Thursday, January 13, 2011

1/13/2010 BOE Public Budget Preview Meeting #2

Reminder that tonight at 7:30pm at Dodd Middle School, the BOE will review the following budget items:
  • Instructional Expense
  • Support Services
  • Maintenance & Operations
Regarding Tuesday's meeting attendance was minimal, I counted 30-35 people in the audience. I don't know if the weather was a factor preventing folks from attending the meeting but I was surprised at the low turnout. Facing a very possible $1.5M budget reduction, I hope we have a better turnout tonight and throughout the remainder of the budget process.

The Cheshire Patch publshed a story on Tuesday's meeting. which can read here. Small Turnout for Big Budget.


Anonymous said...

I was at Tuesday's meeting at saw the low turnout. After being there and sitting through what was essentially a reading of the budget I don't blame people for not showing up. I learned nothing from that I could not gather from reading it myself.

I was expecting to hear more questions not from the public but from the members of the BOE. Why weren't the elected officials asking questions or proposing things? I don't think you should be keeping your positions on Florio's budget secret.

I also think the Budget Presentation the previous week made it seem that the public's opinion would only be taken and heard at the Public Hearing. This and the weather might have impacted turnout also.

Tony Perugini said...

"I don't think you should be keeping your positions on Florio's budget secret."

1:09, I wrote a very long response here but decided to put it into a new post so it's in the forefront and not lost among the various posts. See the main page.

Anonymous said...

Is it a new post because I'm not finding it.

Anonymous said...

I've been to many budget meetings in the past and they do seem to be all the same. Same questions every time and in the end the board trims some and then sends it to the TC to do the rest. Then the public blames the council for taking more away, etc, etc.

This year though when I watched the original presentation on channel 14, I was glad to hear the board asking the public to bring forward ideas and suggestions.

Here's what I suggest -
1. If your short say 1.5 million, then first see if you can take some from the medical trust fund.

2. Raise sports fees to make up some more of the difference.

3. Then whatever is left that you need to make up, trim employees across the whole district. Figure it based on the size of the group (sec'ys, custodial, teachers, admin., etc) and make the reductions that way. Perhaps you'll reduce by 2 secy's, 2 custodial, 3 admin., 10 teachers whatever. As long it's spread fairly across the board no group can really complain.

End of story. If the State comes up with a bigger ECS number later on (haha) then you can adjust the scenario.

Tony Perugini said...

"Is it a new post because I'm not finding it."

It took me a while to write it, but it's up now.

bill said...

It is my understanding that once funds are transferred into the Medical Trust Account those funds cannot be transferred out for other purposes. It is possible not to transfer all of budgeted funds into the trust account if the forward looking projections for monthly medical claims seems to be lower than planned. This would not happen until the April or later time frame. I have always been a supporter of ensuring all of the planned funds for medical are transferred into the trust fund and if claims are lower than expected the money is allowed to be carried over for the next fiscal year.

It may have come time to expand pay to play to the full amount. I like what I think I heard during the first meeting where we will be able to see a list showing mandated & funded; mandated & not funded and not mandated. As extracurricular activities are not mandated then it would makes sense to focus operating dollars on mandated line items first.

Tony Perugini said...

Bill, there's some rhetoric going around that money in the MTF is being used to pay for operating budget items and that it's supposedly a slush fund of sorts.

Is the MTF a cushion? Yes, it's a cushion for medical claims. It's not a cushion for say repairing a leaking roof or hiring additional teachers or purchasing Smart Boards in the operating budget. During my time on the BOE and following this account closely, I don't see transfers out of the MTF that violate it's intended purpose.

In fact, proof that it is indeed a cushion can be found in the current Superintendent's recommendation. Page 1, ACCT 201 "Medical Benefits" indicates that $225,000 is being used from the 2010-2011 MTF balance to offset some of the medical cost increases in the 2011-2012 budget.
" It is possible not to transfer all of budgeted funds into the trust account if the forward looking projections for monthly medical claims seems to be lower than planned."

Yes, this is possible. In fact, I expect this to be the case between now and June 30th before the current budget is closed. While I can't predict what the future medical claims are going to be, we seem to be trending downward, albeit not much.

Here's a hypothetical situation, say at the end of the school year it turns out that we have $300K leftover in the budget...after all bills/obligations are paid. Additionally, our MTF is sufficiently funded. What does the BOE do with the $300K? Does it give it back to the Town? Does it get put into the MTF for good measure? Does it get spent on pre-paid items for the coming school year?

At the end of the 2009/2010 school year, there was ~$320K leftover in the budget. That amount was transferred to the MTF.

This school year IF there's a money leftover AND the MTF is in good shape, I'm inclined to recommend that the money be put towards the ~$500K shortfall in special education. This may be something we can start doing right now on a monthly basis. This will be addressed soon at an upcoming Finance committee meeting.

"As extracurricular activities are not mandated then it would makes sense to focus operating dollars on mandated line items first."

I agree and this is a recommendation I will be making to the finance committee, planning and BOE as a whole. The challenge is having adequate time and data to support this measure. Be it requiring that the participation fee FULLY supports extra-curricular activities and/or partial...we need to be fair in how we implement this.

Some activities cost more than others and I would hate to see someone pay a substantial fee if their activity is a small portion of the cost compared to say hockey. The other area that needs focus is clear accounting on the money taken in from participation fees and money paid out to support extra-curricular activities. I want transparency here and I'm certain that parents will demand full transparency if they're being asked to foot the entire bill.

I believe this is something that can be done but will require the finance committee & administration to study and adopt after a budget is adopted by 2/15. The finance committee's work is far from over this week.

Anonymous said...

If an elem school (Chapman) is going to be closed in the future, instead of closing it all at once, perhaps it could be done gradually. For example, next year it would only have grades 2-6, as incoming 1st graders would be sent elsewhere. The following years, you would have only grades 3-6, then 4-6. This might lesson the blow and may not require a wholesale redistricting.