Minutes of the Chebeague Transition Committee March 25, 2007 at 8:00am at the Rec Center. (Accepted 4/ 4/07)
The meeting was called to order by John Martin at 8:07am.
Members present: Donna Damon, Mark Dyer, David Hill, John Martin (Chair), Jim Phipps, and Carol White
Absent: Leon Hamilton, Doug Ross and Stephen Todd.
Beth Howe served as secretary.
At 8:08 David Hill moved, seconded by Mark Dyer to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters pursuant to MRSA 405.6.A.1 – Title 1 Chapter 13, section 405. Approved unanimously.
At 9:10 Jim Phipps moved, seconded by Mark Dyer to come out of executive session. Approved unanimously.
David Hill said he had been asked by the Community Services Subcommittee to ask that an item be added to the budget with a $0 allocation for the Chebeague Health Center. [CS Health Center budget placeholder]. Ginny Ballard is concerned that in the future the Town may need to pay for a health professional to staff the clinic Someone suggested having the budget item be $100. Donna Damon asked whether it was for some specific function such as salary. David said that it was for general support. David Hill moved, seconded by Carol White that the recommendation to add $100 to the budget for the Chebeague Health Center be adopted. Approved unanimously.
Carol White presented the School Department budget.
She started with background about the state legislative picture. The Education Committee was charged with coming up with a school consolidation strategy in place of the Governorıs original proposal. They struggled with the issue but produced a plan that was not acceptable. Now the issue has been taken up by a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee made up of Emily Rotonda, Karl Turner, Peggy Kane and Sawin Millett. Turner has been proposing at every chance not having an exemption from consolidation for islands. He accepts an exemption for isolated islands as well as other isolated communities, but not for commuter/Casco Bay islands. The most recent proposal is that instead of an explicit exemption for islands, there will be criteria for exemption – geographic, cultural and educational. It would be up to the Commissioner of Education to grant the exceptions, maybe in conjunction with the State Board of Education. Carol has been working with Hannah Pingree to return the proposal to an explicit exemption for islands. Carol has particularly made the argument that Chebeague needs an explicit exemption rather than criteria because of the large financial commitment it has made that depends on being an independent school district.
Jim Phipps said that the legislative resolution does not affect Chebeague for the coming year. We should design a program that will work if there is no consolidation. If we get reconsolidated, the school budget will go down. Carol said it might well go up with reconsolidation since the funding formula would probably be changed. Also we need to put an item in the budget for this year for legislative action on Chebeagueıs education debt. The uncertainty of the state policy is also affecting hiring of a superintendent and teachers, since people are unwilling to make commitments when everything is so uncertain. Jim said he thought that the consolidation issue would not be settled this year and that there should be an item in the budget for lobbying next spring. Carol disagreed, saying she thought it was close to being settled now.
Donna Damon said she thought there still is a chance that the Legislature will make an exemption for all the islands. Carol said that even if there is, this yearıs legislation may set financial constraints on all school districts to make them provide for tax relief.
John Martin asked about working with Long Island in the short run on a joint superintendent. Carol said that the Long Island Superintendent is not interested in taking on Chebeague. If he retires, then there may be greater interest on Long Islandıs part.
In relation to the school budget, Carol said it has to go to the state for review. They will define how the education warrants are worded, taking into account the Essential Programs and Services- related costs and non-Essential Programs and Services costs. The numbers for the stateıs local subsidy have not yet been released. As a minimum-receiving district Chebeague could get state aid on one of the three bases: 5% of its overall budget, special education costs, or a portion of debt service.
Then the group worked through the education budget line by line.:
Superintendent and secretary. The discussion turned on whether $350 to $400 per week for the superintendent was adequate or excessive. Donna Damon thought it was too high. Carol White said she thought it may be difficult to get someone at this rate. Other superintendents in Pownal and Vinalhaven, as well as Bill Shane suggested not providing benefits to part-time people so the Education Subcommittee took out $7,000 in benefits for the superintendent and the secretary and increased the superintendentıs salary by $6,000. Jim Phipps said he would rather see the budget reflect the highest ³exposure² the Town would have for the superintendent rather than a ³realistic² estimate. Carol said that if a superintendent is hired at a higher amount the difference can come out of the contingency fund. This satisfied Jim. David Hill asked how much the superintendent would have to be on the island. Carol said s/he will be the personnel manager. Donna said it is necessary to have someone here regularly for the parents.
Carol said her committee has not budgeted any money for financial advice or software for the superintendent who will be doing the accounting and reporting. David Hill said that Wiscasset uses TRIO for its school. Carol said that Chebeague would provide its accounting information to the Town using a simpler program and the Town will do the accounts.
On the secretary, the salary in the budget is $12 per hour for 20 hours per week, 50 weeks per year or $26,500. Donna Damon wanted to know more about what the secretary would be doing. Carol said that she is not willing to go lower because there will be a lot of administrative work. Now the school has administrative support on the mainland that isnıt very visible to people on the island. The superintendents her committee has talked to say the proposed salary is low for someone who would provide support to the superintendent for reporting and for special education. Donna Damon said she thought the secretary would be doing all the work for the special ed administrator. Donna Colbeth said that special ed will be staffed by a teacher who will have a full-time job with the children. Carol said that in the end it will be up to the superintendent to decide whether the secretarial staffing is sufficient.
John Martin asked whether it would be possible to put the secretarial position in the special education program where it would be eligible for state reimbursement? Carol said this was a good idea but was not possible. John said that he had initially been concerned about the secretary because the position had not been in the CICA budget. Bit Carol had convinced him that the position is necessary. Donna said she just wanted to make efficient use of both people and equipment by looking for places where employees could work for the Town and the School Department. Carol said that the present budget probably underestimates the time requirements for school administrative tasks.
Special Education: the salary is $38/hour, 10 hours per week for 50 weeks, or $19,000. The subcommittee estimated 100 percent state reimbursement, but it might be only 85 percent. This is a very difficult area to make an estimate for.
Teachers and classrooms: The budget reflects the salaries that are presently being paid and if those people so not stay, then the final figures might be lower by $32,000 to $35,000 for both classes together. For the art, music and physical education teachers Donna Damon suggested adding an hour of preparatory time. This would be an increase of $900 for each or $2,700 total. After a discussion of what preparatory time involved this increase was accepted by consensus. Carol said it may be possible to get island people to do some of the arts teaching.
Guidance Counselor: this may be a difficult position to fill at all. :Long Island has had a problem with this and is interested in sharing. . It might be useful in the longer run to have a guidance counselor who could advise grades 6-12 on college, but that is not reflected in the present budget. Donna said she thought it would be useful to have a social worker. Carol said that the SAD 51 social worker would still work with students and families on the island.
Tuition for grades 6-12: This is a lump sum owed to SAD 51 that would be covered by a bond. It is shown in the Town rather than the School District budget because Carol anticipates that the State will require it to be shown that way. Jim Phipps suggested that there be a reserve fund to cover the last of the seven years when Chebeague will pay a whole yearıs payment to SAD 51 on December 31, and will then have to pay tuition for its students for the spring semester at what ever school districts they attend. Carol agreed. Jim said he thought the cost of tuition should be included as an education cost in the education budget, but Carol said she thought the State would not allow this because it is a debt. Donna Damon said that the Town could use an asterisk and a footnote in the budget each year to remind people that that this debt to SAD 51 is equivalent to tuition for the seven years it lasts.
Staff training: Carol said she used figures that represented what staff have actually used. Donna Damon said that each ed tech could use up to $3200 for tuition rather than the $1200 generally shown in the budget.
Library: Carol said that this may look like a lot of money but it is a bargain considering the cost the School Department would incur if it had to provide its own library.
Technology budget: Carol said that the other superintendents her committee had consulted said that the technology budget was very low. It essentially simply covers maintenance for existing equipment, not any new machines or software for instruction. Donna Damon suggested having a capital reserve for this. Carol said she thought this would be a decision for the School Board and superintendent. Jim suggested that the coming year, with its lower debt payment, would be a good year to put money into a capital reserve. Carol said that she expects that there will be somewhat more state aid than had been figured into the budget and if that were the case some could be used for such a capital reserve.
Facilities: Some of these expenditures seem high, like electricity. But they are based on real costs. It might make sense to have a separate contingency fund for the fuel oil to allow for swings in price.
Chebeague Recreation Center lease: This is budgeted at the same amount as this year.
Mowing and irrigation: Mark said that he thought it made sense to budget according to past experience for these for the first year. After that it might be possible to work out having the Town Public Works Department do some of this maintenance. There was discussion of the economics of purchasing a Town mower. Mark suggested having Stephen Toddıs committee look at this.
Custodial and food service: Carol reported, in response to questions from Donna Damon at an earlier meeting, that the custodian works 15 hours per week for the 42 weeks of the school year and 32 hours per week for the 10 summer weeks. She works 25 hours per week for the 42 weeks of the school on the food service. Donna Colbeth said that next year during the school year it was anticipated that she would work from 7:30 to 2:30 (no lunch) or 35 hours per week plus 10 hours on the mainland buying food and janitorial supplies. This is 45 hours per week and the 180 additional hours accumulated could be applied to the summer. There was a discussion about whether s/he would be a salaried or an hourly employee and about whether the new budget was less than the initial estimate. Donna Damon said she would like to have the school custodian clean the Town Office. Donna Colbeth said she is full-time with the school. Carol said she did not want to lose a school employee because additional duties were added to the job.
Bus driver: This poses the same issue as the custodian/food service person. It is treated as a full-time position because the holder does not have enough time to work at another job. The hours of the job vary from week to week, so the average hours per week is 37. This is what was budgeted for at $5.70 per hour. Finding bus drivers is not easy. Carol said it should be up to the superintendent to say what additional work the bus driver might do. Mark Dyer asked about bus maintenance and Sue Campbell gave the details about the cost to SAD 51. With only one bus there will be more variability of cost from one year to the next. The bus is 7 years old and should last another 5 to 7 years. David Hill asked whether there was state reimbursement for new buses. Carol and Sue were not sure.
Contracted transportation: the contract with CTC will be negotiated by a committee of people from the Governmental Structure, Education and Mainland Access Subcommittees. The taxi service is budgeted as it is now. Jim asked how Town employees are transported now and how will the new Town employees be carried. Could they go with school employees? Carol said some of the school taxi trips are not at regular commuting hours.
Short-term capital improvements: There is an itemized list of projects that need doing. The amount included in the second budget is a little lower than the first because a few were left off the bottom. But this amount would deal with many of the short-term maintenance problems of the school.
Long-term capital improvements: Carol said there should be some money in a capital fund for this. There will be things like school technology, a new roof and a new bus that need to be saved for. Jim Phipps and David Hill suggested that $10,000 be allocated for next year. Jim thinks that is low. Carol said she could do some estimates of specific items. Also money for this might come from extra state aid if it materializes.
Contingency fund: This amount is 2 percent of the budget. It is important because there are a number of uncertainties in the school budget.
The meeting went on to a discussion of other meetings to be held in the coming week:
Tuesday March 27 Norton Insurance will come to discuss various insurance plans from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Parish House. Donna Damon suggested that this be an executive session.
Wednesday March 28 will be the regular meeting at 7:00 at the Parish House. It will not include controversial issues so Steve Moriarty might be given a holiday. On the next Wednesday, April 4, the Land Use Subcommittee will present its recommendations on an elected Planning Board that could include non-resident taxpayers. Steve Moriarty will be asked to come. These will both be public meetings, though they might have an executive session at the end.
Thursday March 29 on the mainland from 5:00 to 9:00 the TC will meet with Peter Lowe to discuss the process for developing the warrant articles. What can be lumped together? Given the budget and the recommendations the TC has accepted what would the list of articles look like? Can they be amended or other ones introduced at Town Meeting? This will be a public meeting.
Sunday April 1 the TC will interview candidates for the Town Administrator position beginning at 8:40 in the morning. This will be at the Rec Center [???]. It will be an executive session.
Carol White said she thought it was important for the TC to set public meetings on the budget for April. That will be discussed at Tuesdayıs meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45.