Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Worcester Public Schools round 2

publishing as we go
Superintendent is speaking from these notes.
Bit of back and forth here as the back up is in the Council agenda (which the Councilors didn't have out on the their desks because the Council agenda is what they do at 7)

Rivera: asks if UPCS is getting a high school math teacher: Boone "because of the size of that school we have to deal with intensities of scale"
Rivera: per pupil spending? Running through some numbers here
due to the student populations in those schools, UPCS is less because they have fewer ELL and special ed students
....which is what Mr. Allen just said.
Rivera: could we cosmetic repairs at UPCS?
Question on Chandler El and space? Out to bid now
security guards at some schools...Rivera asks about sharing them..Allen possible camera put in

Economou: transportation numbers daily? Allen: daily (these are the private/charter/parochial riders)
They don't seem that large at some of the schools...."look at how we do transportation"
"numbers we spend on transportation based on the ridership at some of these schools"
Allen: under the charter schools, don't see Abby Kelley, as we pay for their buses, don't work them
Economou: numbers (at Nelson Place SAIL program)
Boone: not budgetary
"we are space constrained at the elementary level"
"it is about the at least four years of training of staff in the current staff"
Economou: two million cut in the budget for these?
Boone: reprogrammed dollars, a number of special ed positions been added to this budget
how many at Nelson Place?
Allen: phasing out contracted services
Economou asks for a roll call vote on the WPS budget

O'Brien: progress on many sides, capital budget
MSBA voting on four projects tomorrow morning at 10 am
"if that happens, we'll have more than $17 M in repair work over the past two years"
"how can we get to meeting our minimum required contribution?"
"closed that gap"
"what is the actual number (that we are under)?"
Zidelis: "with the city manager's proposed budget...projected...at the conclusion of...$427,000"
O'Brien: surrounding communities spend what above foundation?
(all are significantly higher)
"how do we get to minimum?"
"they are also all required to spend a far greater amount of the schools budget"
McKinney-Vento funding: is it in the budget?
Zidelis: no, it is not factored in the budget
reimbursement we receive for transporting homeless students
restored in current budget, in FY14 as well
Allen: "Councilor, you're correct"
unfunded mandate...funding this year is 95%
We submitted $510,000 of costs, would expect city to receive $484,000 this year
based on House and Senate budgets: looks like 65% of need for next year in Senate, House 53%
would leave $267,000 and $327,000
City Manager O'Brien: comparison of unrestricted local aid...potential for a cut of up to $830,000 if the Senate budget would prevail
Councilor O'Brien: funding lags a year behind; this year's funding is coming?
Allen, yes by end of June
city will receive $480,000 that is not budgeted in?
Zidelis: yes
O'Brien: next year, too?
Zidelis: yes
O'Brien: "we are only allowed to cut...we're not allowed to put money in...but this is money that is not budgeted but is expected revenue"
Zidelis: continued on with the Councilor's thought process..."other revenue assumptions...other revenue sources could come in lower...other revenue sources not trending in our favor"
typically, the Council has recommended to the CM to "review" certain items
"generally not in the purview of Council"
O'Brien: recommendation for next week's meeting: CM review $480,000 coming, next budget, could consider revising our revenue number for next week
"not ready to finalize the budget without looking at that number"
O'Brien: is there a press person in the WPS budget?
Boone: "a need that I have identified since I have been here..."
administration does it

Germain: has asked to look at the South High pool
have we gotten anywhere with that?
Can the city take over the pool to the Wheels to Water program?
you might want to start with the fact that the pool sits on top of the South High electric plant
Boone: provided several reports
Allen: South High as a project under MSBA...know that pools are not an allowable expense, but much infrastructure work would need to be done to reopen the pool; that IS reimbursable
"whole electrical system for the school...is located directly under the pool...would have to be relocated"
Germain: anything about making this a citywide issue, rather than just the schools?
Boone: the pool was closed because it sprang a leak ON TOP OF THE ELECTRICAL PLANT
"several hundred thousand dollars to do what we're talking about...safety issue to reopen the pool"
Germain: "here we go again" wants an independent audit
Germain convinced that there is savings in the transportation
"there has to be a better way to skin the cat than what we are doing on transportation"
still retain funding for audit
Zidelis: yes, " a school transportation audit"
just need to find someone who can do the review
Boone: welcome any review, but what was agreed to was an adequacy study
"have not agreed to a narrower review"
Germain: "you guys make more money than me and have to figure this out"
"stop trying to spot each other"
Berlin-Boylston's "last public safety issue was probably a goat escaping from a pen"

Palmieri: many nice words for the school administration
education working with F&O
Lake View School getting new windows and doors
"feasibility of establishing an exam school for high achieving students...have taken on this and continuing to work at this..."
"if we do get one, I think it will have an enormous impact"
capital budget needed to make these schools work better, state of the art technology

Lukes: "any urban school system will be unable to meet all of the demands that the public makes on these schools systems"
having a new building doesn't protect a school from having to meet demands of state
Research Bureau report cited: state aid decreased by 30% over past eight years
school aid increased by 28%
"have to dedicate even more to schools"
"an election year budget: we've given everyone everything they want and we haven't contributed to OPEB"
Lukes wants to privatize bus costs (again citing Research Bureau report)
"what does the city pay for in terms of school transportation services?"
Zidelis: appropriation for transportation
there's a back and forth here on how much of transportation is funded through city funds
and she keeps asking Zidelis, who doesn't know this level of detail
Boone: we already have a private contract for the majority of our transportation services
and the only ones we do in house are because they COST LESS THAT WAY
Allen: Contract with Durham School Services for the majority of transportation
own and operate 37 buses internally
37 bus drivers and monitors are employed by the WPS: their health insurance and their pensions are covered by Net School Spending
Durham employs the bulk of the employees
midday preschool runs are cheaper for us to do in house
"it's not always cheaper to use a contracted vendor"
"it's simple math"
Lukes: how long ago did you do this?
Allen: "we do it all the time"
Boone: "we've saved money on our contract with Durham"
"make conscious decision and steps"
Lukes: "if you review the costs of transportation services every year and salaries, why do we need an audit?"
Zidelis: "I believe it was a review of routes...should we bring more things in house...maybe we should go for outsource"
Boone: "original intent was to look at the adequacy of school funding...it was never for transportation only"

Boone: sequestration meant we could save teachers and IAs or tutors; tutors were the cut
next priority would be class size, and restoration of literacy tutors
rehearse the number of cuts we have had: "about a $4.8 million revenue shortfall"
"could not absorb everything" that was cut from the grants
Is there a plan B?
Look for grant funding opportunities that are there
Toomey: decrease in custodial levels...Allen, only if you go back to 2002

Rushton: "what day are we on on the 45 day clock for the budget?"
Zidelis: Day 21
Rushton: interesting suggestion on the McKinney-Vento, Lukes and the OPEB
intention to have colleagues sit to meet foundation "if possible"
"strong possiblity of $800,000 being restored"
better information as the weeks go along
free cash this year, McKinney-Vento, look at allocating portion of some or all to OPEB on both sides of the aisle
"I'll hold the budget if necessary"
"show some leadership...make investment in the OPEB liability, at the same strive for 100% on the foundation budget"

Russell: elimination of contractual services to "unprivatize" services
Allen: can hire our own staff for services to autistic students
net savings of $2 million
Russell: what sorts of positions are those?
Allen: teachers, IAs
Russell: did you figure in long-term savings (for pensions and such)
Allen: yes, and anticipate further savings over the next few years
Russell: "sometimes I feel like we're almost dealing with two separate communities"
"is there any way that we can eliminate services that are being duplicated?"
lists plows, grasscutters,
"based on cooperation between schools and city side"
"we're all in this boat together and we should all be on the same team"

O'Brien: if we could get to foundation, what would you do with money?
Boone: either six or so teachers, or 22 of the tutors, or so
O'Brien asks if that could be a report
note from the front row: "subject to School Committee allocation"
and asks for how much is being charged for administration...it's pointed out that this is the backup for the agenda tonight

Motion is made to hold the budget for week three next week!

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