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WARRANT & FINANCE COMMITTEE WORKSHOP
MARCH 2, 2010
A. ROLL CALL – 6:00 PM –
Members present were: Debi Rix – Chairman
Roger Roy Elias Thomas
Members absent were: Karl Hodgdon – Vice Chairman
Also present was Dennis Long and Anthony Cogliandro, Selectmen; Judie Shain and Ted Kryzak, School Committee Members; Andy Brazier, Linda Heon and Sylvia Emery, school staff, Trish Halladay, principal and Elsie Miller.
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 mentioned that the Committee will continue its discussion from last night’s Meeting. She stated one of the items requested was a signed copy of the Facilities Director’s contract which she stated she has. She said she asked Carlene Doyle of the Superintendent’s Office if there was a job description for the School Committee, which was dropped off for her, but she hasn’t had an opportunity to review it yet. She referenced information provided by the secretary explaining the State’s version of the duties of a School Board. She stated none of it will be addressed at this time. She mentioned a spread sheet she developed of the Committee’s proposed budget cuts. She explained that some of the cuts discussed last night are included in the spread sheet, but not all of them. She stated the group will begin with the information dated March 1, 2010 which is the latest information they have received and if there were any further cuts made by the School Committee, they aren’t aware of them. She pointed out she has her laptop computer available to record any further figures that might be discussed. She stated when the work is complete, she will forward it to the Superintendent and the School Committee. She advised it is her hope to have that done by the end of the week. She mentioned that she received an e-mail from Ms Shain requesting that this Committee meet with the School Committee on March 9, 2010 at the school rather than the Town Hall since they will begin their meeting at 7:00 and meeting here will delay their meeting and the vote on the school budget. She advised this Committee’s meeting will begin at 6:00 PM at the school and then the School Committee can begin their meeting thereafter. She stated one of this Committee’s question from last night was the teachers’ agreement to have a one day furlough. She mentioned she had e-mailed Carlene Doyle, the Superintendent’s Assistant, requesting that she be provided with the cost savings for that day and was told it would save $11,000+ for the one day which cost savings has been included in the budget being reviewed at this time. She stated with regard to the information from the DOE that Mr. Crowley referenced last Friday, she spoke with that agency and asked them to put their comments in writing. She was told by Jen Cooler that she could either mail or e-mail the information to her (Ms Rix), but she hasn’t received anything at this time. She asked the other Committee Members if they had any questions about what she gave them or what was discussed at last night’s Meeting.
To Mr. Moore’s comment that there are changes to the items the Committee discussed previously, Ms Rix said that was correct and hoped to take care of that this evening. She said she didn’t agree with reducing some of the positions to two days a week which is reflected in the spread sheet. She stated she didn’t have time to finalize the figures for those positions, but that could be done this evening.
Mr. Roy stated he would be in favor of reducing the five day week to three days for the positions previously discussed and would like to go over the figures at the Committee’s next Meeting. He said in doing that, the insurance would also be reduced. He mentioned Town employees are only eligible for health insurance if they work 21 hours a week and suggested the school do the same.
To Ms Rix’s comment that with regard to extra curricular that account might be reduced because there may not be any other school teams for Acton to pay, Mr. Moore mentioned according to her figures, only the travel has been eliminated and not the dues to which Ms Rix replied she left $5,000 in that account for intramural sports. She said she isn’t sure whether that amount will cover it because of the need for coaches and other people to run the programs.
In a discussion about the elimination of the Facilities Manager, it was mentioned that at the last Meeting Mr. Hodgdon calculated approximately $47,000 would be saved and it was noted that figure is included in the bottom line figure being discussed this evening.
Mr. Roy referenced his recommendation that the school bookkeeping position be combined with the Town Treasurer’s position. He suggested that the group review the health insurance figures again.
Ms Rix explained the Committee discussed the possibility of reducing the Town’s portion of the health insurance to 90% for all school staff which she felt would equate to a good deal of savings. She mentioned presently the single coverage is paid by the Town at 100% with the next category of adults with children at $10,686 per person. She said she understands that benefit is part of the contracts which cannot be changed, but if this Committee makes that recommendation as an effort to lower the budget, then it will be up to the School Committee to make any reductions they feel they can live with. She said if it is a contractual matter, they will have to ask the teachers to make concessions. She reiterated her comment from the evening before that this Committee is attempting to make cuts that don’t affect the students and while some people think it isn’t fair this Committee has to consider the taxpayers.
Mr. Long mentioned the teachers’ contract will be renegotiated in 2011 while the support staff’s contract will be negotiated this year.
Ms Rix advised that other school districts have looked at individual items one of which is reducing the teachers’ pay by a certain percentage which would pay for the cuts and cover the deficit. She said not counting the support staff, if the teachers took a 5% pay cut, it would save $86,000.
Mr. Roy stated that while the Committee’s discussion of the last Meeting was a good start, they should go through each department.
Regular Education – Grades 3 – 8 – The Committee talked about equipment leases and the increase in the number of copies with Linda Heon, the school’s Office Manager, explaining the reason for the increase.
Ms Rix stated the Committee should review the salaries and health insurance for this sheet.
K – 2 – Ms Rix stated the Committee never received the answer about the five teachers listed under the “Teachers’ Salary” line with Ms Halladay advising that the seconded kindergarten teacher position is still in those calculations as they were done prior to the position being cut.
Mr. Crowley stated he would like to put the school budget aside until the Committee is given the answers to their questions. He said he would like to have all the Selectmen go through it with the Committee and not just Mr. Long and that consolidation is a major item for him.
Mr. Hodgdon mentioned Mr. Long’s comments about the conversation with Ms Shain, Mr. Hadley and Ms Crockett, a Selectperson, this morning. He referenced the Minutes of November 13, 2008 and the comments made by the Ron Smith, the auditor, about the lack of communication between the Town and the school. He read that at the time, Mr. Smith told the Selectmen the State was withholding three months of subsidy in the amount of $20,000 from the Town because of the school’s failure to submit timely reports. He read that Mr. Smith suggested the Town become more involved in how the school does business. (A copy of that Board of Selectmen’s Meeting is attached hereto and made a part hereof.)
Mr. Long advised he was told when he met with the Superintendent, Ms Shain and Ms Crockett today was that he isn’t a member of the Warrant & Finance Committee, so if the Warrant & Finance Committee wishes to have information they should ask for it themselves. He stated there was comment made that he is trying to tell them how to run the school. He said the issue is with the payment of bills as the Selectmen have said they would only pay salaries and no bills until the Town has received some tax money and if there was a bill the School Committee felt couldn’t wait, the Selectmen and the School Committee could discuss it. He mentioned that the Superintendent said they don’t always have 30 days to pay the bill and that most schools pay bills every two weeks. He referenced the joint Meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the Warrant and Finance Committee and the School Committee that had taken place last fall and mentioned how troubling the Superintendent’s demeanor was at that Meeting which was how he acted today. He stated he spoke with Mr. Cogliandro, the other Selectmen, and they agreed that neither of them would meet with the Superintendent alone.
It was noted that this Committee had supported the Selectmen’s decision about not paying any bills until the Town has received additional revenue which would alleviate the need for the Town to borrow money.
Mr. Thomas suggested the abutting towns be asked if they have a job description for the School Committee. He said the reason Acton doesn’t have one is because it doesn’t have a Charter.
Ms Rix mentioned she recently asked the Selectmen that she be allowed to contact MMA, but Ms Crockett said she couldn’t do so and said any questions she (Ms Rix) had for MMA need to go through the Selectmen’s office to which Mr. Long stated he would check on it the next day. She stated she has researched other Warrant & Finance Committees from other towns and they basically all function in the same manner.
Mr. Crowley expressed a concern about meeting with the School Committee on March 3, 2010 since he felt there were still too many unanswered questions.
A Motion was made and seconded to move the Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Meeting to Tuesday, March 9, 2010 due to the number of questions outstanding about the 2010-11 school budget and the Warrant & Finance Committee’s inability to make their recommendations. Crowley/Thomas. After a brief discussion the Motion and second were withdrawn.
Mr. Long stated that the School Committee is scheduled to vote on the budget on March 9, 2010 and mentioned that the calendar of Meetings the Committee is working with was developed by the School Committee.
Ms Rix stated this Committee is scheduled to meet with the School Committee on March 3, 2010 and they, this Committee, met this evening to go over the figures and develop a bottom line. She reminded the Committee that it isn’t their job to tell the School Committee what to cut in the budget yet they continue to ask this Committee to do that. She expressed a concern about creating the same situation that was created two years ago when it took more than one vote to pass a school budget.
Mr. Roy suggested the Committee pare the budget down to $4.5 Million and advise the School Committee where the cuts can be made.
Ms Rix stated she would be comfortable submitting a $4.5 or $4.6 Million budget with one of the cuts this Committee could recommend would deal with reducing the Town’s payment of the health insurance and the tuition reimbursement as those items will not affect the students. She pointed out there are many area towns that are reducing the teaching staff while Acton is keeping theirs at the present level.
A Motion was made and seconded to postpone the Tuesday, March 2, 2010, workshop. After a brief discussion the Motion was withdrawn.
It was suggested the School Committee be advised that the workshop scheduled for March 3, 2010 will be postponed to March 9, 2010 when this Committee can meet with them at 6:00 PM at the Town Hall.
Some of the discussion and potential recommendations were as follows:
1. Reducing the Town’s payment of health insurance for all school staff to 90% and if it could be reduced to 80%, it would net a $79,000 savings. Currently there are nine single plan participants, sixe adult with children at double the rate of the single plan, 19 family participants and 11 two person participants. It was noted that Sanford pays 80% and Lebanon pays 70%, therefore, Acton is not in line with the neighboring towns.
2. Mr. Hodgdon suggested the Director of Facilities title be removed and make that individual a custodian and eliminate one of the other custodial positions for a savings of approximately $47,000.
3. The $18,000 appropriated for away sports could be reduced to $9,000 which would include coaches for intramural programs. The status of whether there will be a sports program other than intramural will not be known until other schools have had their budgets approved.
4. The school office manager be returned to a secretarial position since doing so would save
$5,574. It was mentioned that individual has been maxed out of “steps” because she has worked
in the system for over 20 years. Linda Heon, the individual holding that position, explained what she does on a daily basis. It was noted that Ms Heon is not enrolled in the Town’s health insurance program.
Mr. Long explained that Carlene Doyle is the Superintendent’s Assistant and does all the State paperwork and Donna Michaud is the part time office manager with Mr. Hodgdon pointing out that position pays $48,830 for 220 days a year at seven hours a day with family health insurance.
5. Eliminate Ms Michaud’s position and bring the work done by that position to the Town Treasurer’s office. It was noted that Ms Michaud prepares the State reporting forms, the payroll, staff attendance and leave records and Federal and State Income Tax reports.
6. Reduce the music, art and physical education positions to two days a week which would not only
save in wages, but also save on benefits. It was noted that physical education is $36,000 with benefits, music is four days a week at $44,000 with health insurance for a family and art is paid at 20% without benefits.
7. Reduce the Explore program five to two days a week and reduce the Special Education Director
to two days a week. It was noted that the State reimburses the school for the Explore program and that all students, not just the gifted and talented, benefit from this program.
8. If all staff members were to take a 5% cut in pay, it would equate to a $55,757 savings and if they were to take a 3% cut in pay, it would equate to $22,500 savings.
9. There will be one kindergarten teacher next year as opposed to the two that there are this fiscal year.
10. Delete tuition reimbursement for all staff members.
11. Physical therapy services are being provided by the Visiting Nurses which accounts for the increase in that budget line as well as the fact that there are more than two students receiving that service at $75 an hour for five hours a day.
12. The guidance person’s salary is covered under the teachers’ contract.
13. The nurse is in the school every day and is responsible for keeping the students’ medical records, signs off on the health records and keeps track of the students’ immunizations. She works 4.8 hours a day.
14. The State requires that all new teachers be mentored for three years by a veteran teacher in order for the novice to receive their State certifications and the veteran teacher is compensated for that time.
15. The ed tec for the library falls under the teachers’ contract and that individual works three days a week with the librarian working two days a week.
16. It was noted that there is a need to include funds in this year’s budget for repairs and maintenance of the laptops provided by the State. Also, that the idea of charging each student who has a laptop $50 a year to cover any repairs would not work because of the number of students that fall under the government’s free and reduced lunch program. Ms Rix mentioned that in checking with other school districts, the repair of any damage done to a laptop supplied by the State is paid by the student who caused the damage. Also noted was that student damage to any of the laptops is rare and the repairs are more often necessary because something has to be replaced.
17. The Superintendent’s hours have been reduced to two days a week which is a half day done from
the previous time. This reduction actually began in December, 2009. The insurance for this position is reduced because it is shared with the other school district for which he works.
18. The legal budget has been increased by $25,000 to cover any costs that might be incurred in the event the school is required to fight the State in court regarding its inability to follow the consolidation law. The penalty assessed to the school for non-compliance is reduction of the State’s subsidy to the district. Up to this time, the school has been assessed a $218,000 curtailment of its subsidy. There are a number of Bills before the legislature dealing with the consolidation law, therefore, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future.
19. Any funding required to pay the loan on the school to the State is included in this budget. It was noted that this will be the final payment on that loan.
Ms Rix stated she would take whatever figures were discussed this evening and prepare a spread sheet for the Committee’s review and comment.
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 Tuesday, March 2, 2010,at 6:00 PM at the Town Hall.
F. ADJOURNMENT - The Meeting was adjourned at 7:45 PM.
ANNA M. WILLIAMS,