BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                   Stockbridge                 West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Regular Meeting

Monument Valley Regional Middle School–Student Center

February 15, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.

 

Present:

School Committee:                S. Bannon, A. Potter, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, D. Weston,

B. Fields, S. Stephen

Administration:                      S. Harrison, P. Dillon

Staff/Public:                            B. Doren, M. Berle, K. Farina, S. Soule, K. Burdsall

Absent:                                   K. Piesecki

List of Documents Distributed:
School Committee Meeting Minutes of January 25, 2018
School Committee Meeting Minutes of February 8, 2018
BHRSD FY19 Proposed Budget Book
Letter of Request for Additional Ski Coach for 2017-2018 Ski Season

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:    2 hr, 15 minutes.

CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 7pm.

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.

MINUTES:

School Committee Meeting Minutes of January 25, 2018
School Committee Meeting Minutes of February 8, 2018

Motion to Approve Minutes of Meeting for January 25, 2018 and February 8, 2018 – A. Potter                 Seconded:  B. Fields                 Accepted:  Unanimous

TREASURER’S REPORT:

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT:

  • Good News: Dillon – I would like to recognize Mary Berle.  Mary sent a note out to faculty and staff and parents earlier in the week that she is finishing up her term as principal this school year.  I would like to thank Mary for her tremendous efforts, work and a million and one things she has done.  We will do some more formal celebrations as we get closer to the end of the year.  Mary, do you want to say anything?  M. Berle – I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to serve.  I really appreciate this committee’s support over the last years to build programs and connect with community partners and make Muddy Brook stronger and better.  In the last few days, quite a few staff members have shared with me that in surrounding communities it is common for school committee members to visit schools and be present to see what is on the ground.  On behalf of staff, I just wanted to invite all of you to come see what we are doing so you get that context as you are preparing for a transition.  Thank you.
  • Vote to Approve/Accept School Choice – 2018-2019 School Year – P. Dillon – every year we ask the school committee to vote or approve to accept school choice students; then you entrust me and the administrative team to do that in a way that is sane and reasonable. I looked at the state law and you don’t actually affirmatively vote, you just don’t have to negatively vote.  I think it is a good practice and has been our past practice for you to vote to approve school choice.  If you choose to do so, you can bear in mind that we are very deliberate about where we accept students and under what conditions.  I have gone through that explanation many times so I won’t do it again now but if people have questions about it let me know.  The big thing about it is, if we have three third grade classes of 18, we might take a couple more for kids to get to 20 but if we got over our class size recommendations that are in the contract, taking the wrong number of school choice kids could force us to hire another teacher, which would not be advantageous unless we got a ton of them because it would put us in a losing position.  We will show you reports regularly about that.  I think we have done well managing and one year we tried to do the opposite and it backfired on us.   Just echoing what Peter said, as I think the administration does a great job managing it so that it is a net positive cash wise for us, I do know that there is a projection that school choice for this coming year is conservative but maybe not on par with the increases in past years.  I want to make sure that the administration is …. I don’t ever want to find ourselves in a position that we are cut short or have empty seats.  I know the reverse is usually the case as we have to tell people no on School Choice but if there has to be outreach programs to make sure that doesn’t happen in certain grade levels, the school committee has authorized that in the past and I would be willing to do it again.  I was in a local ice cream shop and found an advertisement for one of our local schools for school choice, so it is good to make sure the avenues of communication are open with people in surrounding districts.  I think one of the concerns is that the neighboring districts typically are seeing school age population drops and maybe worse than us.  There are less kids to choice in.  If we have to do things differently to make sure people are aware of our school choice program, don’t hesitate in my position.  Dillon – yesterday or two days ago, Sharon and I put on our copywriter hats and wrote an ad that is going to appear in a local paper.  That will be up there; we think it’s snazzy and enticing.  This is also the time of year where the school choice applications are all in a pile and Doreen and I do a lottery and usually bring up somebody from the Stockbridge Town Hall to be our impartial observer and we are about to do that.  At next week’s meeting I will bring a preliminary report at least on the numbers of folks interested in school choice, whether we offer then seats as the yield is not something we are ever sure about but I can bring that preliminary report.  I don’t have the numbers off the top of my head.  R. Dohoney – it sounds like you are the usual three steps ahead of me so that’s good.   Motion to Accept School Choice for the 2018-2019 School Year – A. Potter                     Seconded:  B. Fields                       Abstention:  D. Weston                     Accepted:  Unanimous
  • Request: Additional Ski Coach – MMRHS – P. Dillon – we have a brief memo from Amy that the high school ski booster club has requested an additional coach for the ski season; because of timing of things we got this in a little later than we wanted to and ski season is not over yet, but it is winding down but we would like to approve that position.  The team has been highly successful and there are many more students that have skied in the past and from a safety and coaching perspective it makes sense for have another coach.  Motion to Approve the Booster Club’s Request to Pay for an Additional Ski Coach – J. St. Peter                    Seconded:          Potter                 Accepted:  Unanimous
  • FY19 Budget Presentation – S. Bannon – just a little bit of housekeeping. The next meeting we have will be March 1st; that is our public hearing.  After the public hearing will be the first time we have a chance to make motions concerning the presented budget.  We also have a meeting for March 6th that is tentative.  We will decide on the 1st if the 6th is necessary.  Our final vote would be March 8th.  We have three more meetings after this one.  Tonight, what I would ask is, if you have information you want brought back or consider making a motion on the 1st, to let the Superintendent and Business Administrator know so they can be prepared with numbers and understanding of what you are going to propose.  Sometime there are things we haven’t even talked about and people propose.  Everyone clear?  Ok, I will turn it over to Peter.  Dohoney – So we are saying we are going to definitively vote on the first if somebody makes a motion?  You don’t want a motion on the 1st after the public hearing?  S. Bannon – after the public hearing is fine.  I think it is disrespectfully and we need to take in the public hearing what people are saying.  We can start making motions after the public hearing.  Our final vote has to be on the 8th because that is our last scheduled meeting.  R. Dohoney – what if we get together on the night of the 1st and we aren’t in agreement.  S. Bannon – I have been doing is a long time and I don’t think that is going to happen.  That would be fine.  P. Dillon – in a minute, I am going to stand up and Sharon and I will do the budget presentation together.  There are two parts.  I’ll speak to the overview and some of the structures then we will get into the nitty gritty.  Then we will get into the numbers and Sharon will speak to that then at the Chair’s or Committee’s pleasure, we will respond to questions and the like.  A little shift this year, in the past, we have done two meetings so we did a meeting for the school committee and a meeting for the elected officials from the three towns.  This year, we reached out to people and asked would you like to do a meeting earlier this week and then do another with us.  There wasn’t an overwhelming response in having that separate meeting so many of those people are here tonight.  I just wanted to recognize them.  They are elected officials from the three towns, many three or four selectmen, lots of folks from finance committees, Steve is another selectman.  Thank you for being here and presumably some of the people who aren’t here can watch it on TV.  If any of your colleague elected officials need to have a conversation, then just pass it on to them that I am happy to talk with them.  I can meet them in town or they can come to my office, whatever works.  We will see how this goes.  Usually when I do this second presentation, it either gets better or stale depending on the year.  Hopefully, this one will be just fine.
  • Thanks again for being here. Everytime when I do the budget presentation, the first thing I talk about is the mission.  Our mission is to ensure all students are challenged through a wide range of experiences to become engaged, curious learners and problem solvers who effectively communicate, respect diversity and improve themselves and their community.  I think on most days and in most places, we are achieving that.  In terms of where we are on the budget policy, the school committee has articulated three main ideas.  They hope we achieve the greatest educational returns in relation to the dollars expended.  We are hoping to get a good return on our investment.  We want to establish levels of funding that will provide high quality education for all of our students.  The last one is to use the best available techniques for budget development and management.  We have done a lot on our budget over the years and I think we do a very good job with our budget.  Some people may disagree with the conclusions we come to, but the process is really thorough and I think it is highly transparent and over the years it has grown tremendously.  We started budgeting two weeks after our last budget meeting last March.  We had meetings through the end of the school year; a lot in the fall and that is how we go to where we are.  This year, though, we are having this meeting now; we are probably two months ahead of where we were last year.  These two bullet points reiterate some of what I just said.  In going back to the process a little bit, we began in May and we had detailed department and school level overviews presented to the finance subcommittee.  There are giant binders that we have and they are available online with very fine detailed information about anything you could imagine.  In December, we continued this work and a draft preliminary budget was presented to the school committee.  Where we are now is the school committee reviewed those, asked questions and the fourth step of the budget process come about when the governor releases his initial budget which is House One.  We incorporate that into our budget and also include insurance and transportation projections.  The insurance, we have to wait for the Berkshire Health Group to tell us about it and what number gets sent in there.  We have been expecting a 10% increase this year and it ended up being a 0% increase.  We are very happy to be part of the Berkshire Health Group.  Some of the other communities saw 13% increases this year.  Not having a 10% increase saved us about $500,000.  Where we are now is presenting the proposed budget to the school committee.  What I am going to do is talk about the new positions of changes to the budget for this year.  We were pretty lean about this and the school committee has known about some of these for quite some time and some are recent.  I will go through building by building.  The first one is the elementary school.  Right there we have a half-time computer teacher and we are recommending that that person become full-time.  We are increasing that by half a position.  That will give that person more time to work with classroom teachers to integrate technology into other subject areas.  Only being half-time, that person sees kids briefly so this will give more time to integrate technology into classroom work.  At the district level, we are recommending hiring a second Evaluation Team Leader.  We did this this year and we had somebody working across the middle and high school.  It has been very supportive.  For those of you that have worked in schools or spent a lot of time in schools, special ed teachers spend a lot of time in IEP meetings and planning meeting to recreate plans for kids with needs.  We figured out that rather than having four or five teachers each spending 20% of their time at meetings, we would do better to bring in somebody who specializes in those meeting.  It would free up the teachers so they would have more time to teach and the quality of their life would be better and more impactful on kids.  If we brought in this person to organize all these team meetings that have to happen it would beneficial.  We are doing it this year across the middle and high school and it has been really positive.  For next year, we plan to create a similar position across the elementary and middle school.  One of the positions will be EK or PK to 6th grade and the current position will be 7-12.  That supports each building but also supports transitions across the buildings.  We are really excited about that.  At the middle school, with a relatively small ask, we are looking to add an additional paraprofessional.  At the high school, my recommendation is to reduce one of our three art positions, going from three to two.  There is lots of information in the book around numbers.  People argue that it goes both ways and some people are writing the school committee about it.  It is not an uninformed choice, it is an intentional choice.  It is very hard for people to take personalities out of these decisions but when you look at the three teachers and the teach load they have, my professional opinion is that it doesn’t make sense to have three positions that can be covered by two positions.  Similarly, three years ago, we had six music positions and we went to 5 and we actually increased the access and opportunities for kids requiring everybody in elementary and middle school to choose band, chorus or orchestra and participate in one of those.  You can actually reduce a position and allow more participation.  I think we can do a similar thing.  The last thing, because people say we always cut arts first, we aren’t really cutting the arts at all in our district.  They have been the last to go.  I don’t say this lightly.  When I was a principal in New York, the principal of an arts-integrated high school, the person that helped found the school with me, would kill me if she heard I was losing an art position if it wasn’t intentional.  This is based on research.  It’s based on numbers.  It’s based on curriculum.  I think in this particular context it makes sense.  Part of these meeting for the last couple of years, we talked about this last year, we talked about it the year before as well.  We have been talking about it for a while.  Additionally, at the high school level, we are proposing creating a new position which is a co-curricular/Athletics Director position.  We have a whole range of neat programs after school.  We have all of our sports and arts programs and music programs, Shakespeare, etc.  We have a couple of people on stipended positions managing all of that.  We would like to manage that in a tighter, more thoughtful, more deliberate way.  We would like to provide more supervision to our part-time folks, whether they are our own teachers that are coaching or external people that are coaching.  This full-time position we hope to partially offset it by reductions in the current stipended positions that do that work.  We want some continuity; we want someone who is there on a regular basis whose sole job is to do this and support both the athletics and the extracurricular activities.  A couple of other areas; across other buildings we want to spend a little more money on instructional supplies, particularly funding for special education supplies which haven’t been fully funded historically.  In terms of professional development, I think this is the most important thing to invest money in, we want to use professional development to support teachers in changing their instructional approach.  Over time, we plan to do different things and different configurations and while I am happy to say most folks are content area experts, they really get their social studies, math, foreign language; I think folks could use some more support in working with a wide range of kids across different context.  Investing some resources there will help.  The other thing we want to do is to support additional opportunities for inclusion so that kids with needs are special needs are part of a regular class and not separated.  One of the best ways to do that is to have a content-area teacher paired with a special ed specialist.  The kids benefit from the expertise of the content-area teacher and they also benefit from the special ed teacher to really target learning styles and differences; then you put two thoughtful people together and a little time to plan and student achievement and growth goes through the roof.  We run an after school program that is pretty neat.  It is largely funded through Project Connection which is a federal grant.  The grant is a 21st Century grant.  We are seen as exemplary which is great.  We would like to invest a few more resources there and we will likely come back to you after the budget process with some additional options for parents to participate more.  The grant right now is targeted at high needs students, both from an economic perspective and an academic perspective.  Having a targeted program like that, some other students who would like to participate haven’t been able to.  We will come back to talk to you more about that.  The next could be a hot-button issue.  We want to have some support around communications.  We are not sure if that is a position or a consultant to work with us and I don’t need someone to write press releases, I can still do my own press releases, but I could use some help around outreach, getting things out, work on our website, a whole host of things.  Right now, we are saying to could be FTE or a partial position or somebody contracted.  In my mind, we get the best bang for our buck if it is contracted but we are not fully there yet.  The last one that I will talk about is Other or Capital.  We have two new buildings, you are sitting in one of them and they aren’t so new anymore.  Things come up like the pipe at Muddy Brook.  Thankfully, our team was quick on that and insurance covered almost all of it which was great but we need to invest some resources in our existing buildings.  More importantly, we need to invest some resources in the high school and high school maintenance.  At the last meeting, the school committee led by the building and grounds folks and Amy, spent some time touring the science labs and what we are hoping to do in terms of upgrading those; for the moment the building that we have is the building that we have and we want to make the best of that.  The last one is, a couple of years ago, we created a stabilization fund and it is great that we created it but we haven’t put any resources into it.  We think it makes sense to do something with that that would be offset by E&D.   I think what we will do now, Sharon and I will switch places.  She will talk through the numbers and then after that the school committee can come back to the table and we will answer questions.
  • Harrison – The first thing we like to look at is Budget by Department. There is often a misconception that the district has millions of dollars because each of these schools has a certain amount to spend.  We like to show people exactly where the money is being spent.  Before the start, the benefits are allocated proportionally; so every person that gets a benefit, health insurance, dental insurance, it is assigned to the building where they are.  We have included the full costs of schools, including facilities/grounds plus part of the transportation.  The first is Muddy Brook and the total cost, not allocating any of the district level, just what is at the school, is $5,694,331 or 20.8% of our budget.  You will see that most of our money is at the schools.  At the middle it is $5,262,377; a little bit under at 19.22%.  Again, you can see salaries, benefits, field trips, transportation, custodial, etc.  We are looking at what is the cost of running a school.  Monument as we all know it is going to be a larger budget at $7,319,149 or 26.74%.  We are looking at over 70% of the budget is directly at the schools.  Then, the student services are also at the schools but what we looked at was district-wide.  You also have out of district placements for students with specialized needs and that is $2,419,910 or 8.84%.  So we put the special education and transportation in this line.  We have a number of students with specialized transportation needs.  Facilities and Maintenance: even though Steve Soule, the Director of Operations does manage the custodial and maintenance work at the schools, we thought because that is a full-cost accounting what it takes to run the schools, we would put it with that.  You will see that the facilities and maintenance is basically everything except what is in the schools.  The utilities for the wastewater treatment center, the equipment maintenance, any new equipment, etc.  That is at $664,122 or 2.43%.  The School Committee, the school committee does not make that much money.  We put School Committee and Administration together because the school committee budget is so small that it really didn’t make sense to separate it out.  We have the salaries of the district-wide employees, Peter, myself, director of learning and teaching, our support staff at the business office, professional services and fees; district-wide those are mandatory services like legal, auditing, those kinds of services.  Professional development, that is the learning and teaching or DOLT department.  Other admin, supplies, printing and copying and then the rental.  That is $1,071,567 or $3.91%.  When you think about the district having money, that’s what the district is.  District, all other, it doesn’t really go into administration because that is not what administration uses, health insurance for retirees and anticipated new hires and we have a number of retirements so we are anticipating that they will get insurance.  The county-wide retirement system for non-certified staff, we get a bill from the county for them.  That is the amount of the bill.  Other benefits would include the FICA tax, workers’ compensation, those kinds of things.  Other insurances are property insurances, then we have our school choice out.  That is the cost of our students going to other schools, non-public transportation.  Districts, all school districts if it is regional or city or town, are obligated to supply transportation for those students in their district to go to private schools as long as the distance between their home and private school is equal or less than the distance to the public school.  So we have to provide that transportation.  Short-term borrowing interest and then contingency, we are in negotiations now with the teachers.  Two of our contracts are settled but we have the teachers that also include two of the positions that the school committee had approved position for.  The ELT and the Co-Curricular/Athletic Director that has not been put into the line yet until the budget is approved.   That is $4,236,562 or 15.48% of the budget.  Those are all basically mandatory expenses.  This is a summary.  We talked about the direct student services is almost 76% of our budget; District-Wide, all other, that is when we talked about those mandatory costs we have.  It is 15.48%.  School Committee is 3.91%.  Facilities & Maintenance is 2.43% and all of our technology costs and food services costs that are in the operating budget are 2.58%.  We wanted you to see exactly where your money is going.   This is the pie chart; you will see that education is a service business.  The majority of the funds are for salary and benefits.  Next, is tuition and educational professional services.  Then you have transportation and that is a mandatory service; we will be in the second year of a five year contract.  Educational materials and supplies, we are chipping away but it doesn’t make a major impact on the budget.  The Operating Budget; the gross budget is increasing; the proposal is that it is increasing by 3.44% or $910,323.  The net operating is slightly higher at 3.77% or $921,690.  It is going to be a bit different from what you have in your book because we discovered that it wasn’t picking up the E&D used from the stabilization fund.  If you look online, you will be able to find everything on the updated assessment sheet.  In case people are wondering, the difference between the gross and net budget; the gross budget is our total cost.  Then we take out the revenue from choice and tuition in and we get to the net operating budget.  That is actually the cost of the budget for the towns.  It has gone down slightly because we have projected before we are in negotiations for new tuition agreements so this was done before the tuition agreements were settled.  That may shift a tiny bit but that is why you see it down a little bit.  Choice level – it’s actually what I do; I go through our projected choice and look and every seat.  I look at the list that we have from what Peter was talking about, all the applications that have come in so far.  I look at all the 12th graders that won’t be here next year, look at all the available seats and compare it to the students that are already here and those that want to come here and it looks like choice will be level because it is actually down a little this year.  The revenue will be down a little this year.  With additional kids coming in next year I think the amount of revenue will be less.  Tuition is down a little bit after the use of $50,000 in reserve because as Rich said, our neighbors, their population is going down as well.  Capital budget is a little different this year.  We have the elementary and middle school construction gone at $1,808,750 and we have four more years after this.  We have our short-term borrowing.  For those of you that have been with us for a while, we borrowed for two years in a row for technology to get new equipment, repair the tennis court and the track.  That’s what that short-term is.  It’s capital improvement so we put the high school repair and maintenance in the capital budget instead of the operating budget.  In the stabilization fund, it isn’t actually $116,000 it’s $100,000.  The stabilization will be offset by the same amount from E&D.  Revenue from a number of sources, obviously the largest is from the towns but Chapter 70 which is the state funding for education, we are projecting from House One, is going up 1.1% and that is because they are going to give us $20 more per student.  When you read in the paper that we are funding education at the highest amount we ever had, it does not mean that every district is getting the highest amount they ever have.  Chapter 71 because of the projection, it is the regional transportation reimbursement.  It is based on the previous year’s cost and the percentage of reimbursement that goes into the budget that the state votes usually by July or August.  Because the first year our costs went up significantly and has gone up incrementally during the last few years, the contract was much larger so I projected greater cost which will be great revenue.  School choice we talked about.  Tuition is down a tiny bit.  That may actually go back up once the agreements are settled.  MSBA is the reimbursement from the state for the school bonds.  That stays the same every year.  Medicaid reimbursement, we get reimbursed by the federal government for cost of our students who are on Medicaid who are high costs for some of our special ed students.    Interest income and misc. income are exactly what it sounds like.  We get a refund that is from a different fiscal year.  I am looking at that as being down a little bit.  We had a few years where our misc. income was high, but this year it is much less so I am lowering it a bit for next year to be a bit more realistic.  E&D, this is the toughest part for me.  Excess and Deficiency is basically retained earnings.  It is that amount of money that you have over your expenses in any given year.  Right now we are $1,302,000.  We can keep up to 5% which would be about $16,000 more.  To reduce the operating budget, we put in $455,018 and we are recommending that if we are going to put money in stabilization, we use $100,000 so that it is a wash.  It offsets exactly and that is just under 35% of our E&D balance.  We are going to come to assessments; just like expenses, we wanted to share you where the bulk of money comes from as well as where it comes out.  Assessments are about 75%.  Chapter 70 is 9.83%.  In 2003, the benefit of Chapter 70 covered about 18.9%.  In addition to the budget going up, we were four or five school that had that happen.  What this next chart does, you can see it on your sheet, one of the questions that comes up from the towns is we have the greatest amount of money coming from assessments, what does that mean.  We wanted to look at that and the big piece there is Great Barrington which is more than 70%.  They pay about 54.4% of the cost and they have 55.41% of the students.  West Stockbridge is 9.81% and they have about 10% of enrollment.  Stockbridge has 10% of the revenue and about 10% of the students.  Three pieces go into the calculation assessments.  The population allocation which is how many students from each of the towns and what percentage does that represent.  The minimum local contribution is the minimum amount the state determines that a community should and is funding for education.  Net assessment – so the first two we don’t control those and the net assessment comes after we consider all of this.  What we often look at is all other things being equal.  Let’s say the budget did increase, there was no change in enrollment and no change in local contribution.  The increase would be 4.41% for Great Barrington, 5.01% for Stockbridge and 7.64% for West Stockbridge.  We know that is not the case because as you see in the next slides, Great Barrington’s population went up slightly, Stockbridge went down a little and West Stockbridge was a smidge higher.  Right there you have a percentage change.  The minimum local contribution we talked about, the community has to spend that minimum amount.  Again when we talk about Chapter 70, you see the greatest amount that is where that extra money is going because there are a number of communities, larger cities that have a greater poverty rate, they never meet that minimum.  The state is funding them at a higher about to get them up to the minimum.  This is where our big change occurred this year.  Great Barrington’s went from $6,895,406 to $7,192,554.  That is a couple percentages increase.  Even if our budget didn’t’ change, there would still be a percentage increase to Great Barrington.  Stockbridge went down almost $100,000 and West Stockbridge, the same thing; almost $100,000.  You are going to see that impact in the assessment.  Here is the net assessment.  It is not a 1:1 obviously but I just wanted to point that out before we even look at the net assessment change.  Great Barrington’s net assessment in this proposed budget goes from $15,329,397 to $16,357,318; Stockbridge is $3,070,805 and goes down to $2,964,186.  That was a decrease in population, decrease in minimum local contribution.  West Stockbridge goes from $2,869,223 up a tiny bit to $2,896.852.  Their population went up a little bit.  Their minimum local went down a little bit.  P. Dillon:  If you remember last year, it was the opposite for Stockbridge and West Stockbridge so sometimes one goes up and one goes down.  S. Harrison:  The net budget went up in total assessment 4.46%.  We had those changes and only 1% in Chapter 70.  We had a decrease in misc. income.  That ripples down so 4.46% or $948,930.  The change to Great Barrington is 6.17% which is just over one million.  Stockbridge again is down.  We saw that on the previous slide and West Stockbridge is up slightly to just under 1% or $27,629.
  • Bannon – if there is anyone in the audience with questions, the public hearing is in two weeks, but we are happy to take questions. D. Bailly – 207 North Street, Housatonic – First question, is there any work being done from the school committee to look at the minimum local contribution formula that the state has put out to try to figure out something that might be more stable and fair?  P. Dillon – I don’t think there is a lot to do around the minimum local contribution.  We are a separate party to a larger group of rural school districts and they have a proposal to have additional allocation of rural sparsity aid allocation.  That is going through a process.  They formed a committee, they are doing research.  It was presented.  I am not totally optimistic about that but the way they are trying to solve the problem is to attach an additional value for each student like $100 a student depending on the needs of the students.  I can share that with you but that is going on.  Last year, and you were part of it, we reworked the regional agreement so there are some changes there and the big one is …. D. Bailly – I thought the changes in the RAC show no effects on this budget.  P. Dillon – No.  R. Dohoney – there are rumblings of potential litigation other people have advocated for but if the appropriate lawsuit comes around, I would recommend that we join it.  I agree this is not fair.  My biggest pet peeve is, the only way we are allowed to generate revenue to pay for the schools is real estate taxes passed through the towns.  One of the main factors that is used to determine that is income tax of the payers in your town.  If I can’t charge you for it why are you measuring against it?  P. Dillon – this is also an ongoing budget review commission.  There are some opportunities there.  The auditor used to live in Great Barrington and did a big review of regional reports and we were one of three districts featured there.  There is some movement.  D. Bailly – Typically, what I know of the business, when revenue is down, and your expenses go up, you try to cut expenses.  Has there been any talk of this school committee trying to bring any of your expenses down?  P. Dillon – there has and there continues to be.  We are parties to the same solar agreement that your guys signed on to.  That is reducing and offsetting a lot of our electrical costs.  That is a big chunk of money.  It almost covers a position for the school district a year.  We did an LED light upgrade.  That save a bunch of money.  There is a recommendation in my proposed budget to eliminate and art position.  That’s not tons of money but a position is a position.  The school committee may very well say at the end of this meeting or the next one, could you come back to us with what $100,000 in cuts would be, or $500,000 in cuts.  We will do that and what often happens is I have all those recommendations and I come back and people like to do it because they do their due diligence.  Then when they see what it really means, they don’t want to do it because it is impactful.  S. Bannon – so where we are Dan is the process is … the school committee hasn’t asked, this is the first budget presentation, so we haven’t asked to look an anything.  After the public is done talking we will start to do that or not as the school committee may want.  I will have some questions as well.  D. Bailly – I hope the rest of the board does but especially the Great Barrington contingency.  If you guys want a 90% increase on your tax rate, vote for this budget.  R. Dohoney – you said though that revenue was down.  D. Bailly – it is up this year but in general or historic trends, your revenue has gone down at least according to what I was just reading.  R. Dohoney – what the state contributes to us has gone down ridiculously.  They are eroding us.  Also our state income tax has gone down over that same amount of time and the revenue base particularly in Great Barrington has gone up with the assessed value.  If you actually look at your personal tax picture, weighing your state and federal and local taxes, the taxpayer of Great Barrington is still getting a better deal than they were.  It is just flowing through different avenues.  Your state taxes have gone down.  That’s more income to keep in your pocket.  Unfortunately, you are paying it back in real estate taxes in Great Barrington.  B. Fields – Great Barrington pushed for lower choice.  When you see these numbers, the choice is down in the elementary school by 39 students.  Our choice is down in 9-12 by 38 so that is lowering revenue.  D. Bailly – so you haven’t done anything to balance that out.  S. Bannon – part of the problem when we talk about choice, and it took us awhile to be able to explain it and articulate it is, just because choice is down, doesn’t mean we have less expense because those are open seats.  Again, the school committee hasn’t discussed reducing anything.  We asked Peter to come back with a budget that was educationally sound.  D. Bailly – I didn’t mean to interrupt, the budget presentation was great.  Thank you.  P. Dillon – one other thing we have done, and this is really a testament to Kate’s work, the high needs special ed costs can be very high and we have been able to over time to take kids that would have been out of district placements and to bring them back into the districts.  That is good for three reasons.  It is good for kids and families when their kids can be here and not have to be bussed to Springfield or to another community and their friends are here.  It is good from an educational perspective because kids are integrated and then the third sort of wonderful thing is if we are able to meet the needs of kids in our own district it is often less expensive meeting their needs in a highly specialized program, particularly because of the bussing.  Bussing one kid to Northampton could almost cover the cost of a teacher’s salary.  That isn’t even educational because he is just riding the bus.  We have been able to bring back a number of kids and really save quite a bit of money.  I’m not talking tens of thousands; I’m talking $100,000+.  D. Bailly – reading the report again, I do see what you are doing for the special education and it seems like you are working had on that.  P. Dillon – there is always more to do and more to look at.  I think that we presented a thoughtful budget that meets the educational needs.  The tension is can we live with the fiscal implications of it.  D. Bailly – I guess where I am going is, these budgets, I assume there will be some changes, but it gets harder for especially Selectboarders to have a sustainable kind of budget on our end when we know there is going to be this huge drastic increase from the school budget.  It makes it difficult and sustainability is really tough and you can’t just look at a year to year kind of think.  You really need to start looking at what it is going to be in ten years and I know you are starting to talk with other schools that might help alleviate those kind of things.  Just as a comment, as an elected official, it gets harder and harder.  We have six more bridges in the town of Great Barrington that need repairs, bad repairs.  We are getting less and less money from the state for those things, just like you guys.  It gets hard for us to budget real things like that too.  P. Dillon – two things, all the development in Great Barrington recently is great but it also dings us in terms.  S. Bannon – it also increases the minimum local contribution.  R. Dohoney – what is proposed right now may change.  We are at a 3.4% increase over what we did last year.  For the next ten years, that is probably pretty predictable.  How that affects Great Barrington is totally unpredictable.  D. Bailly – there are other little things like our agreement.  Great Barrington theoretically only has ⅓ of the vote even though we are carrying more in-district kids.  I wish that got changed in the RAC but didn’t.  Apparently there are some legal ramifications why.  It really is kind of crazy.  That bothers me more than anything.  400 people can show up to the town meeting and say no we don’t want this budget then two weeks later we are there saying we have to.  We did it two years ago which is really not fair in any kind of world.  Along the lines of transportation, there is a line in your budget regarding out of public transportation; that is a state requirement?  P. Dillon – yes.  D. Bailly – and there is no way we can get reimbursed from those schools or anything?  P Dillon – we thought about a very creative thing and I think it is a slippery slope this is why we didn’t go down the road.  If the state is only reimbursing us at x% and we are paying the full cost of that, then should we say they need to pay us the amount that the state is not reimbursing us?  It is sort of interesting that the downside to it is, those folks are neighbors and they are also tax payers and I don’t think it is a good idea politically to alienate our neighbors and tax payers around that.  D. Bailly – but they can afford to send their kids to private schools, they can afford to pay for transportation.  P. Dillon – right, but the better thing to do might be to get together with all the regional schools and there is a group out of Wachusett that is really pushing hard on this to get that regional transportation reimbursed at the full value that was promised.  That has never happened.  We have talked about this a lot, you and I, but the contradiction is the state on the one hand wants people or districts to regionalize or consolidate or work together but the only direct incentive they have is regional transportation so they are talking out of both sides of their mouth.  R. Dohoney – they also talk a lot about reform that would maybe cut down on overall bussing costs.  That may render some fruit someday.  D. Bailly – one other thing, regarding programming, each year you pride yourself on a number of kids that are going to college at some specialized college.  Last year, I think there were four kids that went to MIT or something, and some went to Harvard, that speaks volumes to our high school and our whole system.  What kind of programming are you using to train kids that aren’t going to college.  How is that affecting the budget and do you see trends that, believe it or not Rich, I would love to see an increase in the budget for vocational training.  I would jump for joy if there was in increase for vocational training.  If my son ever decided that he didn’t want to go to college, my only choice would be for vocational training would be to send him to Taconic and I would not feel comfortable sending my son to Taconic.  P. Dillon – not everybody know this and we could always so more and we may do more shortly and there is a possibility we may do more collaboration with Southern Berkshire, Lee and Lenox and those conversations have been a lot around a viable vocational option in South County.  Some of the Lenox kids might be able to drive to Taconic to do that, for us and for the Southern Berkshire kids, the distance becomes and issue.  D. Bailly – it really isn’t feasible.  P. Dillon – we have two or three approved programs from the state perspective.  There is the automotive program, the horticulture program and the joint early childhood one.  The early childhood one, people get credit from BCC to be part of that.  There is the potential to set up people to teach and the automotive and horticulture ones are fairly straight forward.  We have worked some and Amy is doing this, there is an advisory group that will be meeting some more with the regional employment board and I think we are at the point where it makes sense to look again at what are the pressing needs and where are they growth opportunities and what are the programs and what programs can we offer; does it make sense to offer all the ones we have now or to change some and are there some that we could do in collaboration with the other districts.  The other thing that may make sense to do is to not build or create a whole separate place that is sort of a fake work environment but to have people do some work to get ready to work, then have those experiences more industry or community based.  You don’t have to have the fake hospital wing in the high school.  There is a hospital so many miles away and there might be a context to run a CNA program out of the hospital once people were better prepared to do that.  We have some work to do in order to do that but I think almost every time that group meets, we talk about additional vocational opportunities in South County and not the old school vocational but 21st Century vocational.  S. Bannon – if anything, that group has agreed and is positive about vocational in South County and it is 100% we all realize there is a need.  D. Bailly – working in the trade,  I can tell you there is not 18 year old kids that want to be a carpenter and the 25 year kids that show up on my job sites don’t know how to pound a nail.  P. Dillon – at one point, not so many years ago, we thought the former firehouse might become a vocational place.  It was written into the plan but that has just been slow in coming together.  S. Bannon – one of the things they have talked about a lot, beside the crafts, is the tourism industry.  Getting kids ready to go to work in our own Southern Berkshire County.  D. Bailly – skilled trades in general.  There are industries in Southern Berkshire County that look for hires.  It is hard for an 18 year old kid to get hired for a well-paying job because obviously they don’t have any experience.  R. Dohoney – I think a lot of people do this; we have this great success with the high achieving academic students going to these great places.  People will infer from that that we don’t have an equal commitment to the vocational stuff.  We have the three program in our school.  I believe those are the only three certified programs in Southern Berkshire County.  We have a strong commitment to it.  I think we are getting to a point to meet and realign it.  I think that is what you are saying.  That may mean more money.  I think everyone will agree with that.  I think we have maintained a stronger commitment to vocational any others.  D. Bailly – I am not denying that.  R. Dohoney – no, it’s important.  D. Bailly – it is a question if you are looking long term for sustainability, that is something to look at even if it does add to the cost because you would be getting your money back.  P. Dillon – I think as we go into Amy’s second year and she builds relationship with her staff, we will hear some more about that.  This is the year to build relationship and get a sense of things and plan.  Stay tuned for additional vocational ideas.  A. Potter – I think we need to acknowledge some of the community organizations that are doing work in this area as well.  We have Railroad Street Youth Project and some of the other organizations that are doing thing kind of mentoring activities by getting kids in the kitchen, into a variety of areas like cosmetology, etc.  There are things outside of the district where effort is being made and potentially partnership can be formed as well.  B. Fields – I know where you are going with the vocational and I think it is it good and I reiterate what was said before, but there is another thing and that is equipment.  Our woodworking program at the high school has grown from approximately 4 kids a couple of years ago to 30.  But you know, that has been our legal requirement as far as how many kinds you can have per machine in a room.  We have a very small room with some of the original equipment from the high school 50 years ago.  There has been no changes to that room.  We have an auto garage.  There has been really no changes in 50 years so we are going to have to do some real hard looking at where to we put…we are starting with this $116,000 but that doesn’t affect the areas that you are concerned with.  In a way we are looking to expand the vocational but where they are going to go into.  By state law you are going to be limited to the number of kids you can have fooling around with heavy equipment in both auto and woodworking.  Fooling around is the wrong word.  D. Bailly – I completely understand what you are saying Bill.  I fully understand that things need to be upgraded and that costs money.  Hopefully we can get into some of this when we finally get into the new school envisioning committee.  If those are the sort of things you need to budget for, then that great.  I understand your budgets are not going to go down.  That is not going to happen.  I am talking about controlling what you can control and if we are going to increase, let’s increase in a sensible kids of way and is beneficial to everybody not just one particular small section.  J. St. Peter – just one point of clarification, not directed at Dan, it was mentioned regarding the RAC there was going to be no change in the capital but looking at this, the $116,000 for the high school…..S. Bannon – that doesn’t change how it is allocated.  It is only new construction.  R. Dohoney – the RAC has a very narrow definition as to what goes under it.  Michelle Loubert, Park Street, Housatonic – I too want to thank Peter and Sharon for the excellent presentation; particularly Sharon.  You always present so well.  We may not always like the information but it is clear, open and transparent.  Part of me would like to see the Town of Great Barrington adapt some of your technical skills as far as PowerPoints and everything when they present as well.  Excellent job.  I know Great Barrington is doing its budget process and sometimes it is like this process here at Berkshire Hills it doesn’t exist.  I know Steve it is a little different for you; however for me it is painful to be at meeting like this or go to Finance Committee meetings at Berkshire Hills then move over and go to those same meetings in the Town of Great Barrington and all I keep hearing is, I’m a taxpayer, I’m not an elected official yet, but all I keep hearing is we are going to get killed.  I am not saying what you are asking for is justified or hasn’t been supported but my concern is for my own family this year.  It is impacting us and it is going to be devastating to my family.  Equally devastating is it is going to impact the visioning of a new high school.  Great Barrington is going to get this major hit and I’m out in the community, I’m talking to people; I’m not just at a table.  People are saying we are going to suffer this tax increase then a couple of years down the line, it is going to be the school renovation project again.  I just want to give you the head’s up on that as to what is being voiced.  That being said, I do have a couple of questions with regard to budget items, if that is okay.  You spoke to personnel and the Co-Curricular and Athletic Director and you said that it would be partially offset by the reduction in stipends.  What is partially?  P. Dillon – we have not set a salary yet and it is by design a position that is going to exist outside of the collective bargaining agreements, sort of like our food service director.  I think the amount of corresponding stipends is about $25,000.  In answering this, I don’t want to say what the potential salary is going to be but it may cover somewhere between 40 and 60% of it.  M. Loubert – I don’t know if I hear your correctly that this position is not just athletics, it would be theater.  The theater involves a lot of stipend work.  S. Bannon – the difference is this person would oversee.  They wouldn’t produce the play but they would oversee the after-school activities, coordinate who is hired, after-school use of the building, etc.  M. Loubert – so he or she would cross over based on need in those activities.  S. Bannon – yes.  M. Loubert – additionally on the after-school bus, has there been, and I know the answer to this already because it is Sharon, I assume there was analysis of a need for it.  S. Harrison – it has been requested actually by students and families for a number of years.  M. Loubert – I have just had experience with empty buses; not in this school district but in another district.  What is worse is seeing empty school buses where students are not utilizing them.  S. Harrison – it would be also, there are going to be group drops, not like you see for regular transportation.  We already have bus that is paid by a grant.  We just would like to expand it so we get more kids on because that bus is pretty well used.  P. Dillon – in particular, we have a real need for high school kids to go to downtown Great Barrington and all of those buses are always full.  For a whole host of reasons including work and internships so to be able to get kids safely into downtown would be great.  M. Loubert – has there been any look at public transportation?  I am just curious about that because having ridden the bus, for example, there is quite a group from Waldorf, the high school; at least one or two times a day the bus is almost full of those students.  Would it be possible to have some sort of communication with the BRTA because the express bus goes right by the school.  P. Dillon – we can look into it.  We did it a year to two ago but we can again.  M. Loubert – judging by the parking here, parents have cars, I think it was the meeting last week, I was at a library trustee meeting and there was not one legal parking spot available.  Obviously parents have cars.  Also with regard to the Communication Specialist, for me to be on board with that one, I would need a little more information.  I would like to hear more about what kind of outreach and I am just thinking for a future meeting maybe expanding that a little more.  Also, as far as the website, I know technology is its own forum and I get that.  It’s not an issue at all but I would like more information.  P. Dillon – we will come back at the next meeting on that as far as potential roles and tasks.  M. Loubert  – thank you very much.  S. Bannon – anyone else from the public?  Rich Bradway, East Main Street, Stockbridge – I know the answers to these but I want to propose a question so it is out there so that maybe we can avoid a debate in a couple of weeks.  The reduction in the art teacher staff; in the past the art teacher reduction has claimed to be to reduce a high school teacher but through tenure it often meant that a lower grade teacher would be cut then there would be a balancing act of supporting those lower schools in order to cut that high school teacher.  I just want to confirm that that would not be the case this time.  P. Dillon – that is correct.  That would not be the case through there are five art teachers district wide; all of the have professional status.  If the recommended reduction goes through it would be one of the three high school art teachers and it would not created a bumping effect that would impact the other schools.  R. Bradway – thank you.  One other question I had for you, are we actually staff our custodial staff especially at the middle school and the elementary school to full staffing?  In the past, we had cut one staffer and bounced one back and forth.  I am just curious.  P. Dillon – since you left the school committee, we totally fixed it.  R. Bradway – fixed what, the staffing or the schools?  P. Dillon – I left it hanging….the custodial thing is better.  We are fully staffed and feeling good about it.  R. Bradway – great.  Thank you.  D. Bailly – in your expenses, can you just clarify, you have other expense costs that is an increase of a little over 10% and professional development increase that about 18% totaling about $92,000.  Can you just give a little more information as to why those are double digit increases this year?  P. Dillon – there are a whole host of things we are doing around professional development.  One was the inclusion stuff I talked about.  The other is ongoing work in the schools all the time, investing in staff to meet kids where they are.  I am saying this in not in a blaming way, I am really excited about who comes in and what they come with, but people come with some assets and some challenges and we need to figure out better ways to work through all of that so that is why we are investing significantly there.  In the past and this predates me, we used to put a lot of money into bringing outside consultants in to do work and we have tried to balance that better so we are doing a little less of that.  Do any of the principals want to add anything pointed around professional development?  Do you want to go glanular at all on that?  Like why we are investing more in professional development going forward than we have in the past.  B. Doren – I can speak generally but Mary and Amy can follow up about their particular building.  We have been investing in professional development and are really starting to work collaboratively K-12.  Under the leadership of Kristi Farina who has coordinated professional development, we are looking to align our curricula, math, science, english, social studies, specials across the three buildings that we haven’t invested a lot of time in in the past.  We have really been doing a lot of work building by building, school by school; so that feel really excellent with Kristi coming on and leading directly with learning and teaching.  The other thing is I know at the middle school  and I know this is true at the elementary and the high school, is faculty has been asking for more professional development in social/emotional learning; becoming trauma informed schools and really being able to teach all students.  We have been doing piecemeal investment in that but there is a huge interest.  Kristi is also leading a district PD team that is bringing that to our teachers through faculty meeting as well as our half day tomorrow and our half day in April.  Then there is obvious need to increase collaboration for our teachers with new standards coming out in science and social studies and even updates in english and math so there are a lot of things we want to do and it is really one of the areas we haven’t invested in significantly.  P. Dillon – I think that is enough.  Thanks Ben.  D. Bailly – perfect, thank you.  S. Bannon – anyone else?  Ok, I will start the school committee discussion and I’ll say thank you to Peter and Sharon because this was a very clean presentation.  The whole process starting two weeks after the last budget which is when you really don’t want to talk about budgets ever again, but you need to.  This has been a really good process.  From my Great Barrington seat, I would say this about Stockbridge or West Stockbridge, we have a fiduciary responsibility to all three towns and my concern is that right now the Great Barrington budget as best I can figure out is proposed to go up about half a million dollars give or take.  It is not quite as clear as this.  Our budget is about a million dollars.  Percentagewise, we are probably a little less than Great Barrington in our increase.  Having said that, if both budgets increase by the amount that are proposed and this is early in the process, we would be over the levy limit by about $28,000.  I think that both the town and the school district have to look at this and figure out some cuts to keep us under the levy limit.  We have always been way under the levy limit and why we are in the position for another time.  I am not here to take the school budget and cut it by a million dollars.  I don’t think that is responsible but I would like to see the administration come back with some cuts and Sharon is not going to like this but I would like to use more E&D because our E&D is higher than it has ever been.  I am going to let you make those decisions.  I think things like a communication specialist, I need to be convinced and I am only one vote but that is really important enough to increase the budget so I would like to hear more about it.  I would like to see us cut about 20-25% of our total increase.  So about $250,000.  I’m not saying I will agree with all the cuts, but I want to see what it looks like.  P. Dillon – A clarifying question, as the folks in Great Barrington look to see how close they are to the levy limit, can they do their very careful homework to make sure what they are saying is accurate before they encourage us to move to a point that might not actually be real?  S. Bannon – I think that is a reasonable question and I am really proud to say that four out of five selectmen are here tonight from Great Barrington.  I am happy to see that.  I talked to Sean right before the meeting and he would have been here too if it wasn’t for another obligation.  I think that is something we all hear and I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole.  If that is not correct where we are, then I want us to know that.  I am not looking to take this budget and rip it apart and remove education in our district.  All I am asking, we all have to work together if in fact these numbers are correct.  I’m not even saying, when I see what your proposals are that I will agree with them.  I am not giving you a lot of work then saying I’ll go along with anything.  I want to see what it looks like; how it affects education in our district and if there is a way we can do it with minimal disruption.  After seeing the budget, I have some faith it will be a really well thought out proposal that you will bring back.  I know it is uncomfortable for you because I think the budget you have here is educationally sound and I think the minimum local contribution stayed the same, we wouldn’t even been having this discussion.  I have no doubt that this is a good budget.  I just think sometimes it is a perfect storm and that is where we might be.  P. Dillon – I am willing to do that but I am also curious if that is the will of the broader….S. Bannon – absolutely we are going to see if it is the will.  I am only one vote.  No matter what people think, I have the same power as anyone else here.  If I don’t get an agreement for the rest or at least a couple of people on the committee, that’s ok.  P. Dillon – it may be a useful exercise.  It shows what the impact it.  S. Bannon – anyone else want to speak on this?  Dan go ahead.  D. Weston – I am concerned for a number of reasons.  One, it is a high increase to Great Barrington.  A large part of it is not district making but we still have to cope with the fact that it exists.  We had a 0% increase in our health insurance premiums.  I am worried that next year when we have a 10% that they typically are, increase that it is going to be a compounded effect on the budget next year.  I am worried that we have pushed pretty far on the budget and in the future it is going to impact us in ways that we are not even fully understanding.  Additionally, I think we need to build some good will with the people if we do want to do a major high school project.  As we move forward, these huge increases are not sustainable to towns, to the school district and to the good will of the people.  It wears people out.  I fully understand Rich’s point that the state has shifted from state income tax to property tax and I am actually going to go home and analyse it to see how I did.  I have a lot of questions but as I listen to Great Barrington’s budget debate and I did attend their last finance select combined meeting because I try to go at least once a year to see what is going on for them, they have a lot of pressures.  Stockbridge has them too.  I know the Stockbridge assessment went down.  Great Barrington has six bridges; we have 20 bridges and all sorts of things.  I just worry that we have pushed too far on the budget and while we might pull it off this year, I think next year we are going to be in a heap of trouble with it because the health insurance will come back and we will be having to deal with that almost in a compounded fashion.  B. Fields – I would like to see what Steve is offered too.  R. Dohoney – I have a lot of questions in general too but how we are dealing with this topic, this sudden news that Great Barrington is in a jam, because it is sudden news to me and I’m a taxpayer there, you have to remember that every dollar that we cut, is only $.73 to the people in Great Barrington.  It is dollar for dollar when you cut on the selectboard.  S. Bannon – so I can be clear Rich, just let me take one minute.  When we get to the meeting of the finance committee and selectboard, I will be going along with cuts there too.  It has to be equal.  R. Dohoney – no, it has to be 30% more on the town side at least.  S. Bannon – but equal cooperation.  R. Dohoney – I agree.  We have seen forced reduction and revenue generation by consolidation by sharing services over the last five years that the town hasn’t done.  We have eliminated teachers, programs, Peter runs all over the county being superintendent for everybody and the town hasn’t been doing those same efforts over the last five years.  It is time to feel some pain on the town side.  I’m not saying I’m opposed to cuts, but there has to be some appreciation in the context and the scope of cooperation.  S. Bannon – any other questions?  Rich do you have questions you want to ask tonight or wait until after the public hearing?  R. Dohoney – either way is fine.  See, this goes back to my whole thing.  I have been trying to get away from bidding war of how much we make Peter cut and I thought this year our finance committee meetings and doing all that stuff was to eliminate that.  Even with the presentation, I have points of concern.  I can just raise them now.  If you ask for a vote to have Peter come back with $250,000 in cuts, I’m voting against it.  I don’t want to be disingenuous but there are things I could suggest cutting.  S. Bannon – I am willing to hear you.  R. Dohoney – my one point I have is we had a discussion with the population of the elementary school at the finance committee had how that may affect staffing and I want to make sure we are 100% on good footing when we make decisions based on that.  I am not saying what is in the budget is not right, but I think that is important.  The teacher subs lines 225, you are proposing $60,000 in the elementary school, $40,000 in the middle school and $65,000 in the high school?  S. Harrison – yes.  R. Dohoney – we had actuals of $78K at the high school even though we only budgeted $50K.  Do we know why that happened?  Why were we so far off last year?  How do we get to the number $65,000 for this year?  S. Bannon – I will have Sharon and Peter work on that and have the answers brought back for next meeting because I don’t want to put them on the spot like that.  R. Dohoney – Ok.  P. Dillon – the funny thing about that is I don’t want you to go back into a whole analysis but we the base people that get the flu and are out, we have two or three people in a particular building that have a serious medical need and your sub plan falls apart.  R. Dohoney – but we have long-term sub budget too though.  They are a separate line item.  The long-term sub would cover that, correct.  P. Dillon – yeah, it could.  R. Dohoney – I’ll say this, I think we can cut our sub budget.  I don’t know how you came out with the numbers before or for now, but I think we overdo subs at all three schools.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to this philosophy or reform but sometimes you cut something and you get a better product.  I think if we cut the sub budget, there would be less use of subs.  S. Bannon – Amy, come on down to the microphone.  R. Dohoney – I know I spoke to the high school but it is not targeted at the high school.  A. Rex – If I am correct, the long-term sub would only be projected.  If someone we knew was taking maternity leave or something of that nature, I know this year at the high school, we have had to put in a couple of long-term subs that were not anticipated.  That would come out of the regular sub budget.  R. Dohoney – ok, that makes sense.  P. Dillon – any other things?  R. Dohoney – I would like a detailed breakout of $25,000 of what we are cutting to hire the new …. What line items will be eliminated in light of the potential hiring of the new co-curricular activities director.  S. Harrison – stipends.  S. Bannon – I think there is a little philosophical difference because yes, the athletic director salary obviously, but if we fill some of the stipends next year for better transition or not is kind of up in the air.  I would like to cut those stipends and make someone swim without a life preserver right away but I understand maybe educational reasons say not to do that.  P. Dillon – what I will do, is next meeting I will bring back the memo that Marianne had written to approve the pilot program for this year that details the stipends for the athletic director, coverage for individual games and for secretarial support and that whole thing is $25,000 and the recommendation is that it all goes away the first year and in the second year there may be some additional reorganization and consolidation.  I’m not comfortable setting up a new person in a new role to do a very complicated job that they also have to define with us as they are doing it and take on a bunch or responsibilities outside of that.  R. Dohoney – I would like to see very clearly what that is.  Whenever you are adding a new position, people ask and they ask how much it is going to cost.  There is a number in contingency and that is not what it is going to cost.  So at least I can quantify it for what it is in my own mind.  I would rather keep the E&D withdrawal at 55 and take another 100K and move it to stabilization.  If people feel pressure from Great Barrington is so significant that we have to address it, then that $100,000 should go to reduce the overall assessment and not into stabilization now.  P. Dillon – that is a funny one though.  No matter what we do, we get beat up.  If we don’t set aside money for the eventual thing….D. Weston – the actual stabilization does get us very far.  It might get us far with helping Great Barrington.  It’s a token.  R. Dohoney – on the $116,000 for the capital, I know we talked about this already.  I am very in favor of doing those three science labs.  I was lukewarm on it before but dead set on it ever since we did the site visit.  I think we need hard numbers of what we need to get those science labs up to 2018 standards and if it is more than $116,000, I am more than willing to move that line item up, but if it is less I want to move it down.  I don’t want to go on an arbitrary number whatever that is.  P. Dillon – what I am hearing on that is we will bring very explicit detail to our next meeting around that.  R. Dohoney – don’t try to shoehorn a number into something you think you can sell us on.  We need perfect good modern science labs.  I don’t want to pay 80% of that then have a product that we have to upgrade down the road.  Just do it once and do it right and get it done.  S. Bannon – if for some reason it’s $350,000, then tell us that.  Say man that number’s off.  R. Dohoney – those are my thoughts.  B. Fields – can I ask something about this communications specialist?  At the next meeting could there be a detail of the job description with what benefits there are going to be?  I am hesitant to do this because I think a couple of years ago it came up and I had some real problems with it and one of the things I have always said is we have great students at the high school who are computer literate and much more than some people and that would be a perfect position for an internship for a year.  You groom kids each year and we have some expertise in that area in the intern program.  Instead of looking at a new position, maybe we could look at internships to do what this person would be doing.  S. Bannon – Peter said he will bring that back.  P. Dillon – I will bring it back and I wish I had a camera to take Eileen’s picture for her reaction to that.  R. Dohoney – I will comment on a few things so people don’t innodate Peter with questions.  It was my idea.  I think it is important and I don’t know if it has been framed properly and I haven’t put in the time to think exactly what the job description would be.  We are in need of more support at the administration level.  Administration has been stagnant in terms of the staffing for a long time while needs have been added on.  I think one of the things that these two people sitting here do is not so much time doing their work but translating it to others and getting it out there, processing it and putting it out there.  There is no organization of this size and this budget that doesn’t have someone that has some type of communications, public relations type component to it.  There is no organization more public and publicly scrutinized than we are.  My hope would be that we could craft a position that takes the heat off the administration to do those type of things, makes everyone’s jobs easier in terms of the budgeting and things of that nature.  That would be offset by revenue generated by the services are administration is doing for other districts.  A. Potter – I was going to say that.  What we are asking our administration to do in terms of shared services which has been a big push in terms of here we are, we are making that step and doing it.  This position at least my sense of this position is that it would take some of that load off of the administration because we are just asking for an awful lot and particularly in that area of communication.  P. Dillon – right now, and Sharon can clarify this, the additional revenue from the shared services is going to offset our existing loss so you could say the revenue we are bringing in could go to cover this position.  R. Bradway – I have one comment that might help.  One of the things as a parent, we instituted a new system called PowerSchool and while that system is helpful in tracking many things around how are students are doing and how our children are doing, it is also a communications tool to parents.  One thing that I have found as a parent that there not a consistency of practice in utilizing PowerSchool by our teachers.  Possible one potential benefit of having a communications person would be to help work with the teachers to provide a little more continuity in those communications because that is one thing that I find a bit lacking.  When I was on the school board, it wasn’t hard for me to know what was going on in the school district beyond where by child was but now being off the school board, I know a lot about what is going on at the middle school but I don’t know what is going on at the other schools and while not every parent wants to know that, there are a fair amount of parents who would like to see the big picture and I think that is one thing that is also lacking in terms of providing that big picture to parents.  That’s just my two cents.  P. Dillon – The only thing I would add is, I agree, it’s parents but it’s also the community as a whole.  We bring seniors for Thanksgiving and some holiday concerts, we do some stuff off site but if we are asking people to support our schools, we also have a greater obligation to share information about what we are doing with that support.  R. Bradway – I think some of these things can augment the need to … R. Dohoney – I am not looking to hire some Sarah Huckabee Sanders to give some fancy speeches.  It is the drudge work of implementing these programs.  PowerSchool is a great example.  If there was someone in charge with monitoring and compliance with that and assisting teachers and making sure it works, that is a huge deal.  I don’t want Peter doing that.  He is the guy doing it right now.  A. Potter – as Peter said, there is an obligation and the fact is the administration is doing it at a level now that is, it’s there.  Not only do we improve it but we lift some of that burden and make it work better.  M. Loubert – This sort of happens every year.  I get to a really nice place.  Peter and Sharon do this wonderful presentation.  I go to the meetings before this meeting and I’m getting what you are doing.  Then this conversation starts and so I am going to say a couple of things and it probably won’t be well received.  First off, the chair’s request for administration to look at a reduction; as a taxpayer, I see the administration coming back and presenting on that.  Whether the board votes for it or not, it is just good faith to the taxpayer.  It shows due diligence.  It shows an effort.  Somethings people will see it up there and not having a communication specialist really isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  I would highly recommend that that be done.  P. Dillon – it’s fine.  You don’t even have to recommend it.  We are going to do it anyway.  M. Loubert – Ok.  The other thing is and for a lack of a better word, I don’t really want to hear a pissing match between Berkshire Hills and the Town of Great Barrington.  What I am saying is, with all due respect, you better look at your budget before looking at ours kind of thing.  I am going to the Great Barrington meetings and to be honest with your, some of the people in this room don’t go to the Great Barrington meetings.  Some of the people in the Great Barrington selectboard don’t come to these meetings.  I’m seeing a huge disconnect between the two sides sometimes with the taxpayers getting squashed in the middle.  Mr. Bannon, I do expect the Town of Great Barrington to look their budget over and see what they can cut.  I do agree with Mr. Dohoney on that.  For the Town of Great Barrington, it is going to take a village.  We know the taxpayers are still going to get hit.  I felt that the Town of Great Barrington and the school district were working against one another, and I don’t want to see that.  S. Bannon – I can assure you that is not what is happening.  I think we both need to take equal responsibility for this and do our best.  I think we want to make sure Great Barrington has the accurate numbers before we have to do anything.  M. Loubert – I don’t want to see it in an angry way.  That is the feel that I am getting.  I know you are passionate about it and maybe I interpreted that as….I would like to see a calmer attitude towards it when it comes to the Town of Great Barrington.  Our selectboard leaders in the Town of Great Barrington, I really hope that they do look at the budget and I wish some finance committee people were here.  I am disappointed they are not.  S. Bannon – the one headline I don’t want to see Michelle, and it hasn’t happened, is that the school budget pushes Great Barrington over the levy limit because that is not the fact.  We all work together on this and we all need to figure out the best way for both of us to continue to work together.  M. Loubert – Steve, I am going to go to that meeting next week.  Just like the discussions here, I expect to hear the same discussion at that table as well.  S. Bannon – so do I.  P. Dillon – I am going to.  We will all be there together.  M. Loubert – thank you.  R. Dohoney – I will be there and I will try not to get angry.  D. Weston – you have to say comments to them because I actually don’t think we have been aggressive and I think I have been very protective to the Town of Great Barrington this evening.  M. Loubert – yes, I agree.  D. Weston – but there were comments made at that meeting I went to Tuesday night that were far more aggressive toward the school district then we have ever made toward the Town of Great Barrington.  So feel free to give that comment at that meeting too.  M. Loubert – I would be happy to but as you know we have the press here so I’m sure it is going to be in the press and one thing I am not shy about is in the community voicing my opinion.  S. Bannon – anything else on the budget for tonight? S. Bannon – I don’t’ want to put it to a vote.  R. Dohoney – I would vote to have the administration look at it.  S. Bannon – I want to see what it looks like and Michelle brought that up.  It may look…I have faith in the administration not to bring back something like we are going to close one building for 10 days; something ridiculous.  They will come back with something well thought out.  P. Dillon – like get rid of third grade…R. Dohoney – I guess what can’t be missed in whatever they come back with is the fact that what we have in front of us now is 11 months worth of budgeting and there are already pretty heavy cuts in this.  The whole point of the finance committee process was to have the last minute horse trade.  Now I feel like we have just doubled down by having a whole thorough evaluation for a year, making cuts where we thought it was possible without it affecting the quality of education and getting this pitted against yourself again.  S. Bannon – I don’t think we wasted it.  A. Potter – I am going to agree with Rich.  That is my sense of it.  A Lot of that work went into the budget during the process and that was the specific guidance was this is a realistic budget coming forward and now we are asking essentially to compromise on the compromise.  S. Bannon – let me just ask this question.  If we were able to know 11 months in advance what the minimum local contribution was, I would have at least asked for some guidance on how we were going to mitigate that.  Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that happened to us at the last minute one being the house budget.  We said this is a terrible way of doing it because we never do find our full revenue until after the town meeting.  P. Dillon – but the good one was the health insurance.  S. Bannon – again, I didn’t even bring that up but I can’t imagine what place we would be in if it wasn’t for that.  I think Dan brought up that it is one year and we can’t count on that for every year.  R. Dohoney – but knowing what our increase and fixed costs are and seeing a budget that only increases 3.4%, how can we continue to cut without affecting the quality of education?  S. Bannon – that is a good question.  R. Dohoney – if the increase to the budget was 10% right now, which it would be close to that if the health insurance went completely the other way, I would probably feel the same way.  I don’t know how you do better than 3.4%.  D. Weston – I am just going to say, I know we always try to budget in this ideal world and in the finance committee when I brought it up, that we have to consider what and give guidance because this is going to be a big impact to some towns, it always gets pushed off.  I brought it up at the last two meetings and I asked as two school committee meeting to have guidance and it just got pushed under the rug.  This is not a surprise.  I don’t think anybody should be frustrated and we are frustrated by the increase.  S. Bannon – anyone else.  We will move ahead.
  • Updates:
    • Southern Berkshire Shared Services Project – P. Dillon – there is a meeting in Lee on the 28th at 4:30 at Lee High School. At that point, there are three things we are going to share.  The calendars are not perfectly aligned but are aligned for multiple days for PD and break.  I will come back with a proposal around some potential facilitators for the group.  Jake Eberwine took on taking the four or five lists from the south county districts and dumping them all into an excel spreadsheet so the group can go through a process and together prioritize what they want to do.
    • Substance Abuse – there has been a lot of coverage from our local media about the substance abuse at the high school and we have been working through that very carefully and working closely with local law enforcement as well as the broader mental health community and we have a lot of work to do there but we also have a good handle on that. There has been a lot of communication to parents, particularly from the high school about that.  It is an unpleasant situation and hopefully the worst of it is behind us.

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee: N/A
  • Building and Grounds Subcommittee: N/A
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Subcommittee: N/A
  • Technology Subcommittee: N/A
  • Finance Subcommittee: N/A
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Subcommittee: N/A

Personnel Report:

Business Operation:

Education News:

Old Business:

New Business:                      B. Fields – I would like to make a comment. I have been thinking in the last day, with the huge coverage of the shooting in Florida that I think it is time, I never thought I would say this, the last time this committee discussed at length a school resource officer, it didn’t go over well.  I was one of those people that did not like that idea.  I think this committee at some point after this budget, and it could have ramifications to this budget depending on the will of the committee, should look at establishing some sort of resource school officer.  I am not sure how it would work.  I wasn’t privy to all the discussions that went on last time but I think it is time we address this issue.  I am sorry to have to say it, I never thought it would come up and I never thought we needed it, but I think with what is going on and the over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook.  I think we really have to look seriously as a school committee at employing that.  The second point is, I would like to have the school committee, I always seem to give little assignments, there was a great article on teaching in the Berkshire Eagle this past Sunday.  It was front page and written by one of the social studies favorite students when I was teaching there, Amanda Drane.  I think everyone on the committee should read that and to understand what teachers are undergoing today in regards to not just my favorite topic, testing, but also the pressures they are under in regards to the students that have changed and the intense pressure that teachers feel in their work day and then how it is carried off.  It was basically about some retired teacher or who are going to retire, but certainly stands to reach that all teachers are going through it.  It was an excellent article and I think it is important for us who are dealing with education to read it and give us a better idea of what is going on in some of the schools.  S. Bannon – it is too late for this budget.  It doesn’t mean we couldn’t fund it somehow.  We will put it on an agenda for discussion.  R. Dohoney – maybe a broader agenda item or a presentation from the administration just addressing the school shooting/violence issue generally and if what is born out of an analysis of that is a school resource officer then we can pursue it.  There are a lot of potential issues to discuss to address our fears of a school shooting.  I frankly have never gotten a good answer to what we do as a district to enable our kids to feel comfortable coming forward if they think one of these situations is possible.  From kindergarten they are taught if you’re sexually abused, you do this,  I have never had any of my kids come home and try to tell me that I was told if I thought one of my friends is thinking weird thoughts, I should go tell somebody.  I’m not saying it isn’t going on, I just want to know.  That is something I would like to hear about.  This kid yesterday has stuff all over the internet apparently about it.  There is an educational component to it too.  If our community decided for the other issues of the school, we don’t need a resource officer.  If you agree with that or not, because that position provides a lot of services.  We are not just protecting for this situation.  If we are trying to address the shooting situation, there are a lot of things to talk about.  I don’t know if we can do much anyway.  S. Bannon – we will come back with that.   E. Mooney – (not at a microphone, unable to hear her questions).

  • Public Comment
  • Written Communication

MOTION TO ADJOURN:   A. Potter                   Seconded:  J. St. Peter                       Accepted: Unanimous

 The next school committee meeting will be held on March 1, 2018 – Public Meeting – Monument Valley Regional Middle School, 7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 9:15 pm

Submitted by:  Christine M. Kelly, Recorder