Thursday, June 7, 2018

Worcester School Committee deliberates FY19

What the School Committee is reviewing is the line item budget, which is online here. Personally, I'm keeping the Table of Contents, which is hyperlinked, opened and jumping from there.
The order in which it is suggested that they review accounts is here (which this year is the order in which the budget book is arranged, non-salary, then salary accounts).
Posting as we go once we start, which clearly isn't yet, as no one is here:

Foley (who is chairing): another great budget, modified our process over the past ten years; doing budget presentations over the full year
Senate for additional funding; hopeful to get some additional dollars coming in

Monfredo: received information from MASC this past week on the budget (they did?)
most of all need to do whatever we can for the children with this funding
"need a budget that's adequate, equitable, and predictable"
"waiting for action on the House to extend equity"
"we've waited three years for...motion of the foundation budget, but it hasn't yet"
send a letter to the House chair and reach out to our Gateway Cities
"we need to get that bill on the floor and voted"

O'Connell: are in many ways where we were in 1993
"thirty plus years later, we're in many ways in the same situation"
"ultimately we need a declaration of the Supreme Judicial Court"
"that's the macro issue...micro issue is going through the budget tonight"
if the budget serves the interest of children
"I suggest it is only a start...apply to it a microscope, or certainly a magnifying glass"

Comparetto: "trying to do a lot with very little"
"absolutely need the state fix the foundation formula"
"if the budget is meant to be a value statement, I guess the city is saying that it does not value education" as it's funding at only 1.%
"virtually no increases in student supports"
"woefully inadequate in ELL"
"no summer school this year"
"I hope we magically find money as the year goes on and do better next year"
"hope can make budget before the budget rather than after"

Binienda: want to explain: principal allocation meetings
were not anticipating the loss on economically disadvantaged amount
struggle to meet first round of priorities
hope Senate budget will come out conference committee

McCullough: we are having summer school this year? Yes. (but not next year)
Is our amount of funding more or less than other district?
Allen: "it's in the range of other communties"
he's being generous

O'Connell asking for allocations within the account
when will early retirement end
Allen: account goes up between $800,000 and $1M annually

including leased buses
Biancheria: not sure where the saving is when we look at only leasing and contracting
where is the savings we're looking at?
Allen: began this because we had no bidders for athletic transportation
look at what we would have spent
$194,000 compared to what we would have spent otherwise (including 3% increase in services)
full recommendation to School Committee on full self-service model would look like
"we'll do that seven months down the road"
"now includes the lease of vehicles that we were not previously"
think showing vehicle costs in one line item is a better way"
Foley: contract expires when? Allen: 2020
Foley: fewer and fewer bids on contracts
Allen: will show you recent bid prices to other districts "in many cases we're finding only a single bid"

Athletics OM:
Allen: moving school choice into textbooks rather than here (budget isn't changing)
Biancheria: we usually get a history at some point on the equipment and the level of the equipment
Shea: contracted reconditioning for football equipment; no helmet that is ten years old or older will be used
Biancheria asks if it's enough; Shea: when law changed, 51 helmets purchased
through tracking, ensure that don't need to purchase that many at once again
some grants, some from DA
Biancheria: probably in January, it would be a topic of discussion
O'Connell: gate receipts are about the same; have we considered giving free tickets to senior citizens?
Binienda: "that's very interesting...what if we did discount tickets?"
Shea: there are only a few sports we charge for: football, basketball, hockey
if playoffs, must do MIAA
already is a discount in district for senior citizens
O'Connell: referring his question to administration even though it has been answered...

Health Insurance:
which let's note is GOING DOWN
and note that this is $47M

Other Insurance:
O'Connell: small account, but an increase for student accident insurance
full account is going up by 13%; it's a $59K line
Allen: report explaining that

Workers Comp:
Foley notes that there is a tendency to move money out of account, and then need to move money back over the course of the year
O'Connell: question really is cost containment; account is recommended at 14% up, which is closer to actual costs
Allen: recommendation is closer to real costs over three years
Monfredo: any group?
Allen: largest amount is in the facilities department, second largest is in teachers
using funds to purchase equipment that make job less risky
"use our dollars to make those smart investments"

Personal Services:
O'Connell: legal consultations and settlements
question from Biancheria and me: "do we really have an effective gateway system" for asking for legal advice
should we use city solicitor
Biancheria: would like to see report on differences in benefits of staying with consultants rather than hiring an attorney "that would be under the city of Worcester"
as a side note: you don't, as a School Committee, want the attorney "under the city of Worcester"; there's a reason the School Committee hires the attorney for a school district
look at the dollar amount to hire an attorney to hire an attorney that would be under the Worcester Public Schools
"looking for something that is going to be less than $400,000"
Petty (now chairing): I wouldn't mind reading a report, but I wouldn't replace either one of them
Binienda: with due respect, in this particular, I really don't agree with this suggestion
"this amount is so high because we had a lot of meetings, as we're under the Department of Justice"
something very helpful to me is the institutional history with the DoJ
"you have to establish a trusting relationship with those" who are monitoring each of our schools
"I think that there can be maybe some untruths on how often [principals called]"
"we negotiated nine contracts this need an expert in that area as well"
Petty: losing the litigation attorney would be a huge loss
we always used outside attorneys for things beyond discipline: to which she agrees
Foley: I completely agree that you need to have that experience
general counsel generally is that
"we are using the city's legal department right now" relative to some municipal governance issues
Binienda: city spend much more
Note that we are talking here about $351,000 on a budget 1000 times that
Monfredo: can we use them less?
what about grievances?
Allen: we actually consider this account to be reduced by $60,000 (less than expenses this year)
Biancheria: did have other questions: drop of 84% in special ed services
"so there isn't a question from the community"
Allen: similar to what we did a number of years ago for third party services for autism
instead of using third party services for clinical care; when we get to nursing salaries, you'll see salaries there
"level of service is expect to be at least the same if not better"
Biancheria: increase in security guards, now have one at DAB
Allen: several years ago we did for a number of years, then reinstated in FY18
Biancheria: have guard buzzing in, along with security cameras and security buzzers
asks for a report on cameras and buzzers
O'Connell: how many security guards are there?
Allen: one at each large high school, one at Fanning, one at Creamer, one at DAB
O'Connell asks for current deployment of security guards in executive session

Special Ed Tuition:
O'Connell: how many students in recovery programs
Binienda: 6 students in program; 17 students total in the program
out of district voke?
based on expected experience

Printing and Postage:
level funded

Instructional Materials:

Misc Ed:
Biancheria: school safety equipment
thanks administration for $100K
many schools have asked for replacement or new equipment
O'Connell asks on out of state travel
Petty: pretty low in my mind
Boulais (HR): go to colleges and universities for hiring in Rhode Island and Connecticut
O'Connell: is it worth making an investment in this area for recruitment?
"should be reaching out more than we are for a number of reasons"
Petty: has it always been this amount?
Allen: many years ago was hiring, then eliminated, then added back at $5000 just for recruiting
Petty: "I think we cut it, or tried to"
the note here is made that it was O'Connell that cut it
O'Connell wants to cut audit fees by $3000
Allen: note just level funded; it's the estimate for next year's audit at this point
Petty: so it's an accurate amount?
O'Connell: are we bringing in an outside auditor?
Allen: chosen to do an independent audit every year (required every three)
O'Connell withdraws motion to cut
Biancheria: parking rentals
"I just keep thinking we could perhaps find another area"
Allen: contract for Fremont Street expired this year, renewed for two years
when we bid out, only one bidder, was current location
will come back after two years along with possible transportation changes
Biancheria: instructional technology
has process begun?
Allen: funding is part of the Chromebook lease
will get us to 11,000 Chromebook leases and the 1000 PCs starting the fall of this year
we need to rent space for 40 buses plus space for drivers and monitors to park; 120 vehicles
"and I suspect we might be doing 200 more buses...that's expensive"
plan to stay within existing dollars but have much more technology in schools
Biancheria asks for report

O'Connell asks for reduction of $200K or $100K
"we're going to pay what we have to pay" but "since budget was printed, the budget is looking somewhat more optimal for us"
Allen: "I think option C would be the recommended level"
reason for that is "not because of budget reasons, there will be unemployment exposure, due to professional teacher status and non-renewal and licensure issue"
makes the $511K "what we expect to expend next year"
O'Connell makes motion to cut budget by $100K "a very conservative cut"
Allen: "I apologize if I gave the impression that we" were guessing
"there are 56 teachers that will not be renewed"
"those have nothing to do with budget" and will be eligible for unemployment
Petty: so you know that
Allen: plus a fixed amount that we know will come up
"we don't want to quibble over small dollars here...but an accurate projection of what is needed for next year"
O'Connell: "suggest it to be pretty much front loaded"
Foley: there are a couple of different ways to approach this; "I worry about a very tight budget process"
can also approve at this level and ask for a report in August on employment status
"I'd rather look at it that way...rather than having to find money"
Monfredo: would like to know in August
motion to cut $100K fails (Biancheria, Comparetto, O'Connell supporting)
account passes

In-state travel:
O'Connell motion to reduce by $2000
Allen: leaving level funded anticipated an increase in IRS rate
administration can support $2000 cut
approve as amended

Vehicle maintenance:
Petty: "which is zero, so we can approve that"

Biancheria: question on telephone and data service
Allen: plan is to have all schools be able to have access to the internet with Chromebooks in all classrooms
Biancheria: do we provide same service at same level at alternative schools
Allen: refers to Walton
Walton: yes, same level of service at all locations
Petty: have we seen any savings with work done?
Allen: worked closely with cityside
"while we're not exactly seeing the savings yet, perhaps it's the same the city is seeing"
Petty: they want to go back a year and a half
Monfredo: do we negotiate telephone and data service?
Allen: no, we purchase those through the state's contract
Erate funding is the driving
switch to voice of internet; eventually will pay very little for phone service
O'Connell: how do we obtain #2 fuel oil
Allen: use city contract for the few we have
O'Connell: does the contract run for a number of years yet?
Allen: response for next meeting
O'Connell: eliminate phone lines we don't use or underuse

Facilities non-salary:
Biancheria: thought we had our own HVAC repair
is that additional employees under that ?
Allen: have our own HVAC employees
through vacancies intend to use contracted services for specialized services, get training for employees, and eventually do in house
transitional time
question of how quickly our employees can go through the training program
"going to take some time to get to the level of the training needed"
Biancheria: "I'm not very fond of contracted services in the Worcester Public Schools"
school safety and emergency repairs; how prioritized?
Allen: emergencies take priority in work order system
Biancheria asks for report on work order system
environmental management system: "but it was half a million before"
agreed to that in FY18, was for procedures and agreements
"I would think that those were completed"
Allen: the increase from FY17 to FY18 and level funded in FY19 "was the PCB"
"have committed" through School Committee vote until Burncoat and Doherty are replaced
annual air testing, quarterly reviews
plus inspections and repairs also come out of this account
Biancheria "I thought it was items we'd already taken care of" wanted a cut of $150K (?)
Allen: training as have new staff or training reaches down
"that's an ongoing procedures"
steps are codified: "one aspect is ongoing training, another is to environmental plans"
Biancheria: was hoping it was decrease, but don't see that happening
O'Connell: development of an EMS manual
any sense of when the manual will be completed?
Allen: work is happening
"would expect that we'd make significant progress in FY19 if not complete it"

and recess to executive session

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