual who would be able to do the paperwork that Sanford does as that individual needs to have a dietary background.

 

Ms Rix stated the Committee will need an opportunity to digest the information given to them this evening and acknowledged that in order to have their recommendations ready for the School Committee by 6:00 PM on March 9, 2010, this group will need to meet again to confirm the recommendations they have ready discussed.

 

Ms Shain asked that the group submit their recommendations to the School Committee prior to March 9, 2010 so they will have an opportunity to review them and be prepared to vote on the final budget that evening.

D.        OTHER BUSINESS  

 

There was no other business to come before the Committee. E.         NEXT MEETING

 

It was noted that the Warrant & Finance will conduct a workshop on Monday, March 8, 2010,at at the Town Hall. F.         ADJOURNMENT - The Meeting was adjourned at .

 

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

           

 

                                                                                    ______________________________

                                                                                    ANNA M. WILLIAMS,

                                                                                    Recording Secretary