Minutes – February 27, 2020
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Public Hearing-FY21 Budget / Regular Meeting
Monument Valley Regional Middle School – Student Center
February 27, 2020 – 7pm
School Committee: A. Hutchinson, J. St. Peter, A. Potter, B. Fields, M. Thomas, D.Weston, R. Dohoney, D. Singer, S.Bannon
Administration: P. Dillon
Staff/Public: K. Farina, B. Doren, K. Burdsall, T. Lee, S. Soule, P. Gibbons, G. Chamberlin
Absent: S. Stephen
List of Documents Distributed:
RECORDER NOTE: Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB. Length of meeting: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 70pm.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The listing of agenda items are those reasonably anticipated by the chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. This meeting is being recorded by CTSB, Committee Recorder, members of the public with prior Chair permission and will be broadcast at a later date. Minutes will be transcribed and made public, as well as added to our website, www.bhrsd.org once approved.
Public Hearing – FY21 School Budget
In accordance with MGL ch.71, sec. 38n, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District School Committee will open the Public Hearing on its proposed FY21 Budget. At this time, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to be heard for or against the whole or any part of the budget. Reference: Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association website: masspublicnotices.org
MOTION TO OPEN THE PUBLIC HEARING FOR THE FY21 SCHOOL BUDGET A. POTTER SECONDED: R. DOHONEY ROLL CALL VOTE FOR ALL MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE ACCEPTED
February 13, 2020
MOTION TO ACCEPT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 13, 2020 A. POTTER SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Potential Vote – FY21 Budget – P. Dillon – We have done a budget presentation multiple times to this group and I think everybody in the group except maybe one person has heard me do it so I will spare you the whole lengthy presentation. I will highlight a couple of things. As we put together this budget, we worked very hard with the finance sub-committee starting last March. We really wanted to do three big things: maintain levels of funding that provide high quality education for all our students; to expand opportunities for student success and ensure equitable access for all students. I think we put together a budget that does that. A couple of quick things. There are a couple of ongoing conversations about regionalization in Southern Berkshire and in discussions with Richmond around some future collaborations. Lots of instructional work in the buildings around stronger connections across the three buildings, aligned instructional approaches and work on shared professional development. We have invested a lot of time and energy in both math and writing and the new science standards. At each of the three buildings, we started with an all in budget and that was too much then we worked our way back from that budget. Ultimately, at the elementary school our new budget ends up in a reduction of one paraprofessional position and reallocating and reducing some of the existing resources. At the middle school, we get Title I funds and we are going to redirect those back to the middle school. At the high school, we are eliminating two paraprofessional positions and half an english position. The paraprofessional positions are by fruition and the english position is just a straight reduction. We then got through all the things that impact our budget and I won’t go into fine detail around that. Where we end up, from a revenue perspective we had an interesting thing happen. Our tuition revenue is down in part because of a class of Farmington River kids not enrolling this year in 6th grade and just because there are fewer tuition students available to us. Our money from the state is largely the same. As it stands now, we are getting $30 more per kid. There is a lot of talk in the news about a student opportunity act; that is a great act that is going to help kids in certain communities, Pittsfield is going to benefit by $13 million this year, but we are not, we are getting $30 a kid and maybe it will go up to $50. In this budget, we are using more from E&D than we have in the past in the amount of $352,000; that is about half of our reserve. As we get to each of the towns, there are three things that impact the budget. The budget allocation, the minimum local contribution and the net assessment. The shifts in this years’ budget is Great Barrington’s percentage of district kids continuing to go up slightly, a little more than half a percent. Last year it was 73 and changed and this year it is 74 and change. Stockbridge is relatively flat and West Stockbridge went down. The minimum local contribution is the state’s assessment of each communities’ ability to contribute. This year, again Stockbridge was just largely flat; Great Barrington goes up a little bit and West Stockbridge goes up about $60,000. You take the enrollment and the minimum local contribution and we get the net assessment of each community. The total percentage increase is 4.7%. In Great Barrington it ends up being 5% and Stockbridge is 2.25% and West Stockbridge 5.29%. The other thing that is important to mention is our grant funding. We get entitlement grants that we just get for being an organization and then we get a bunch of competitive grants. When we are all in on that, it is among $2 million out of a $28 million budget. We are much more successful than any school district in Massachusetts and Berkshire County at writing competitive grants. $400,000 for our three after school programs in competitive grants; similar amounts at the high school for the Mass Ideas work and those are multi year grants. Ben did a really nice job putting together this Kaleidoscope grant and we are accepted among a very small number of schools in the Commonwealth and we just heard that we get to be a part of a pilot on alternative assessment. We heard that a couple of days ago and we are going to hear a dollar amount in the next couple of weeks. Lots of grants around vocational education, Project Lead the Way, Engineering, Computer Science, middle school Gateway stuff and Rural Health money to support our work with the pediatricians and mental health providers. I hope this is helpful for the people who haven’t heard it before. I think now is an opportunity for people to come up and share questions or raise concerns if needed. Gibbons, Hollenbeck Avenue, Great Barrington – I had a lot of questions but some of them have been answered privately by members of the committee or the superintendent. Just a couple of questions in regard to my favorite topic, athletics. According to something that you passed out earlier, you are looking into a cut of $11,000 in coaching stipends. Is that still part of the plan? P. Dillon – Kristi is that something you are comfortable speaking to? K. Farina – that is correct. We are reducing the coaching budget by that amount and that is based on the participation of football. We are reducing football coaches by one and the girls and boys soccer both have assistant coaches and we are going to shift the cost of those to the booster clubs like we have done in other sports. P. Gibbons – my point was, there are no athletics being cut? P. Dillon – not to our knowledge. S. Bannon – not through the budget considerations. What happens because of enrollment, we are not involved with that. P. Gibbons – do you have any idea how much revenue the student athletic fees generate? P. Dillon – I could look it up but I don’t know that number. P. Gibbons – I can give you a ballpark of around $44,000. On page 207 of the budget book, you list that there is going to be budgeted $22,000 for professional fees is that athletic, officials and the like. Then on page 272, you indicate that you are going to be budgeting $20,000 for athletic transportation which last year you increased it by $10,000 and this past fiscal year you had to transfer roughly $30,000 to cover the shortfall in the fiscal year 19 transportation account. With the cut of $10,000 from the present budget back to $20,000 and the $30,000 that you had to subsidize last year, your transportation account, I believe will be underfunded. I would urge you to take a look at it closely. Your transportation costs are not going to change very much, even though someone might be concerned about the potential MIAA change. You are already playing most of the school and you would probably end up playing under the change. I really think that you should look at instead of putting the burden on the parents of the students to transport the teams to all these athletic events, I think you should take a closer look at that. If you just do the math, you are underfunded. In addition, that cut for professional fees, you are already subsidizing that out of the athletic fund. My point is, I really think you need to take a look at your athletic expenses and your athletic revenues because you can’t keep shifting the cost onto the parents. Even though they pay a fee, that is not the only cost they have. Just talk to a parent that has to go out and buy a pair of soccer shoes every year or basketball shoes. They go for between $200-$300 if you want to get up into that range. My point is that I think you need to take a closer look at your athletic revenues and your athletic expenses. S. Bannon – thank you Paul. Point well made. Sharon Gregory, 32 Hollenbeck – My question has to do with Great Barrington. The benefit costs, specifically with the other post-employment benefits liability that have at the school, is called the unfunded liability and Great Barrington is now liable for about 73% of it. Could you tell me how much it is now. Last time I looked it was about $16 million or something like that. I guess if we had something like a stabilization fund for the ups and downs, would that reduce the ups and downs from year to year? With all the potential consolidation talks, it seems like it would be an issue that various school districts have. Is there anything that can be done or are you thinking about doing something to mitigate that liability. P. Dillon – to give people a little bit of …. It is a good question and a particularly complex one. The OPEP thing is a shift that happened about six or seven years ago. All of a sudden this was a liability that communities were not counting and now they have an obligation to count it. For many years it was seen as purely a paper liability with no significance but at the end of the day, the real issue is if an entity went belly up, they would have this giant liability. One of the nice things about being a school district, on the retirement side, the largest bulk of our employees and our best compensated ones are teachers or educators and their whole system is self funded on the retirement side not on the benefits side. The other employees, the paras, cafeteria, etc. are tied up in the Berkshire County Retirement system and that is more funded by the district than by individuals. I don’t know exactly what the dollar amount is now. We have been putting a little bit of money away or towards it in a symbolic way. Some people would argue that that isn’t enough because it isn’t ever going to happen. Other people would argue that it would be better if you actually chipped away at it a certain percent a year over several years. What I would like to do is that Sharon does a little more research, pull up all the things and reach back out to you individually but then share it at the next meeting. S. Gregory – I suggested that publicly if there were consolidation were to move forward, each of the school districts had to handle their own liabilities and come to the table with as little as possible so it is not something that takes an enormous amount of discussion. P. Dillon – Capital Assets, lawsuits, there are a whole gaggle of things. S. Gregroy – legally things like capital expenditures are better defined because we borrow based on our three towns backing the debt but in this case, it would seem like the three towns would have to be liable. It seems like Great Barrington would be liable for 73% right now. R. Dohoney – I don’t think that is how that works. 73% happens to be our assessment this year but if we could make current with our retirement benefits year to year, in a doomsday scenario that is not how that would happen. It probably wouldn’t even go to the towns. S. Gregory – even though it is not a doomsday scenario, the possibility of consolidation and things like that would bring it to a number to be negotiated and dealt with. P. Dillon – I think that makes sense. Thank you.
MOTION TO CLOSE THE PUBLIC HEARING A. POTTER SECONDED: B. FIELDS ROLL CALL FROM ALL MEMBERS PRESENT UNANIMOUS
- Good News Item(s)
- Continued Discussion – FY21 Budget – MOTION TO HAVE THE SUM OF $70,000 FROM SHORT-TERM BORROWING FOR THE PURPOSE OF MONUMENT MOUNTAIN CONTINUING WORK ON THE OUTSIDE CLASSROOMS OF TWO H-WINGS AND TWO B-WING CLASSROOMS – B. FIELDS SECONDED: ST. PETER FIVE FOR THE MOTION: FOUR OPPOSED MOTION PASSES FIVE:FOUR B. Fields – we have nothing in the short-term borrowing. We received this figure from Steve Soule. So my motion is to continue the work that is being done at the high school making the educational environment better. R. Dohoney – to anyone that was at the finance committee last night, knows that I support the sentiment of it. I don’t know that I am going to vote for it tonight because we did a couple of classroom rehabs on the fly at the school committee level last year and it worked out very well but I am not comfortable but I am not comfortable with it going forward. The finance committee met monthly for 12 months and nothing was ever presented to us by the administration of the buildings and ground committee proposing anything like this. I think it is a great idea but it might be set up wrong. I think we should be doing more and I will say if I decide to vote against it tonight and if a need is clearly articulated by the administration for improvements to the high school, and I think those needs should be articulated because I see that they are there and I know them from my kids’ experience there then I would be willing to make the request and request a special town meeting to do the borrowing at any time when the question is right. I expect to have some either proposals from the administration throughout the year to the finance committee or some explanations as to why they are not coming forward throughout the year to the finance committee and the buildings and grounds committee. But just because of the way it is teed up right now, I don’t think that I am going to vote for it. S. Bannon – I am in agreement with Rich. We met for nine or ten months and nothing was brought forward to us and doing to piecemeal like this, I am not sure it is the right way of doing it. A. Potter – I concur with the chair of the finance subcommittee. We have been meeting all year long and this is just outside the process and my inclination is to oppose it. J. St. Peter – I would beg to differ. When Steve and I were there to present the buildings and grounds proposal to the finance committee in either August or September, this was in our proposal. These four classrooms, an outdoor classroom and improvements to the few rooms in the science wing. We did present it to you and that information was there and you have had it for months. It was the feeling of, and I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but it was unanimous that we as a group in the buildings and grounds committee feel that the students at the high school now are in a building that is more than 50 years old, it is worse than it was ten years ago, it is a lot worse than it was 30 years ago and it is even worse than it was 50 years ago. These students are going to be here for a minimum of three to four more years and up to fifteen years, the way MSBA is going. We have been putting off improvements to the building in hopes we are going to get another school. At this point we owe the students in that school the best that we can do for them. I know you all feel this way but it is our feeling that we should do the most we can with the limited funds we have to make the experience of the kids in the building now as pleasant as possible. We feel this would do the greatest good with the limited resources we have. B. Fields – I would just like to point out that for two years now, we did have an account under extraordinary maintenance and that has been zeroed out. Just to repeat what Jason said, we did look at these plans when Steve came to us in August. He went through them. We talked about them and there was some discussion about what was going to be done. This is not just painting; this is what I call making the rooms more modern. It is work that we have done already on the inside rooms in each of the wings and now we are looking at the outside. I also will want to reiterate what Jason said, we have to continue to do something with that building despite the fact that we are going other routes with the MSBA and maybe going it alone but in the meantime, that building is going to service kids. We owe it to those kids not just the CVTE program, which is going to have improvements but to all the kids besides the CVTE kids who are going to be affected by going through these classrooms. I think it is the least we can do. It is not a huge amount. The procedure has been there. I understand why some of you are hesitant to do it this way but it looks like this is the only way that we can do that and continue on some sort of maintenance schedule and not just upkeep because that building is in great shape. It has been kept up but this is to move it forward a little more and avail kids who are in that building now and will be there because it doesn’t look like the MSBA route is going to be very favorable. Sharon talked about consolidation while that is way down the road so what do we do with that building. I think we owe it to the kids as a committee to say to the kids we understand where we are here and we are working slowly but surely on making things better. R. Dohoney – I agree with everything you said but this is a procedural issue. Historically in our capital budget we had this extraordinary repair thing which is not currently in the capital budget and you are not proposing an amendment to that? B. Fields – no. R. Dohoney – you are proposing that in FY21 we do a borrowing to fund these capital items that would then hit presumably our FY22 budget to start repaying. B. Fields – yes. R. Dohoney – You are not amending this budget at all? B. Fields – no. R. Dohoney – I agree. I have said that many times that given the pressure that this budget was under and the cuts we had to make now that the best way to fund the capital expenditures was through borrowing. That doesn’t need to be done tonight. We have a problem getting to annual town meetings. I don’t know if we have exhausted that or not. We could come back at our next school committee meeting and if had time before it to talk about doing a borrowing, it is a separate vote and a separate line item on the procedure. We have a couple of them that we are going to do tonight. A. Potter- What I want to say is that I want to be on record that I was in our subcommittees, I was in favor of a much more aggressive budget. I was knocked down by my colleagues from Great Barrington and I pushed back and I made a compromise on this budget. I am happy to be here to vote on this budget. As Rich says, there are other opportunities but to mock what we felt was a compromise and I was right up front that I was in favor of a much more aggressive budget than then one we are sitting here and the one I am going to vote for, I am going to hold my nose and vote for and to get just after the hearing to have this amendment pop up, I would of had this discussion a long time ago. S. Bannon – any other discussion? P. Dillon – what I prepared tonight were three motions. A motion on the operating budget and a motion on the capital budget and then a third motion on borrowing for chiller repairs and wastewater treatment. If it is the will of the committee, we could amend the third motion for borrowing for the wastewater treatment and the chiller repairs to include the third thing. I am a little nervous about the timing of this. I think the number of days to town meeting; it is probably in your interest to vote on it tonight or at one of the meetings scheduled next week if you want it to be ready for the town meeting. R. Dohoney – so what really should have happened is a motion to amend this order which we haven’t gotten to yet. S. Bannon – we can still do that because we know…you are absolutely right and this is why it is not brought up after the public hearing at the last minute because quite honestly what we should do is meet March 3rd which is our tentative date and do this but let’s try to do it anyway. Do I have any other discussion about the budget? R. Dohoney – so right now the budget that is on the table just to be clear and vote on tonight’s not impacted by those motions potentially the barring order may be in effect. MOTION TO APPROVE A FISCAL YEAR FY21 GROSS OPERATING BUDGET OF $29,348,061 WHICH RESULTS IN A NET OPERATING BUDGET OF $27,348,061 AFTER USE OF SCHOOL CHOICE AND TUITION FUNDS FOR A TOTAL ASSESSMENT TO THE MEMBER TOWNS OF $23,091,573 R. DOHONEY SECONDED: A. POTTER ACCEPTED: 8 APPROVED OPPOSED: 1 MOTION PASSES MOTION TO APPROVE FISCAL YEAR 2021 BUDGET IN THE AMOUNT OF 2,798,875 WITH A TOTAL NET ASSESSMENT TO THE MEMBER TOWNS OF $677,941 R. DOHONEY SECONDED: A. POTTER ACCEPTED: 8 OPPOSED: 1 MOTION PASSES R. Dohoney – as chairman of the finance committee, I am not making any more capital motions. If the buildings and grounds committee has a motion they want to make on capital, they can do that. I am voting against that motion as it stands. S. Bannon – I am pretty uncomfortable with this because we met for nine months. Jason you are absolutely right. It was brought to us in the initial presentation. It never made it into the budget and no one in all of our subcommittee meetings proposed that it be added, nor at our two school committee meetings where we discussed the budget and at the 11th hour it gets put in, it seems like we might as well not have subcommittee meetings. We just make things up at the last minute. R. Dohoney – that isn’t fair. S. Bannon – I think it is because I think this is a very tricky way of doing it. I am not saying it is wrong. I understand the sentiment and I agree that something needs to be done to the school but I would hope we would have a more long range plan. P. Dillon – would it be helpful if I read the motion as prepared? Not to vote on it but for context then you can decide what you want to do with it? S. Bannon – no, I think the best thing to do is have one of the members read the motion then make an amendment. That is fine. Who would like to make the motion? D. Weston – me. S. Bannon – we can do this. It’s not impossible. MOTION THAT THE DISTRICT APPROPRIATES THE AMOUNT OF $80,000 FOR THE CHILLER REPAIRS AND $60,000 FOR THE WASTE WATER TREATMENT FILTER REPLACEMENT INCLUDING THE PAYMENT OF ALL COSTS INCIDENTAL OR RELATED THERETO SAID SUMS TO BE EXPENDED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE. TO MEET THIS APPROPRIATION, THE DISTRICT TREASURER WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE CHAIR OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE IS AUTHORIZED TO BORROW SAID AMOUNT UNDER MGL CHAP. 71, SECTION 16D OF THE GENERAL LAWS IN THE DISTRICT AGREEMENT AS AMENDED OR PURSUANT TO ANY OTHER ENABLING AUTHORITY. ANY PREMIUM RECEIVED UPON THE SALE OF ANY BOND OR NOTE MAY BE APPLIED TO THE PAYMENT OR COST OF THIS VOTE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CHAP. 44, SECTION 20 OF THE GENERAL LAWS THEREBY REDUCING THE AMOUNT AUTHORIZED TO PAY SUCH COSTS BY A LIKE AMOUNT D. WESTON SECONDED: A. HUTCHINSON ACCEPTED: S. Bannon – this is borrowing. Borrowing required ⅔ vote and I am also going to say we have a tentative meeting scheduled Tuesday. If in fact this after we review with counsel and Sharon who could not be here tonight, tomorrow morning and if this is not correct, we may still have to meet Tuesday to do this correctly. D. Weston – let me just clarify the steps. If Bill moves to amend this motion, then can it be amended by a majority vote but the actual warrant item has to be voted by ⅔ is that correct? Can it be amended? R. Dohoney – it can be amended by a simple majority. P. Dillon – there are nine people here today so it would be 6. S. Bannon – Bill, can I have your motion? MOTION TO ADD $70,000 FOR HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM UPGRADES TO THE SHORT-TERM BORROWING MOTION THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN PRESENTED B. FIELDS SECONDED: J. ST. PETER P. Dillon – as a point of clarification, I think what you want to say is “add $70,000 for high school classroom upgrades”. A. Hutchinson – I think part of the reason that we haven’t been talking about doing stuff at the high school is we were waiting for the MSBA to give us their ruling so I think the high school was kind of let go. We figured if MSBA steps in why spend the time and energy going toward that. When that is not going to happen this year, I think that ‘s this motion came from. We need to do something in the high school for the kids who are there and will be there. This is an evolving thing. Back in September, we had a different way of looking at this. It is different today and it’s different after we had a meeting this week to try to talk about going forward and how we are going to manage it going forward. R. Dohoney – I think there has been a full robust and full disclosure among the school committee on this issue for a long time. There has been zero discussion or inquiry about the procedure from anyone frankly besides me and I didn’t get the answer I wanted from the administration and that is why I didn’t try to perfect one of these maneuvers. The bell rang in my mind a long time ago. It’s not a discussion, or idea, or need that has been neglected to happen. Bill and Jason have been advocating this but how we actually do it, finance it, how it is done, has been totally ignored. To Andy’s point, we already voted on the operating budget and let’s not ignore history. There were two teachers proposed to be cut by the administration in this budget and we didn’t do it. One of the expenses was this maintenance. This just isn’t open neglect. This was a budgetary trade-off and that is where aI wanted to go to do the long-term borrowing and in my mind we didn’t do the things to put us in a position to do those things. I think by trying to jam it in now, I think we are doing ourselves a disservice. I think this committee and the administration has to get a lot savier about borrowing. I don’t want to get off on a bad foot like this because we are going to be borrowing like heck for the next 20 years. D. Weston – Peter, I know Sharon isn’t here. Do we know the term of these bonds? How many years? P. Dillon – I think the last time we did it, we did it around computers and my recollection was five years. On the plus side, the interest rates just keep going down. They are going to go down again next week in response to the 1200 point drop in the market today. From a cost number perspective, it is not prohibitive. Looking at the long term, it may not make a lot of sense. B. Fields – I just want to ask a question. If we are concerned about the process which I am hearing, then how does this work get done? If that is what we are concerned with, process. It seems to me that we are concerned more about process sometimes than we are about the students that we are serving. This serves the students. I understand the process but this was before us; there is no doubt when Steve comes, that is why we do these; we have had other requests. We have looked at them. I would just like to know if we don’t do it this way, then how does it get done this year? D. Weston – it doesn’t. B. Fields – so we go for a third year with nothing being done except the normal maintenance that Steve’s crew does so well. R. Dohoney – when is our next actual meeting? S. Bannon – it is March 26th. B. Fields – and I won’t be here for the 3rd because I have a state election responsibility. D. Weston – Well, that is problematic. What I am going to do in a moment is to table it until Tuesday because without Sharon here, at no fault of her’s, she is ill, but without her here to provide us with the technical information, I think it is irresponsible to add that on now. I have no desire to be here Tuesday night but I think that is the responsible thing for us to do to vote on this properly. R. Dohoney – I am fine with that; I think that is good. I think we have to go to a place that we never go with our relationship with the administration. I think if somebody supports this, they have to make a motion to the school committee to order Superintendent Peter Dillon and Financial Director to have prepared on Tuesday all of the documentation needed to perfect our legal right to borrow money in FY21. We heard from the administration over a month ago and I said there wasn’t enough time to do this right and if jamming it through is more than just talk at this table, it is actual work. If those that feel that strongly about it, do what you do, be a boss and tell the employee to do it. I am not mad at you Peter. People want to talk, they don’t actually want to do what needs to be done. If this is what we are going to do because I tell you all you are doing is dialing up a month’s worth of busy work for Sharon for a letter back from counsel saying we can’t do it anyway. S. Bannon – just for clarification, why can’t we do it? Why do you think we can’t do it? I respect your opinion. R. Dohoney – I don’t know. I take that back; I am not here to give legal advice to anybody. That was the response of the finance committee in January that it was too late to do this type of thing. D. Weston – I think Sharon said that, if I recall correctly, that she was not inclined to borrow more for the chillers and the filters because it might impact our ability to borrow in the future negatively. P. Dillon – that is correct and she additionally had concerns about increasing our borrowing this year in light of potentially asking for schematic design which might be in the $800,000 range. R. Dohoney – I am not sure if I would approve $800,000 for schematic designs too. P. Dillon – the only thing I would like to share is…. R. Dohoney – shoot the moon; if you want to put all the chips in the middle of the table, put them all in the middle of the table. P. Dillon – I think several years ago, we got good in not second guessing the role of the administration in proposing something and this feels a little bit to me like you rely on us for our professional judgement, we share it with you and then you decide you don’t like our professional judgement and you do something else. S. Bannon – so I have a motion and a second to amend the borrowing article. A. Potter – I move to table. MOTION TO TABLE THE ENTIRE MOTION A. POTTER SECONDED: D. WESTON APPROVED: 8 OPPOSED: 1 MOTION PASSES B. Fields – I like the tabling. I can live with that. So how do we do that procedurally? R. Dohoney – point of order, I believe we are tabling the whole matter. D. Weston – yes. P. Dillon – are you tabling the amendment or the motion? R. Dohoney – I think it would be disingenuous to go forward on the vote of the whole matter if………S. Bannon – so the initial motion is to table the amendment and I have a second? . MOTION TO TABLE THE BORROWING QUESTIONS A. POTTER SECONDED: D. WESTON APPROVED: 7 OPPOSED: 2 MOTION PASSES S. Bannon – as a point of order, if we table this now then we will be back here Tuesday night. Just so everyone is clear. We have to get this done. P. Dillon – would you want to poll to see who can be here Tuesday night just so you know if you have a quorum. A. Potter – as a point of order, I want the finance director here for this discussion. Who cannot make it Tuesday night? It has been on our schedule and I understand that people all have obligations. MOTION TO RECONSIDER OUR APPROVAL OF THE OPERATING BUDGET TO INCREASE IT BY $70,000 FOR EXTRAORDINARY MAINTENANCE LINE ITEM FOR THE CLASSROOMS AT THE HIGH SCHOOL – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS APPROVED: 7 OPPOSED: 1 ABSTAIN: 1 S. Bannon – just a point of order on that, you used the word capital. R. Dohoney – it is a lot quicker and easier to do this in the operating budget. It will make the money readily available in July. It will hit the taxpayers in the assessment year. I don’t think we are in a position to determine how much it affects the assessment. We are going back to ground zero in the operating budget but I can find the $70,000 in more cuts. MOTION TO APPROVE THE FY21 GROSS OPERATING BUDGET OF $29,418,061 WHICH RESULTS IN A NET OPERATING BUDGET TO BE DETERMINED AFTER THE USE OF SCHOOL CHOICE AND TUITION FUNDS FOR A TOTAL NET ASSESSMENT TO THE MEMBER TOWNS OF $23,165,573 – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: A. POTTER MOTION TO WITHDRAW THE ABOVE MOTION – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: D. WESTON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS D. Weston – by my completely uninformed calculations that would take Great Barrington from 5% to 5.3%. S. Bannon – the interesting part is I think this is the correct way of doing it. I am really torn now if I am going to support the operating budget just because I think it is a right way to request these funds, but I don’t think it is the right time or the right process. I am really torn. D. Weston – I support Rich. Given the choice of adding to the borrowing or putting it in the operating, this is a more desirable choice and given the fact that the majority of the members here tonight support putting this money in one way or another, then I would suggest it would be done this way. A. Potter – my position is absolutely, I am happy to up the budget, the operating budget. I would have liked to have seen it perhaps involved in the process a little earlier on because we have been talking about this for nine months. I am in favor of actually bumping the operating budget up further, the capital budget up further to support improving the high school because I don’t have a lot of trust in the state and the state process. I think we should be folding it into the budget year by year in an intelligent way, not just maintenance but improvements in the high school, whatever way we can and to do it locally because I just don’t trust the state. D. Weston – I would also add when we put it into the operating budget this year, it doesn’t put us in a negative beginning budgeting process for next year whereas if we have to start paying for that additional borrowing, we are going to be behind the eight ball already and that is what we are trying to avoid. S. Bannon – one of the things Rich aluted to and I would prefer but not on this date, was if we were going to add this in we would look for areas to reduce by $70,000 because I thought we were at the high level mark anyway. R. Dohoney – why don’t we just pull this out of E&D. Why don’t we leave the budget number the same. Andy that is what you and I said two months ago. P. Dillon – just to give you context of the E&D, we did use half of the E&D to supplement this budget so if you pull another $70,000 out, fiscally it is not the most prudent thing. When have I ever argued anything about being fiscally prudent? R. Dohoney – yeah, we are dwindling our savings but most of the taxpayers we are about to put this on, don’t have any savings. P. Dillon – yes, but the $350,000 we are pulling out of E&D this year is reducing assessment this year so if you decide to invest more of it this year, then there is less to invest next year. R. Dohoney – we can not amend the approval that is in place right now and leave it there and immediately do what the state does and immediately start amending our own budget. We can have a finance committee meeting next week and start deciding where line items are going to pull from to transfer to the maintenance line to do what you guys want. P. Dillon – what makes me crazy about this is we spent a night a week for nine months talking about this and at literally the 11th hour we are talking about it now. We gave you recommended reductions in all sorts of areas; we backed off and reinstated positions, we put at least two if not three schools on their heads, we had a tough time with staff around this and now the day of the budget vote, we rethinking it all. It seems irresponsible. A. Potter – Peter, I want to be on the record, I never asked you to do any of that. I was happy with the first budget I saw. S. Bannon – yes, you were. You and I had a very good discussion about that. B. Fields – so are we back to coming to another meeting? S. Bannon – someone else can make a motion. P. Dillon – you could pull the money from E&D, don’t really recommend that; you could pull the money from school choice, I don’t really recommend that. You could wait and do school choice at any time. R. Dohoney – just to summarize where we are at. The borrowing option which Bill already proposed is tabled; we have amended the current operating budget which pretty much has to be done tonight, or we have a whole year to evaluate interbudget transfers to fund this. That includes both paying for things we already budgeted and moving it over or reappropriating some of our income from funds which include E&D, and school choice and maybe tuition. S. Bannon – I think you are wrong about E&D. Once the town meeting votes, we cannot raise above the spending that the town votes on. R. Dohoney – so we need a town meeting for E&D but not for school choice and tuition. S. Bannon – right. Those are revolving funds and E&D is not. R. Dohoney – The third option I am suggesting here is the same way we did the CVTE coordinator in July last year. S. Bannon – there are a couple of ways we could do this just to piggyback on what Rich is saying. We could vote tonight on the capital, as it and take a leap of faith that the finance subcommittee and the administration will work on this or someone could make a motion ordering the administration to work on this, either way. P. Dillon – you can just ask me. R. Dohoney – I say these things at finance committee meetings and administration offers a different commentary and nobody says anything and nothing happens. A mid-year borrowing that we have to go ask the town for is not outside the realm of possibility. Great Barrington can’t seem to get through a month and a half without a special town meeting anyway. A. Potter – can I make an argument Rich. That in the context of a strategic plan for this body within our operating budget, within our capital budget, within our borrowing authority to have a strategic plan toward how we are going to approach the high school because this feels sort of like all of a sudden “wham” we got this, we got this. How about a strategic plan on how we are going to do it. S. Bannon – I thought we started that last night? A. Potter – I wasn’t there last night. S. Bannon – I thought we did start that when we talked about a parallel path doing the SOI but also to start with looking at what it would cost ust to start borrow, how much we would have to borrow to start the renovations on our own, to call John Whittaker to have him give us his expertise. R. Dohoney – we talked about a borrowing authorization in November or January. A. Potter – that is the way it should be. All of these discussions should be in the context of a solid planning process. This is what we need to do as opposed to…we need to commit as a body, as a committee, this is what we need to do at the high school and define it. If we proceed that way and make the decision that maybe the MSBA isn’t the way to go. R. Dohoney – to be fair to Jason and Bill, what they are proposing isn’t MSBA type stuff. It is really equipment and clearly from a legal standpoint, we can borrow for it. B. Fields – so now we use this as an example as to why we need this strategic plan and go ahead with what I have proposed and us that as an example for what Andy is saying and we have a plan and we are on our way with it. S. Bannon – We can vote on that and I am sure there will be more motions but I am not sure that starting a strategic plan by spending $70,000 without any other plan is exactly strategic. D. Weston – Steve, can we dispense with the possibility of using additional E&D? I have a 21 year history of our E&D up here. Right now our E&D stands at $711,000. That is 2.5% of our operating budget. That is the second lowest we have had in ten years. P. Dillon – after this budget, it will be half of that. D. Weston – so we will be down into the $360,000 range after that. I think as we eliminate possibilities, that should be the first one to eliminate. S. Bannon – for a person like myself who likes to take more than Sharon likes out of E&D every year, I actually agree with you. I think we would set a very bad precedent and it would be irresponsible for us to take any more. S. Bannon – let’s recap where we are. We have voted on our budget. We have voted on part of the capital. R. Dohoney – no, we have voted operating; we voted on capital; we have not voted on the borrowing. It stands tables right now but if someone wanted to take it off the table, they could. P. Dillon – there is one other possibility that I might share. It creates other problems and it will make Sharon crazy in other ways, there is always a little bit of cushion in our energy lines because you never know if we are going to have a terrible winter or more pleasant winter. This winter has been particularly warm. In the end of June there will likely be some dollar amount in our energy lines that in any other context would roll to E&D. You could direct us to take the balance, and it will not be anywhere near $70,000, but you could direct us to take the balance left in the energy lines, unless it gets terribly cold starting tomorrow for the next two months, I think we are probably okay. We might get $20,000 – $30,000 out of that line that could be encumbered to do work in the early summer. S. Bannon – by doing that you are just really reducing next year’s E&D. We might as well just take it out of next year’s E&D now. R. Dohoney – the history of it is, in my time on the school committee which is about as long as your’s Steve, is every single mid-year transfer of appropriation out as always been approved. There have been two at the elementary school, before Tim was here and one for the CVTE coordinator and they were always approved. Every time you and I made our speeches about if it can be done in the budget year, it is not. S. Bannon – except for CVTE because that was my idea. R. Dohoney – it is not a viable option. S. Bannon – I think it does take a leap of faith and everyone on this committee has to believe in good faith, we will discuss that mid-year. We can’t vote for it now. That is the problem. P. Dillon – in terms of tonight, you could take action on the chiller and the wastewater treatment if you want it. You could delay this all until Tuesday, all of it. You could take action on this and then address the other on Tuesday or come another ongoing way during the course of the spring. You could direct us to write a strategic plan around this and do it in a much broader context. What do you want to do? R. Dohoney – I want to step back. What is tabled until Tuesday night? Is it an amendment to this borrowing and how much you want? That means that if you do it as one vote, and this doesn’t pass by two-thirds in each of the towns, not only are you not getting your new classrooms, you are not getting your chiller and boiler either. I think this is a great subcommittee conversation. Is it strategically better to break out the authorizations to make sure you at least get what you need rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. S. Bannon – to add to that, I think if you are taking one step ahead, that may not pass this committee. In other words, people could vote against the borrowing because we are not including….R. Dohoney – if Tuesday night the vote holds as it is currently right now, you are not getting your chiller either. P. Dillon – that’s not good. A. Hutchinson – could we go back to square one and vote on the chiller right now without any additional amendments? D. Weston – it has been tabled; it hasn’t been removed. I think what you are suggesting is we reconsider the tabled; withdraw the amendment, vote on it…A. Hutchinson – that is what I am suggesting. P. Dillon – to be clear, it is the chiller and the wastewater treatment filters. S. Bannon – correct. Which are already a year overdue. MOTION TO REMOVE THE TABLED MOTION FROM THE BORROWING ARTICLE A. HUTCHINSON SECONDED: A. POTTER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS MOTION ON WITHDRAW THE AMENDMENT ON THE BORROWING MOTION B. FIELDS SECONDED: J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS R. Dohoney – in order to do what Bill wants to do, a borrowing to pay for that, you would have to do a motion like this but just change it to the amount you want and describe what it is you want. If you made that vote and it carried by two-thirds, it would be sent to the towns for approval. I don’t support that. I am just telling you how to do it. B. Fields – but it didn’t pass by two-thirds the first time around. It was 5 to 4 that isn’t two-thirds. R. Dohoney – is it going to pass by two-thirds secret ballot at the three town meetings? A. Potter – we are going around and around here. B. Fields – all of you on this committee know the way I feel about the high school and the need that we have to have to do something with that building. That is why I did this. I don’t agree with the process because it was before us and now that I know more about the process, I was thinking about Kristi’s van suggestion and did we really talk about that? That didn’t appear in this budget. I just don’t want to be frustrated that I am holding up things. I would like to see something done and I think the building and grounds people, and I am putting words in your mouth, but I think you share my sentiment, we have to continue doing something with that high school and we can’t wait for another year. We can’t go a summer without doing something beyond normal maintenance because it is unfair to the kids. S. Bannon – can you clarify the van thing. P. Dillon – the reason the van is not in the budget is the district has funds in a special education grant; there was money in the budget to buy a van for students with special needs. We were able to cover the cost of that out of a grant which is going to free up money that we would have used to buy that van to let us buy a van ourselves in this fiscal year. There is no van in the budget because we can pay for the van, two vans actually. The grant is paying for one and we are paying for our own. R. Dohoney – the problem really is the $160,000 wasn’t even in the original budget that we were cutting off of. S. Bannon – I don’t think anyone disagrees that high school needs to continue to do some sort of maintenance, it is just the process of how we are going to do it. One of the simplest things you can do, and I am not sure you need a motion but it might make people feel better, is make a motion to instruct the finance subcommittee to start looking at the FY21 budget for transfers into the extraordinary maintenance budget line. R. Dohoney – Peter wants to see what we can save out of this year’s FY20 budget first. S. Bannon – it could be FY20 or 21; that would be fine. The little bit of angst that I have about that is if we take it out of the FY20 it is just reducing E&D for FY21 because that is where that money would have fallen anyway. R. Dohoney – why is E&D more precious than our building or our teachers? P. Dillon – because E&D is what pays for our teachers. R. Dohoney – it is a rainy day fund and it is pouring. P. Dillon – if you spend it all and next year we lay off eight people because we don’t have it to fall back on. S. Bannon – if I understand the purpose of it, it is for extraordinary repairs, maintenance or something that happens that we need that type of money; if that happens, we go to borrowing anyway. I get that. R. Dohoney – or we go back to the towns for assessment. S. Bannon – what Sharon may say to you is if we lower our E&D too much, it will affect our bond rating and our ability to borrow. D. Weston – that is the most practical reason not to take it because it costs you more money elsewhere. P. Dillon – if at some point, we do realize a school project either through the MSBA or ourselves and it is tens of millions of dollars, the difference in the bond rating matters. B. Fields – I think it is a consensus, isn’t it? I don’t think we need a vote on it. R. Dohoney – we will schedule a meeting where this is the sole line item. P. Dillon – just another procedural question, if you voted on two parts of the budget and you voted on this borrowing, do you want to use the meeting on Tuesday or not. D. Weston – no. S. Bannon – I really enjoyed tonight, but no. We are all thought with the budget discussion and all the votes have been taken. Let’s move ahead.
- Dillon – we implemented this new drop-off at the high school and despite a little bit of grumbling, I think it has gone remarkably well. The amount of time for buses to get out of the high school in the morning is amazing. They get right onto the road. The first several days went great. Two police officers were there with us. Steve was there, Kristi and Peter were there and then we had a big aha moment inspired by Rich and some other people that we are going to buy 100 golf umbrellas and leave them at the bottom of the hill for students to use. Officer Storti came up with the idea and I think it has worked out well so far. We don’t think kids are late; they actually may be a little earlier than they used to be. Almost everybody has been very cooperative.
- Good New(s)
- Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Regional High School – We have a teacher in residence program that has been happening in the past few weeks. Mainly in the weeks before the February break, we had a guest teacher from the Flying Cloud institute, Maria Rundel, came out and did a unit for our 4th graders on renewable energy. The unit itself is called, Energy and Engineering. The activities that she did with our 4th graders during those lessons, she had them designing blades for wind turbines then them and measuring the energy that was coming off the different designs of the turbines. It was great hands-on science activities. We are grateful to Flying Cloud and the Massachusetts Cultural Council who funded the program through a grant. I also wanted to point out that last Friday, the 14th, besides being Valentine’s Day, it was also an event at our schools called WinterFest. We had a lot of different activities that day. We went sledding despite the little amount of snow we had. We did some wonderful art projects between classes and among classes. We had a guest performer in the afternoon, a band called Surcari that played Latin music. It was a great event. I wanted to thank our PTA for supporting the music performance of the event. It was enjoyed by everybody. I also wanted to mention, next week on Monday, March 2nd, that is the observation of a lot of elementary schools in the country of Read Across America Day and also Dr. Suess’ birthday. We have an activity planned in the morning which is called a drop everything and read program. We are changing it up a bit this year and are going to have older students reading with younger students. We have all of our grades and classes paired up. That is part of Mrs. Melville’s work in organizing Read Across American Day. We are looking forward to that. We are also looking forward to tomorrow. All of our students are going up to the high school for the annual children’s concert. It is a chance for our students and young performers in grades 3 and 4 to see where they might be going as band performers in years to come. We are looking forward to that. We will be taking the whole school up around 9:30 for a 45 minute concert. Thank you Kristi for hosting us. I am going to leave some of these cards for you. You might have seen them around town and in different places. They are cards that the kids made at WinterFest, Random Art of Kindness cards. These are handmade by our students. Pick some up while you are leaving tonight. It will brighten your day. Weston – I think last week when he brought us the student newspaper, we shortchanged the chance for him to mention that to us and I had a chance to read it. It was wonderful. T. Lee – we have two advisors for that. Kristin Finnerty and Lilly Silk. We actually had to add an advisor as we got into this school year because it was such a popular activity. I agree that the kids did a great job on that and they already started working on the next issue.
- Ben Doren, Monument Valley Regional Middle School – I am excited about our fifth grade which is doing some great interdisciplinary work. They are planning a westward expansion unit. We study that in 5th grade as a part of American history but it is modeled on the work that we did during science week. That will be coming out in the next few weeks. Sixth grade continues to do their focus on community. The student council put together a pretty awesome penny wars for we raised a lot of money to give to the community. They really came together and raised the most money. Seventh and eighth grade continues to have healthy competition. Right before vacation we held our team go cup challenge. There is a real cup with an orange and green creature and it gets to live with the team that wins but it is just a mix of academic and fun challenges that we do to build culture. Faculty continues to do some interesting work around thinking about proficiencies and a portrait of a graduate from Monument Valley. We did at our last meeting the same exercise that I did here with you and they had a great time. I got some great feedback from the faculty. I am pretty excited for some upcoming PD. In March, we have our instructional learning groups thinking of next steps for our portrait of a graduate and a vision for Monument Valley and also our departments are pushing ahead with a lot of the PD we have been doing. The fifth grade team is also going off to the Kaleidoscope convening which we will be finding out what DESE thinks of deeper learning. Also coming up, Miles Wheat is taking a group to King Middle School which is a very progressive school up in the Portland Maine area. We will be looking at some good models for what we could be doing. I will be taking several teachers to the school redesign and action conference that are all parts of the great schools partnership coaching that we have been a part of.
- Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – I think most of you know, I want to share the celebration of our boys’ basketball team’s win, it was the first game in the Western Mass series and tomorrow they are headed to Frontier. We have a fan bus that is going to be taking some students and our cheerleaders out to support the team and hopefully they will come back with another win. To celebrate our success and other student success in our school, we are going to be having a pep rally on Monday afternoon. Two of our wrestlers this year, Sam Cormier and Logan Mead, both captured Western Mass titles; we have three students who were 2020 Scholastic Award winners, Laslo Coval, Madeline Mason and Eliza Phelps all won awards for photography. Allison McDonald just won the Juilliard Pre-College Open Concerto Competition as a clarinetist. She was judged the top musician of all who entered that competition. That is quite an achievement. We also have our boys’ swim team who were the Berkshire County champs and they were undefeated for their second straight year; Zoe Holmes swam at states and was 4th in the 400 free relay. We will be doing a grand celebration for these students on Monday. I would like to thank the coaches and the faculty advisors who work with these students and support them.
- Dillon – I am submitting a disclosure and financial interest form and determination. This is Article268A article 19 in your packet with an explanation. Obviously, you know I am working in Richmond, and I get compensated so the paperwork describes that. I am happy to respond to any questions but it is just more of a formality. MOTION AS APPOINTING OFFICIALS PURSUANT TO MGL CHAPTER 268A SECTION 19 WE HAVE REVIEWED DR. DILLON’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE PARTICULAR MATTER FOR THE FINANCIAL INTEREST IDENTIFIED ABOVE BY A MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE. WE DETERMINE THAT THE FINANCIAL INTEREST IS NOT SO SUBSTANTIAL AS TO BE DEEMED LIKELY TO AFFECT THE INTEGRITY OF THE SERVICE WHICH THE MUNICIPALITY MIGHT EXPECT FROM THE EMPLOYEE. THEREFORE DR DILLON’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SHARED POSITION WITH THE RICHMOND SCHOOL DISTRICT IS ACCEPTABLE TO US – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: D. WESTON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Sub-Committee Reports:
- Policy Sub Committee
- Building and Grounds Sub Committee – we met yesterday and discussed our options for the high school for our options or what type of path or paths we want to go through in the future. We basically kicked around the thought of getting into the MSBA que again then in the future thinking of a path that is independent if we don’t get their approval. Dohoney – we talked about an urgency on both fronts, whether it is to go it alone or the MSBA front. We have to be just as prepared as getting a yes vote from the MSBA as we do a no vote. We discussed a short-term borrowing either in advance of the MSBA vote sometime in the fall or be ready to go for one in January. These are ideas we floated around. If not, we do a short-term borrowing to start planning the other way. We are going to have to start funding a schematic design. Judging from the Wahconah project the amount of time between getting in the MSBA’s system and getting shovels in the ground can be condensed by schools that do things efficiently and deliberately. I want to be one of the those schools if we are lucky enough to get in the MSBA. A. Potter – the towns have to be expeditious as well. R. Dohoney – exactly. The finance committee and the building & ground committee agreed to meet regularly and not to let this fall off the radar screen. We are going to try to pull in John Whittaker or his equivalent to give us some expert guidance on it. S. Bannon – we will be scheduling another joint meeting sooner rather than later.
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee
- Technology Sub Committee
- Finance Sub Committee
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – S. Bannon – March 7th at 10am the 24 member group is going to have their first meeting. It is a public meeting and will be in Stockbridge.
- Personnel Report
- Long Term Substitute Appointment(s)
- Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
- Public Comment – Sharon – I highly endorse doing a strategic plan even on a very high level so you have goals that are set out in some milestones. It doesn’t have to be tremendously detailed but it would provide a context within which you make these $70,000 appropriations and so forth because you will reach a goal that is important as opposed to continuing to be on a transactional line. Budgets go year to year and the measure and so forth but you have been thinking of these things for a long time. Things are going on with consolidation. The school committee has a lot to do with it. If you had a component in your strategic plan to say search for solutions that you are dealing with because you want the best education but the best education might not be just being things the same way and squeezing money here and there.
- Additional Business – we had two meetings scheduled for next week. We have cancelled the 5th and the 3rd by concensus is also cancelled. No meetings next week.
MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
Meeting Adjourned at 8:40pm
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
______________________________ Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
______________________________ School Committee Secretary