School Board Meeting Tuesday - Budget issues on agenda

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School Board Meeting Tuesday - Budget issues on agenda

Postby ggkrupp » Sat Sep 01, 2012 3:22 pm

The next Merrimack School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sep 4th due to the Monday holiday. Many times on this forum there are spirited discussions about the school budget in March or April as town meeting nears but may I suggest that this next meeting is where citizens can have an impact. The School Board will begin the process of developing its formal charge to School Administration concerning the budget. Administration takes this direction into consideration with all of the other factors that affect the budget when they produce their budget proposal. If you have strong feelings that the school budget should be more or less in a given area, consider attending this meeting and speaking during public participation at the beginning of the meeting. Letting the Board members know where you stand before they make their own statements gives them the opportunity to be responsive to their constituents.

The full meeting details and agenda are pasted below.

Merrimack School Board Meeting
Merrimack School District
School Administrative Unit #26
Preliminary Agenda
September 4, 2012
Merrimack Town Hall Meeting Room


6:30 P.M. – NON PUBLIC SESSION RSA 91-A:3, II (a) (b) (c) (in Merrimack High School Main Office Conference Room)
    Student Welfare

7:30 P.M. - PUBLIC SESSION
    1. Pledge of Allegiance – Christopher Ortega
    2. Introduction of Student Representative, Kiera Crowley – Christopher Ortega
    3. Approval of August 13, 2012 Minutes – Christopher Ortega
    4. Public Participation – Christopher Ortega
    5. Consent Agenda – Dr. Mark McLaughlin
      a) Teacher Nomination
      b) Teacher and Nurse Resignations
      c) Approval of K-12 Arts Curriculum
    6. Attorney’s Rendering Relative to School District Capital Improvement Plans – Christopher Ortega
    7. Request to Increase the Part-Time Kindergarten Instructional Assistant Position to Full-Time at James Mastricola Elementary School – Marge Chiafery
    8. Board’s Initial Response to Budget Committee’s Proposed Procedural Changes for the 2013-2014 Budget – Christopher Ortega
    9. Board’s Initial Considerations for the 2013-2014 Budget – Christopher Ortega
    10. Formation of Teacher Evaluation and Performance Committee – Marge Chiafery
    11. Attorney’s Opinion Regarding Lobbying – Christopher Ortega
    12. Second Review of New Policy – Marge Chiafery
      Exceptions to Use of Specific Course Materials
    13. Other
      a) Correspondence
      b) Comments
    14. New Business
    15. Committee Reports
    16. Public Comments on Agenda Items
    17. Manifest
Gary G. Krupp

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Re: School Board Meeting Tuesday - Budget issues on agenda

Postby ggkrupp » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:46 am

For those who didn't get the chance to attend this meeting, it was a good one. I recommend checking out the replays on Comcast or MerrimackTV online. I made some remarks during public participation at the beginning of the meeting that I thought I would share here also. They are below. All data I reference is from the official school district proposed budgets available on the District website and the Department of Revenue Administration's (DRA's) website.

Mr. Chair,

I am speaking before you and the members of the Board because tonight, you will charge Administration with your priorities on the Budget. Before you do that, I wanted to convey my personal feelings on the budget in the hopes that you, my elected representatives, will consider the view of a taxpayer, a resident and parent in the District when formulating your own position.

First, I would congratulate the Board for putting forth a budget last year that, for the first time in a decade, was a decrease in spending. Having said that, I think there is much more work to be done. Since 2002 we have watched enrollments drop by over 700 students while the annual budget expenditures have increased by over 20-million-dollars. In terms of tax rate, the local school portion has increased by $5.50 per thousand in the last 10 years. This is unacceptable.

I am calling on this Board to develop a budget that is significantly lower than the current $65M. I think this is achievable without affecting the quality of education. This is because there are several big ticket savings opportunities that exist. For example, please consider the following four items:

  • There is an extra $200,000 in the transportation line that was kept in last year's budget, over and above the contractors' bid price. The rationale for keeping the extra money was that it would provide flexibility to the District to add more buses in order to shorten ride-times yet the number of buses for all six schools is identical to last year.
  • There is a half-a-million dollars in the retirement incentive line that should be considered for removal during the contract negotiations you will have with the Teacher's Union this year. Retirement buy-outs in industry are generally used to ease the pain of drastic downsizing by easing folks into retirement rather than facing massive layoffs. The School District, however, has institutionalized a routine buy-out program as an annual contract entitlement costing taxpayers more than three-million-dollars since 2004. The argument is that it probably saves the District money in the long run but the business administrator says that the data is not available to determine if we have actually saved any money.
  • There is the idea to consolidate schools to move from six schools to five. Even if this consolidation allowed us to only cut the two lowest paid administrators, the District would realize a savings of $250,000 annually. I contend that much more would be saved with the reductions in transportation and other common functions and it wouldn't require cutting a single teacher.
  • And lastly, the District routinely returns about two-million dollars in unexpended funds at the end of the budget cycle. How about we never take it from the taxpayers in the first place?

I recognize that trimming budgets is hard work but I ask you each to consider it. The changes I mentioned tonight would save the District at least $2-4M annually. During these tough economic times, people could use that kind of relief. I thank you for the time and your service.
Gary G. Krupp

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Re: School Board Meeting Tuesday - Budget issues on agenda

Postby Debra Huffman » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:57 am

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Re: School Board Meeting Tuesday - Budget issues on agenda

Postby ggkrupp » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:57 am

My point in these remarks was to rebuff the idea that a level-funded budget is the best we can hope for without hurting education quality. I was attempting to show that even using very conservative estimates and without making very tough choices, we can reduce the bottom line by at least $4M (and yes you are correct, we would get back the $2M at the end of the year anyway). I was speaking during public participation so I could not go into lots of detail nor could I practicly give an extensive list of budget oppotunities. I really was trying to hit the high level idea that a level-funded budget should not be the goal.

To expound just a little, I think that moving to the 5 school model is the biggest opportunity to save on the budget. Savings from utilities use, reduced transportation needs and salaries & benefits for trimmed support staff and principals would be significant. As I point out, just the two principals cost the District $250,000 in salaries and benefits. We would also need one less library, one less cafeteria, admin support staff, special education coordinator, and so on. Add to that the cost avoidance of the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan project of building a new SAU facility (that voters would of course need to approve) and I think one can see that there are significantly more savings here than I outlined. I have refrained from defining this solution too tightly as I don't know it all and I think there are details that need to be worked through by Administration, the Board and the Planning & Building Committee that will determnine how much we can actually realize in savings (i.e. I would not prescribe the solution that has certain cost savings defined that cannot be realized due to this or that implementation "gotcha"). My point is that it there is at least enough savings potential in this idea to warrant exploration. It should be seriously considered, debated and a plan developed.

The other biggie I mentioned was the $500,000 per year we are budgeting in retirement buy-outs. That is a no-brainer in my mind. How that "entitlement" was ever put in the contract is beyond me and I wanted to bring it to the attention of the board who will enter negotiations for a successor agreement with the Teacher's Union very soon. I think this guaranteed buy-out provision should be removed (or at least the guarnteed part should be removed) without consideration by the District in return (i.e. they shouldn't have to give on some other part of the contract to get this concession). That is going to rub some people the wrong way I am sure but since when do employees get to mandate to their employer that they get a $40,000 golden parachute to retirement? Especially when it is taxpayer dollars. That just doesn't pass the sniff test in my book. If we could demonstrate that we are saving real money, maybe I could be persudaed but I don't think we can prove that with the data that we have available.
Gary G. Krupp

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