THESE MINUTES ARE SUBJECT TO BOARD APPROVAL AT THE NEXT BOARD OF  SELECTMEN MEETING
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THESE MINUTES ARE SUBJECT TO BOARD APPROVAL AT THE NEXT BOARD OF SELECTMEN MEETING

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THESE MINUTES ARE SUBJECT TO BOARD APPROVAL AT THE NEXT BOARD OF SELECTMEN WORKSHOP Board of Selectmen Special Meeting May 12, 2008 CALL TO ORDER The Chester Board of Selectmen held a special meeting on Monday, May 12, 2008 at the Chester Town Hall, Chester, CT. In attendance were First Selectman Tom Marsh, Selectmen Martin Heft and Bruce Watrous, members of the Board of Finance, and Region 4 BOE members as well as school Administration. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Region 4 Budget. Mr. Kim Caron, Superintendent of Schools reported that the Region 4 BOE is interested in feedback regarding the Region 4 budget. He expressed disappointment in the low voter turnout at the recent referendum. He solicited feedback from citizens regarding their concerns. He continued that after these concerns are discussed, a course of action will be determined. Mr. Caron commented on an adjustment to the Region 4 budget. He reported that a recent legislative update is delaying the state mandate requiring an in-school suspension position from January 2009 until July 1, 2009. This will reduce the budget by $18,000.00. Richard Strauss reported that the average voter turnout in the three towns since 1999 was 1,029. This year the number was down 30% to 697 voters. This is attributed to complacency. He continued that even if a significant amount was taken from the R4 budget, a substantial mil decrease would not be the result. Mr. ...

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THESE MINUTES ARE SUBJECT TO BOARD APPROVAL AT THE NEXT BOARD
OF SELECTMEN WORKSHOP
Board of Selectmen Special Meeting
May 12, 2008
CALL TO ORDER
The Chester Board of Selectmen held a special meeting on Monday, May 12, 2008 at the
Chester Town Hall, Chester, CT.
In attendance were First Selectman Tom Marsh,
Selectmen Martin Heft and Bruce Watrous, members of the Board of Finance, and
Region 4 BOE members as well as school Administration.
The purpose of the meeting
was to discuss the Region 4 Budget.
Mr. Kim Caron, Superintendent of Schools reported that the Region 4 BOE is interested
in feedback regarding the Region 4 budget.
He expressed disappointment in the low
voter turnout at the recent referendum.
He solicited feedback from citizens regarding
their concerns.
He continued that after these concerns are discussed, a course of action
will be determined.
Mr. Caron commented on an adjustment to the Region 4 budget.
He
reported that a recent legislative update is delaying the state mandate requiring an in-
school suspension position from January 2009 until July 1, 2009.
This will reduce the
budget by $18,000.00.
Richard Strauss reported that the average voter turnout in the three towns since 1999 was
1,029. This year the number was down 30% to 697 voters.
This is attributed to
complacency.
He continued that even if a significant amount was taken from the R4
budget, a substantial mil decrease would not be the result.
Mr. Strauss expressed disappointment that the recently proposed tuition grants from the
town may have influenced the voters.
He felt this issue diverted the public from the
budget.
Also, he reported that the ADM in Chester this year is above average.
He also
reported that the surplus money was given back to the town this year when in the past it
would have been deducted from this year’s request.
Mr. Strauss reported on the sacrifices made in the past to accommodate the discovery of a
3 year deficit of $170,000.00.
This money came out of the operating budget.
This year,
because of additional financial issues, a $170,000.00 retirement payment was missed.
The school did not go back to the towns for additional money in either of these instances.
Jennifer Wislocki reported that she did not feel that the tuition discussion was a negative.
She felt that the tuition proposal actually raised awareness of the budget vote.
Also, she
reported that the percentage and dollar figures are not the issue.
It is more of a general
sentiment about the economic state.
We are getting less and less from the state and the
burden falls to the towns to pay for education.
She questioned how we can continue to
support a 4% increase each year in the public school system.
She felt that changes need
to be made in how the schools are run.
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Terry Stewart, Chairman of Region 4 BOE, responded that 85% of the budget is
personnel costs.
He expressed a desire to have BOF members involved in teacher
negotiations. He continued that even with their contracted raises, our teachers are still “in
the middle of the pack” regarding salaries.
Terry continued that the union can show that
our towns can afford not only our current agreement/salaries but more.
He stated that we
feel we would lose in arbitration.
Also, because of our school structure, we would be in 5
arbitrations, not one.
Terry continued that the BOE is constantly comparing our system to that of our peers.
He reported that there is nothing in Region 4 that suggests that we are overspending.
Mr. Caron reported that during negotiations, the Board set a goal to remain “in the middle
of the pack”. He continued that there are 8 regional secondary school systems in the
state.
We are 4
th
out of 8 in terms of expenditures.
Also, he reported that we are
approximately 1-1 ½% lower than other board’s increases. Mr. Caron reported that he is
willing to collaborate to solve this problem.
He stated that we have devised extremely
tight budgets.
If there is any unanticipated expense, we cannot cover it.
He reported that
any unanticipated special education expenses will “blow us out of the water”.
Jennifer Wislocki asked if there is any leverage with the union to avoid increases.
Terry
Stewart reported that there is zero leverage and referenced a newsletter from the
Connecticut Educator’s Association. He reported that there is no compromise in the
difficult arbitration process.
A gentleman disagreed that the board’s “hands are tied” during arbitration. He continued
that teachers give up certain rights in lieu of arbitration.
He stated that binding arbitration
works for both sides.
He reported that arbitrators get $1,200 per day.
Terry Stewart
invited this gentleman to be the Chester BOF representative during the next negotiations.
Tom Marsh was interested in determining a strategy to pass the budget.
He felt that the
biggest factor was the turn out in Essex.
A woman reported that the message she received from citizens was apathy.
She
commented on gas and heating oil prices.
People cannot afford higher taxes and voted
accordingly.
A gentleman on the BOF reported that he too talked to residents regarding
higher food costs, energy costs etc.
Residents know that any increase in the budget
comes directly out of the residents pockets.
The perception is that the Region 4 budget is
“out of control”.
Tom Marsh reported on the ECS and ERG factors.
These figures are determined by the
town’s ability to pay. However, our ability to pay is based on how much property we
own, not income levels.
He continued that Essex get $86 per person in ECS money,
Chester gets $217.00 and Deep River gets $395.00.
However, Bridgeport gets $1,390.00.
Tom continued that the residents do not turn the backs on the schools.
The Federal and
State governments have turned their backs.
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Tom Marsh reported that he did not advocate a change in numbers big enough to make a
tax difference.
He felt that this would create another debate and people would vote for
the budget or against it based on those changes.
Terry Stewart asked what it would take
to get an endorsement from the Chester BOF/BOS on the budget.
Richard Strauss reported that throughout the budget process, no feedback was given from
anyone including the BOF and BOS.
Terry Stewart continued that there is nothing
controversial in this budget.
Bruce Watrous reported that Terry Stewart was quoted in the newspaper as saying we
would need to make “painful” decisions. Bruce reported citizens need to be educated on
how the process works.
He continued that Chester sent a letter to every household.
Terry
Stewart reported that the Alert Now system has been used to inform families of upcoming
forums, votes, etc.
This was also done for the Public Hearing yet no one showed up.
Tom suggested mailing a letter to every home in town.
The Boards discussed changes to the Budget.
Bruce reported that he felt money should
be added to the budget for maintenance items especially in the fields.
Mr. Caron
explained the process for developing budgets; simply adding a percentage to last year’s
budget figures was not done this year.
Mr. Caron reported that Bruce Glowac
(Maintenance) is budgeting for his needs to maintain the schools.
Richard Strauss discussed the relationship between property values and a quality public
school system.
He continued that schools districts compete throughout the state for
quality teachers.
There are shortages in science and math teachers.
During binding
arbitration, if you are on the lower tier, most teachers are going somewhere else.
All of
these issues are important in determining how the system will operate.
Terry Stewart reported that he has asked the Superintendent to devise prioritized list of
potential cuts.
After feedback from the towns, the BOE will decide what items on the list
will be cut.
There is a public forum scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 2008 for feedback
from residents.
The BOE does not have a presentation planned.
They intend to answer
questions regarding the budget.
A woman reported that the long term solution for the problem is that the state needs to
know the situation. They need to know that their legislation “ties our hands”. The NCLB
Act is extremely costly to the schools.
The Legislature, Governor and Congress must
stop mandating items to the towns without funding.
Tom Marsh reported that there are two “paths” that can be taken. The BOE can market
their product better for stronger support or change their product.
He continued that if
next year’s state budget is as predicted now and if the economy does not turn around;
next year’s budget process will be no better than this year. He reported that we have one
year to change the way the school is marketed or change the way the school is operated.
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Tom Marsh reported that he will not publicly support the Region 4 Budget.
He will tell
people that individuals have worked hard on it.
Richard Strauss responded that the
Region 4 budget is not separate from the town budget.
He continued that Region 4 BOE
has made every effort to communicate with the BOF and BOS.
No member of either
board came to the BOE meetings therefore, the BOE came to the BOF meeting to present
their budget.
This was done is Essex and Deep River as well.
We solicited input from
the BOS and BOF before the BOE voted on their budget and no one showed up.
The
BOE heard no objection.
Richard reported that he did not feel it was right for Tom to
support the town budget and not the education budget.
It is all one budget.
Richard
reported that the BOE cannot afford to not have the support of the BOS.
He continued
that the Region 4 budget is a good budget and it deserves the support of the town just as
the town budget does.
He stressed the importance of the town coming out to vote.
The
people are relying on what the town’s leaders are saying about the budget. It is a
leadership issue, we need the BOS supporting the budget and urging people to get out and
vote.
He felt that the article in the paper diverted people from the budget issue.
A member of the BOF replied that people have an issue with the “extras” in the R4
budget.
Gas prices are soaring yet we fund a lacrosse team at the school.
People support
math, science etc. not the extras.
He continued that we need to look at a different way to
do things.
Not necessarily cutting items.
Lynne Pease reported that the school is looking at different options.
She stated that the
Administration has initiated programs (virtual high school) without the need for
additional teachers.
A BOE member asked what it would take for the R4 budget to get BOS and BOF
support.
She continued that the town looks toward the BOS and BOF for guidance in this
area.
Jennifer Wislocki stated that she was uncomfortable giving specifics as she did not feel
that she had the authority to approve or not approve the school budget.
Jennifer
continued that if it was less than 4%, she would enthusiastically support the budget.
Richard responded that in past years, the surplus returned to the towns this year would
have been applied to reduce billings and the budget would have shown less than 4%.
The
town already has this money back in their coffers.
Richard stated that it is not right if BOS and BOF members “sit on the sidelines” and
privately not support the budget.
Bruce Watrous reported that he felt that a philosophy of no new services, non mandated
programs or staff would be a “sellable” budget. Bruce continued that the current budget,
with good marketing, will pass.
A BOF member stated that having a status quo budget is counter-productive.
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Tom Marsh reported that, at the core of it, he does not believe the majority of the people
in this town can bear the burden of the tax increase, even at the ¾ mil increase.
He
continued that the ¾ mil increase has a significant opportunity to fail.
The economy is
hitting people harder and harder every day.
He felt that we are taking too much out of the
surplus.
He continued that it would be easy for him to come out against the school
budget since it is higher than the town budget.
He reported that he has gone out of his
way to inform citizen that boards are working hard on the budgets.
He is going to the
public hearing on the budget and asking people what they think, what they can afford.
If
the response is no, he will take money out of the budget, not the surplus.
He reported that
we will be voting on the town budget and the elementary school budget the day before
the Region 4 budget.
He really thinks the budget is too much money yet he understands
that it is “too late in the game” to ask the Board to make big changes. He felt that today
is the first day of continuing conversations.
We may need to review the programs and
variety of courses offered to make changes that amount to $500,000.00 or going to the
legislature in the polls in November and saying we’ve been “dumped on” too long. He
cannot speak in support of the budget that is taking most out of their pockets.
He
reported that a big portion of his public hearing message will be the ramifications of state
funding on local programs.
He felt that the representatives should be at a budget meeting
in December before they go back to Hartford to work on the 2 year budget.
The turnout at the recent R4 budget referendum per town was discussed as well as ways
to get more people to vote at the next referendum.
Tom Marsh reported that Chester will hold a public hearing on Thursday, May 16, 2008.
A Region 4 budget presentation can be discussed at that time.
The Region 4 BOE thanked the BOS and BOF for their feedback and interest this
evening.
ADJOURNMENT
On a motion made and duly seconded, the meeting was adjourned.
Respectfully Submitted,
Suzanne Helchowski
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