January 21, 2009
Hollis-Brookline Middle School
Tom Enright, Chairperson
James O’Shea, MD
Susan Hodgdon, Superintendent of Schools
Tim Kelley, Principal, Hollis-Brookline High School
Dawna Duhamel, Business Administrator
Robert Kelly, Director of Special Education
Rebecca Movermann, Student Representative
Betsy A. Packard, Recording Secretary
Others present included members of the Public and the following members of the Budget Committee:
Steve Pucci, Chairman
Chairperson Tom Enright called the meeting to order at 7:10 p.m.
1. FY10 BUDGET REVIEW
Chair. Enright explained that they had a joint meeting of the Coop School Board and the Budget Committee in November, and the Board had invited the Budget Committee to the meeting that night for a second joint meeting.
Steve Pucci called the Budget Committee’s meeting to order.
Chair. Enright stated that the Administration had been asked to work on reducing the draft budget increase of 3%. He reported that the Administration had worked hard on the task and Ms. Duhamel would be making a presentation. After which, the Board would vote on whether to accept the changes or not, then the Budget Committee would be making a presentation.
Ms. Duhamel reviewed the following changes in the budget:
- Reduce raises (non-union) from 3% to 2% (4,628)
- Reduce raises (non-union) from 3% to 2% (5,414)
Mr. Kelly, Director of Special Education reviewed the following changes in the Special Education budget:
§ Salaries, Aides (38,627)
§ New Positions, SPED (Middle School) – reduction of 1 position (31,383)
§ New Positions, SPED (Middle School) – budget for single vs. family health (12,699)
§ New Positions, SPED (High School) – budget for single vs. family health (12,699)
§ Tuition (Middle School) – received notice of Chapter 402 placement (OOD) 34,650
§ Tuition (High School) – OOD placement that will return in-district (81,176)
TOTAL ADJUSTMENTS (333,316)
Mr. Solon questioned if the single vs. family reduction in health benefits was based on actual numbers or speculation. Ms. Duhamel responded that it was speculation. Chair. Enright explained that for new hires they had always budgeted for family. Ms. Duhamel has looked at past history and is willing to take the risk of reducing the amount.
Mr. Milkowski questioned if the Negotiated Increases – Support in the amount of $43,833 was a warrant article. Chair. Enright responded that it would appear as a warrant article.
Ms. Duhamel stated that the total budget reduction was $333,316 and would bring the budget down to $19,166,384 or 1.54%.
Mr. Pucci brought up the fact that the cost of utility services has come down since the budget was first drafted. He questioned if they should set some way of defining how these numbers are set. He wondered if they should put in current numbers then set up an account if the cost of utilities goes up. He felt this was an issue for further discussion between the School Board and the Budget Committee.
Mr. Peterson felt that there had been a vote to set up a committee to look into this issue. Ms. Tremblay stated that a decision had been made at the SAU meeting for such a committee. She added that she had volunteered for the committee, and stated that they wanted representation from a budget committee.
A member of the audience pointed out that fuel is 61% of the budget. He wondered if they had done anything to conserve energy. Chair. Enright stated that the Board would be discussing energy later in the meeting.
Mr. Hubert asked if the Board would be voting on just the adjustments presented that night, or on the bottom line. Chair. Enright responded that they would be voting on just the adjustments. He added that they will have four more occasions to talk about the budget before the District Meeting.
Steve Simons moved that the Board make adjustments to the budget as articulated in Ms. Duhamel’s report. Dr. O’Shea seconded. Motion carried. 6 – 1 – 0. (Tremblay against.)
Mr. Pucci thanked the School Board for their good work on the budget. He announced that the public School Budget Hearing will be held on February 4th.
Mr. Pucci gave the Budget Committee’s presentation, reviewing the following:
o Student population is decreasing
o We are in a recession
o High existing tax burden
o Support staff contract
o Employee benefits
o Retirement/Pension payments
o SAU Assessment
o Special Education
o Student Information System
o Healthcare Benefits (Medical, Dental, Long Term Disability, Life Insurance, etc.)
Family healthcare average cost per year is $12,000. Blue Cross-Blue Shield runs about $18,000, (includes deductions and co-pays). The Budget Committee felt that this did not align with the typical taxpayer benefits.
Delta Dental – The District pays significantly more than private industry. The Budget Committee felt that the District should realign by $30,000.
Long Term Disability – 2/3 of the salary is paid for by the District. This does not align with the private sector.
§ Expendable Supplies
o Coordinate the purchase of supplies throughout the districts.
§ Student Information System
Was taken out of the budget by the Administration.
o Fuel Oil, Electricity, Diesel – was budgeted in November at $4.00 per gallon. It has been brought down to $3.00 by the Administration. Budget Committee feels it could come down lower.
o Budget Committee feels that a conversation regarding an energy program is needed. Some areas to look at:
§ Lights on constantly
§ Buses idling
o Budget Committee felt that this line item could be reduced by $36,000.
o Unfunded mandate by State to pay $86,000. Budget Committee felt that the School District should join with other districts that are challenging the mandate.
o Currently modeled for 100% participation. Should look into remodeling and perhaps reduce the number of buses.
§ Special Education
o Further reductions already explained by Mr. Kelly that night.
§ Snow Removal
o $72,600 budgeted. Budget Committee felt the District should renegotiate.
§ SAU Assessment
o The SAU budget was voted on and passed with the higher numbers for energy.
§ Dues, Stipends, Professional Development, Co-curricular
o Other areas to explore for further reductions.
o Are there items that can be postponed in purchasing?
§ Phone (VOIP)
o Are there any more savings to be found? Has this been implemented everywhere?
§ Employee Reductions
o Don’t want to go here, but if can’t find the reductions elsewhere in the budget, then a discussion will be needed.
§ Professional Staff Contract
o Salary Reductions / Salary freeze – there has been a 21.4% increase over the past 3 years.
o Align benefits more with the private sector.
o Negotiate for 1-year contracts, especially with the Evergreen Clause.
o Unfunded mandates – continue to happen, need to say “no.”
o Dues and Stipends – need to reduce them
Mr. Pucci concluded by stating that the Budget Committee’s recommendation is a total budget of $18,875,795. This figure can be reached if the budget can be reduced by $750,000.
Mr. Vallee stated that with the $333,000 the School Board voted to reduce the budget by, there is a gap of $423,000.
Mr. Milkowski stated that the Coop budget is $290,000 over the “0” increase budget, without warrants.
Mr. Davison stated that energy conservation needed to be looked at, since energy is a huge portion of the budget. He added that contracts for staff are 80% of the budget and 75% of the tax bill the taxpayer pays. He pointed out that there is only so much money to support the community, and the school is not the whole community. Long Term Disability is a benefit paid for by the employee in the private sector. He felt that $34.00 per month per employee for Long Term Disability could be paid by the employee and pointed out that they would enjoy the pre-tax benefit. He stated that the State mandatory retirement payment was being challenged by other districts, and he felt that the Coop District should also challenge it.
Jean Filer addressed the Board stating that she was surprised by Mr. Pucci’s statement that there was a decline in the student population. Mr. Pucci stated that for grades 7-12 the student population is as follows:
Chair. Enright added that the student population was essentially flat for the next 4-5 years.
Ms. Filer stated that the biggest area of spending was healthcare benefits. She pointed out that in the private sector, the employee shares in the premium, however, the District is under contract, so they cannot simply change the premium. She added that some people in the district do not even take the healthcare benefits because they are under their spouses plan. Therefore, if they decide to do a cut across the board per employee, it won’t be a true figure. She stated that education is an industry with mostly highly degreed professionals. She wondered if the Budget Committee had compared apples to apples. Mr. Milkowski responded that he felt they had.
Ms. Filer added that in regards to energy, the heat is turned on in the morning and by 10:30 a.m., the heat is no longer on. When one is in a room with adolescents, one wants an open window. Also, lights are being turned down.
Debbie Pucci, 25 Nartoff Road, Hollis, pointed out that if a window is opened, whether the heat is on or not, the heat that is lost still needs to be recouped when the heat comes back on. She added that she has gone by the school and counted 20 windows open between the two buildings. She pointed out that the lights in the hallways are always on.
Ann Dumas, Brookline, stated that she appreciated the Budget Committee for their effort. She liked some of their ideas, such as ordering supplies SAU-wide. She was concerned, however, with the health benefits. She felt that one must be careful in recommending no raise next year, then asking to raise the employee co-pay.
Ms. Dumas stated that she was disappointed that the Coop School Board voted not to bring the additional classroom bond to the School District Meeting. She understood their reasoning, but felt the voters should have the chance to vote on it.
Brain Regan stated that the healthcare benefits were out of whack. He pointed out that if there is a high deductible, it affects people going to the doctor. In regards to transportation, he wondered if the district gets the exact number of students using the bus and budgets for that. He felt there perhaps could be a reduction in buses. Mr. Regan felt there was waste in the budget in regards to energy.
Mr. Milkowski stated that he would like to see the two boards working from the same numbers. He stated that he would like to see the School Board’s total budget with warrants, and therefore, needed to add $193,000 to the budget. This brings the School Board’s budget to a potential 2.57% increase.
Mr. Davison stated that the Budget Committee needs to be transparent. If someone wanted the school population growth numbers, they have the data. From a conservation standpoint, he felt that the District needed to put a program in place where it is counted and charted.
Mr. Solon felt that it was important to clarify the cap that the District pays on health insurance. He stated that the District pays the employees health benefits up to a certain cap. Mr. Hubert added that the District pays $1000 per month per employee. Therefore, the District pays at most $12,000 per employee per year. If Blue Cross-Blue Shield is $18,000 per year, it doesn’t matter to the District, for they only pay $12,000, and the employee must pick up the rest.
Mr. D’Arbonne pointed out that if the cost of the health plan went down, then both the employee and the District saves.
Forrest Milkowski moved that the Budget Committee adjourn their meeting. Greg D’Arbonne seconded. Motion carried.
Chair. Enright stated that the Coop was working hard on consumable and energy spending. He added that the Board appreciated the Budget Committee’s presentation.
Ms. Dumas requested that the Budget Committee broadcast their meetings on cable. Mr. Vallee stated that they had been trying to do that for years.
2. STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE REPORT
Rebecca Movermann reported that from a student prospective, she didn’t see windows open in the winter.
Chair. Enright stated that he was going to start making tours of the schools and keep a notebook on the number of open windows.
Dr. O’Shea stated that his daughter has a class on the first floor and is cold, and is hot in her class on the third floor. Ms. Movermann agreed.
Dr. O’Shea stated that students must be wondering how long the school year will be. Ms. Movermann responded that they were.
3. BUDGET DISCUSSIONS
Dr. O’Shea asked that the support staff contract be explained. Chair. Enright responded that the support staff was in the second year of a 2-year contract. They are currently getting COLA with no steps. Chair. Enright added that there is a new State law (Evergreen Clause) that takes “Steps” out of negotiations and puts them into the budget. He added that they are being careful in allowing the Coop Step program to be transferred into the budget. Chair. Enright reported that there would be all-day mediation the next day. He added that this needed to be finalized by next Wednesday in order to give time for the union to vote on it before the Budget Hearing on February 4th.
Dr. O’Shea stated that when voting on a contract, he tries to remember that the staff doesn’t get performance bonuses as the private sector does. In regards to healthcare, it is not a take it or leave it option as in the private sector, the District negotiates it. He felt that one should look at what it would mean if the professional staff did not have a contract for a year. Dr. O’Shea stated that he was not interested in being on the edge in regards to State unfunded mandates, and he would not vote to challenge it.
Chair. Enright asked Ms. Duhamel what her thoughts were on consumable spending. Ms. Duhamel responded that this was an area she wanted to look at after the budget season. Mr. Hubert wondered what could be done for this year’s budget. Ms. Duhamel felt it would be premature to say.
Chair. Enright pointed out that the cost of heating oil had gone down significantly, and wondered what could be done. Ms. Duhamel stated that in the past the District had bought from the same vendor. She felt that they needed to look at other vendors to see if they were getting the best price. She added that the bus company had bought some routing software, and hoped that use of the software might allow the District to be able to reduce the number of buses needed.
Mr. Solon asked if the District took into account the number of students that getting parking passes in reducing the load for the buses. Ms. Duhamel stated that there was historical data, so they don’t budget for 100% participation. Supt. Hodgdon hoped that they will get better data with the new routing software, as it tracks ridership. Currently, the District only has soft data. Chair. Enright pointed out that currently, the same number of buses run for the Coop as for the primary schools.
Ms. Duhamel stated that she would like to take utility costs down 20% and build a contingency fund for energy, be it 20% or 10%. If the contingency isn’t spent, then the funds would be carried forward. If it is spent, then they know what it was spent on. Mr. Hubert asked if it should be a capital reserve fund. Ms. Duhamel stated that it was not for a capital expense, so it should be just a reserve fund. Mr. Solon pointed out that if they take 20% out of the budget and put it into a contingency or reserve fund, they would not be saving anything. They would only be saving if they took out 20% and only put 10% in the fund. Mr. Hubert stated that they wouldn’t see a savings in this budget, but would in the following year. Dr. O’Shea questioned if they needed to take money out of the reserve fund, would the Coop need to get permission from the Budget Committee. Ms. Duhamel felt that they would. Mr. Hubert wondered if it was legally binding for the Budget Committee to have oversight.
Mr. Davison, speaking as a private citizen, stated that there were companies that would assess and broker ones energy needs, then would come back with better prices. Mr. Hubert questioned what the cost was. Mr. Davison responded that it depended.
3. HIGH SCHOOL ADDITION
Chair. Enright stated that the Board had had an informal discussion regarding a high school addition. The majority of the Board felt that it was not a good year to bring the issue forward to the voters, and instead, should concentrate on contracts.
Mr. Simons stated that in order to submit a bond for the District Meeting, the Board had to present a plan to the State by December 31st. Therefore, they cannot do much, and the vote to be taken was just a formality. Dr. O’Shea agreed that the window for the bond was closed. Ms. Duhamel added that the deadline to apply for State building aid (40%) was December 31st.
James O’Shea moved that the Board bring forward to the voters at the District Meeting the identical building expansion as last year. Steve Simons seconded.
Mr. Hubert asked what the cost of the bond was last year, and what the cost would be this year. Mr. Simons responded that the bond last year was $1.8 million, and the cost this year was $1.9 million.
Ms. Tremblay explained that the Board recognizes that the space problem still existed, but because of the year, they wanted to present a lean budget, and thus decided that they wouldn’t bring the bond forward. They realized that they have not solved the problem.
Mr. Simons stated that the Board had a long discussion in November and the intent was to take a formal vote in December. However, the December meeting was cancelled due to the ice storm.
Motion did not carry. 2 – 5 – 0 (Enright, Peterson, Hubert, Solon and Tremblay against)
4. WARRANT ARTICLES
Supt. Hodgdon reviewed the following warrant articles:
1. Election of Officers
3. Professional Staff Contract
4. Special District Meeting if Article 3 fails.
5. Support Staff Contract
6. Accept CAT Aide Funds
Steve Simons moved that the Board accept the minutes of November 19, 2008 as written. Janice Tremblay seconded. Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
Supt. Hodgdon reported that information from the Department of Education would be forthcoming. The Commission would be meeting with the superintendents on Friday.
Supt. Hodgdon stated that the bailout money at the Federal level will be sent to the states. Money at the state level will probably not be substantial.
Supt. Hodgdon reported that she had attended the Emergency Operations’ daily meetings during the ice storm. She stated that she appreciated the work done by the EOC. She added that the decision of the Board to install Alert Now proved to be a big help in alerting parents during the storm.
Mr. Kelley stated that he had combined both December and January reports. He reported on the following:
James O’Shea moved that the Board accept the $1000 prize for the Hollis-Brookline team winning the Granite State Challenge. Steve Simons seconded. Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
James O’Shea moved that the Board approve the Senior Class trip. Steve Simons seconded.
Mr. Hubert asked if the trip was funded or paid for by the students. Mr. Kelley responded that it was paid by the students.
Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
Supt. Hodgdon reported that she had received the following correspondences:
§ Notice of retirement from Rosemary Mezzocchi, effective June 2009.
§ Request for maternity leave from Elizabeth Dragoumanos, effective January 28, 2009, with an anticipated return date of May 6, 2009.
Mr. Kelley stated that this request would have been presented at the December meeting. It is a part-time job, and that they have already found a replacement.
Steve Simons moved that the Board accept Elizabeth Dragoumanos’ request for maternity leave, effective January 28, 2009. Dr. James O’Shea seconded. Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
§ Letter of resignation from Rachel Boles, social worker, effective January 22, 2009.
Ms. Boles accepted another position.
Chair. Enright asked if Ms. Boles was under contract. Mr. Kelley explained that Ms. Boles was the Student Assistant Program coordinator and had been under contract with the Coop for the last 4 years. Chair. Enright asked if Ms. Boles was asking to be released from her contract. Mr. Kelley responded that she was, and that he supported it. He added that they were looking at different options in regards to filling the position. He may move someone within the High School to that position, then hire for the position vacated by the move.
James O’Shea moved that the Board accept the resignation of Rachel Boles, and release her from her contract with regrets and thanks for her service. Steve Simons seconded. Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
§ Letter of retirement from Kathie McGowan, effective June 2009.
Mr. Simons asked how long Ms. McGowan had been with the District. Mr. Kelley responded that she had been with the Coop 6 – 7 years.
Steve Simons moved that the Board accept the letter of retirement from Kathie McGowan with regrets and with thanks for her years of service. Janice Tremblay seconded. Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
8. SCHOOL CALENDAR
Supt. Hodgdon stated that she had had many requests in regards to what the plans are for making up the 6 days missed due to the ice storm. She explained that there are 5 snow days built into the schedule, therefore, they are currently over by 2. May 22nd is a teacher workshop day, and she would like to make that an instructional day for the students.
Dr. O’Shea asked how that would work in regards to contracts. Supt. Hodgdon stated that she was not sure. Chair. Enright stated that teachers are required to teach a certain number of days.
Supt. Hodgdon explained that June 23rd was the last day on the calendar, so using the workshop day as an instructional day would put the last day of school at June 24th. She added that if they have to use more snow days, she would consider asking the DOE for a waiver.
Mr. Simons asked if they were behind based on 182 days. Supt. Hodgdon responded that they were.
Dr. O’Shea asked how this change would impact with the elementary school. Supt. Hodgdon responded that they were already in school on May 22nd.
James O’Shea moved that the Board accept Supt. Hodgdon’s plan to make May 22, 2009 an instructional day and extend the school year to June 24, 2009. Steve Simons seconded.
Mr. Peterson stated that he was not in favor of extending the school year to June 24th. He felt there were extenuating circumstances, that it was late in the month, and that there wasn’t much learning going on at that time of year. Mr. Kelley pointed out that they have final exams at that point.
Supt. Hodgdon stated that she was trying to weigh having to take more snow days. Mr. Peterson stated that they will have more snow days, and therefore, felt that they should put in for a waiver.
Motion carried. 5 – 2 –0. (Solon, Peterson against.)
Supt. Hodgdon stated that in regards to senior requirements, they must attend 175 days. By recapturing one day (May 22nd), the seniors will be one day over. Mr. Kelley added that they were looking at June 13, 2009 as graduation day.
Steve Simons moved that the Board accept Policy ICHA – Summer Activities. James O’Shea seconded.
Mr. Peterson felt that there was no need for a policy for summer activities. Mr. Simons responded that the policy is required by law. Mr. Solon wondered what the intent of the required policy was, and if they were following the intent of it. Mr. Simons responded that they were.
Motion carried unanimously. 7 – 0 – 0.
Steve Simons moved that the Board amend Policy IKC – Class Rank to delete the phrase “three years or.” Janice Tremblay seconded.
Mr. Kelley explained that it was a logistical thing. If a student graduated in three years, they would qualify for valedictorian/salutatorian by taking exams at the end of the third quarter. He felt this policy would make it clearer.
Mr. Solon asked if this precluded a junior from graduating early and being valedictorian/salutatorian. Mr. Kelley responded that it did.
Motion carried. 6 – 1 – 0. (Peterson against.)
Supt. Hodgdon stated that she had been charged with setting up a task force for continuing educational needs for the Coop School District. She explained that when she first started to do this, she wasn’t clear with what the Board wanted the composition of the group to be. She added that she would like some guidance.
Mr. Hubert felt that the committee should be made up of members from the Coop School Board, the Hollis School Board and the Brookline School Board. He was not sure if the towns should be involved. Mr. Peterson felt it would be helpful to get wording of the study. Supt. Hodgdon stated that she would come back at the next meeting with a recommendation.
10. CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE
Chair. Enright reported that there would be an all-day mediation meeting the next day in regards to the professional staff contracts. He stated that the Board would probably need a meeting next week. It was decided to hold the meeting on:
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
A discussion was held as to how members who were out of town could vote at the January 28th meeting.
James O’Shea moved that the Board allow any Board member who is out of town on January 28, 2009, to be allowed to vote electronically in regards to contract negotiations. Fred Hubert seconded.
Mr. Pucci asked if the Board had any ability to alter a medical plan, other than through negotiations. Chair. Enright did not believe that they could. He asked that Supt. Hodgdon look into it, and check with the District’s attorney.
Mr. Peterson stated that the assumption has been that they could not unilaterally take a plan away that already existed. The District can add plans, but they cannot take an existing one away.
James O’Shea moved that the Board adjourn. Fred Huber seconded. Motion carried unanimously 7 – 0 – 0.
The Board adjourned at 10:20 p.m.