Friday, November 4, 2011

11/3 BOE Meeting/Turf-Related Motions Passed

Almost a year later from when I initially requested these policies the BOE finally voted on (and passed) the following motions related to the financial aspects of capturing funds for future turf replacement. While the field is certainly a town-owned asset, this BOE felt an obligation to help defray future replacement costs towards the turf. In order to capture funds raised for this effort, the following motions were drafted by the policy committee:

“That the Cheshire Board of Education request that the Cheshire Town Council establish a reserve fund to serve as a repository of  funds that are to be used for the sole purpose of defraying any future costs associated with the replacement of the synthetic turf field at Cheshire High School that was installed in 2011.”

This motion requests that the Town Council establish a town reserve fund to capture funds for future turf replacement. The BOE's intent is to have a respository whereby donations, field revenue, banner sales, field rental income can be deposited, tracked and controlled. The mechanisms around how money is moved into this account, reporting requirements and the like will be up for discussion by the town council if it chooses to consider this motion.

“That the Cheshire Board of Education direct the Superintendent of Schools to amend the regulations associated with Policy #3453-Student Activity Fund to include the following:

The Cheshire High School Student Activity Fund shall have a subaccount designated as Cheshire High School Turf Replacement Fund.

Funds deposited into the Cheshire High School Turf Replacement Fund shall be made from the following:  a portion of ticket sales and gate receipts for events held on the synthetic turf field; field usage and rental fees collected from organizations for usage of the synthetic turf field; and receipts from Cheshire Youth Sports Programs for usage of the synthetic turf field for events, practices and games.

At least annually, any balance in the Cheshire High School Turf Replacement fund shall be transferred to the Town of Cheshire Reserve Fund designated for Synthetic Turf Replacement.”

This motion is specific to the BOE's accounting. Namely, a seperate budget account will be created to capture funds in the budget (by the defined activities above). The goal is to break out athletic revenue from turf replacement revenue. The BOE Finance Committee is now tasked with establishing reporting and auditing mechanisms around these activities and this account. I expect draft procedures in the coming weeks.

We've already had intest in renting the field to host State championship/playoff games which we had to turn down since the track portion is in the middle of construction.

As far as who determines the prices for tickets, field rental, etc. noted above Dr. Florio confirmed that it's the CHS Athletic Director, CHS Principal in conjunction with the administration. As of today, nothing has been established on pricing other than what's been presented in Vincent Mascianna's plan, yet. It's worth nothing that during the first year of the new turf field, the BOE will not be charging local youth/sports organizations that have donated towards the turf installation.

“That the Cheshire Board of Education include a line item in the annual operating budget in the maintenance account designated, ‘Annual Contribution – Turf Replacement Fund.’   It is the intention of the Board to designate those monies currently associated with maintaining the sod field into an account to offset the future replacement cost of the synthetic turf field.  The amount of said line item for 2012/13 shall be approximately $13,000.  The amount contributed each year shall be at the discretion of the Board of Education based on the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools and shall be based on the status of the budget at the close of the fiscal year.”

This motion was a source of contention for me. The policy committee drafted this motion with the intent of capturing the "grass field savings" and putting that "savings" towards the turf replacement fund. It was validated by Vincent Mascianna that the actual average cost of maintaining the grass field is ~$17,xxx.xx annually.  A far cry from the $36K savings touted by Bob Behrer and others. The maintenance of the Turf is budgeted at just under $5K.

In my view, I don't believe we should be budgeting savings in this manner. Nor do I believe we should budget the savings towards future turf replacement. In essence, I'm not in favor of moving money from the operating budget into a fund account especially in the middle of a school year whereby anything can happen which can adversely affect the current budget. Frankly, I'd rather use this money in this current budget towards higher priority items in the budget be it an additional part-time IA at Doolittle, additional textbooks/supplies, all of things that the administration touts as being underfunded. Granted, it's not a lot of money but it helps.

The policy amended the motion as indicated above. This motion, in hindsight, is really not neccessary. The intent is good. But, the BOE and/or Superintendent can make a recommendation at any time without this policy in place. I have no intention of making any such recommendation until the end of the school year when the budget is being closed. Even then, I'd rather put any surplus towards higher priority items or give it back to the town as we did with the 2010-2011 surplus. At least this account will exist in the MUNIS system so there will be a record tracking when deposits are made, if any, by future BOE's.

Of course, all of this is moot if the Town Council doesn't establish a fund account (Motion #1) to capture this money. I expect a lengthy discussion by the town council on this request as it's probably the first of it's kind for Cheshire.


Anonymous said...

I see that the year "2011" was included in the motion. If the field needs to be replaced in 2019 and then again in 2027, I guess the taxpayers will be paying the cost for that second replacement. I just wish people would stop saying that this field isn't using taxpayers' money.
How can there be a $17000 savings in the budget if it's just being put in a different account? It shouldn't be in the budget at all. So we haven't reduced the budget, we just increased it by $5000 maintenance costs for turf.

Tim White said...

If I'm reading the sheet correctly, in August 2010 Bob B suggested maintenance costs avoided would be about $12,000 / year.

Tim White said...

If I'm reading this correctly, it seems that there's an emphasis on tracking revenue to offset the replacement costs. But I'm also wondering about expenses incurred in the annual operating budgets of either the BOE or Council.

Tony, do you or anyone (or either body -- BOE or Council) advocate tracking any costs related to the annual operating budget? Not that you should know about others, but maybe you'd have an idea...

If it gets established similar to the sewer or pool funds, then finance staff should have the ability to track costs... though I fully recognize that allocated costs (i.e. payroll costs for a finance dept employee who spends some time on tracking turfs costs) are quite different from cash outlays related exclusively to the turf (i.e. a replacement or maintenance product for the turf).

Tim White said...

And thanks for the update on this.

Anonymous said...

This seems wrong to me. Nothing against the Turf, but only donated or fund raised money should be in this account. The field is not a Town business or else everything else should have a "replacement fund" i.e. my street paving fund, the pool fund ,and other town buildings fund. Have I missed something? I thought my taxes went to the general Town fund and the TC & BOE (who I vote for) sees fit on how to spend it and not saved for a specific purpose.

Anonymous said...

So much for an education budget that's been "assaulted, hacked and slashed". Apparently the town council missed $13K during the "assault" right Mr. Talbot? Gotta love the dumbocrats.

Breachway said...

I hope Tim Slocum's "mandate" doesn't include using a town acct to use so called "savings" to fund more turf. I kind of thought the "savings" angle was going to allow more funds for something else - like education - thats the E in BOE...I have bitched about the turf and track project not because i dont want to see the kids enjoy a good safe surface to perform on, but because I figured this is how it was going to turn out.....first you go against the track referendum vote and now what was suppose to be funded by donations is going to be funded by the "savings"?

Breachway said...

I have said several times that the town should contract out grass curtting, flower bed weeding etc to a landscape company to save money.....I would bet someone could have maintained the field for less than 17k....too much.

Anonymous said...

If the town won't consider combining the redundant maintenance departments between the town and the boe there's no way they'll consider outsourcing grass maintenance.

It still amazes me how a board of education is responsible for maintenance of town owned properties.

Tim White said...

Breach... I'm curious to know if there's going to be any recording of actual ongoing costs related to the turf revenues.

Based on the crickets I've gotten on this topic in the past few weeks on this blog... my guess is the intention is to employ government's well-worn mantra "deny, defer, delay." That's what appears to have been happening with the turf for the past year.

But hey, maybe the new Council will surprise me!

Tony Perugini said...

"Based on the crickets I've gotten on this topic in the past few weeks on this blog... my guess is the intention is to employ government's well-worn mantra "deny, defer, delay." That's what appears to have been happening with the turf for the past year."

Tim, if this was meant for me then I apologize for not getting back to your question about tracking ongoing costs for turf. The short answer, from the boe side, is that yes it is my intention to do so through the finance committee.

In some of the IT organizations I led, I tracked my employees time and cost against projects. They were responsible for allocating the time they spent to certain categories in a time management system. I tracked capital and non-capital time. Capital time was usually broken down into projects. If we were developing a new HR system, the software would capture how much time my team spent on the capital project.

I considered non-capital time as time spent on maintenance, break-fix tasks, meetings, etc.

For each employee, there was a fixed hourly cost for them built into the system. Periodically, I would check to see if the projects were on budget or not. We also tracked non-human costs in the system as well such as computers, software, licenses, etc. It was fairly easy to report just how much a project was costing.

We later expanded this concept to our business partners. They used it to track their costs against revenue and make adjustments where needed.

From a management point of view, it helped our leaders build more efficient teams, identify cost savings, etc. It also quickly identified which revenue streams were better than others (i.e. least costly vs. others).

The point here is that I think the town could benefit from a system similar to this. The ability to track people's time against projects (i.e. categories such as "Turf") and be able to roll that up in MUNIS would be a plus.

I think it would foster transparency and consistency in our reporting. I think it would also help our leadership find areas where effeciency could be improved.

Literally, one would be able to drill down into say "Pool" or "Turf" and easily see the true bottom line, drill into costs,revenue, employee time, etc.

There are a myriad of systems that do this but I'd be surprised if MUNIS didn't have an add-on module for project costing/time management.

Tony Perugini said...

Breachway the budgeting of "savings" for turf was proposed by the BOE and not the Town Council and was most likely news to Tim Slocum when he read it on my blog.

That specific provision, to budget grass savings, was driven by Peter Talbot.

Tim White said...

Thank you, Tony. But no, I wasn't referring to you. I was referring to this comment (at October 29, 2011 9:58 PM) from our Council Chairman. Considering that he was belittling me, I think the least he could do is answer my question (same post @ October 30, 2011 5:28 PM) and explain what I'm missing.

Of course, if you are right -- and I trust that you did ask the Council about the turf funding mechanism twelve months ago -- then it may be one of those "tough questions" that politicians don't like and just try to avoid at all costs, especially before elections. Not sure.

Regardless of whether an apology is merited, I certainly hope the Council clearly articulates to the public where costs will be incurred for the turf. And if there are budgetary constraints and cuts next April... then we will have more context as we judge our elected officials.

After a year has passed, vacuous explanations for the turf funding (i.e. "not a budget buster") are not only unacceptable… they're also highly Washingtonian IMO.

Tony… you've laid it on the line and said where you stand. I appreciate and respect that.

Why the Council has apparently been unwilling to do that for the past year is beyond me. Unless of course it goes back to my unfortunate conclusion that the Council has decided that "deny, defer, delay" is the best way to govern.

Tony... I hope I'm wrong about what I'm saying. But if I don't get an explanation... can you think of another reasonable explanation?

Tim White said...

Tony... with regard to your idea of time management, I wholeheartedly agree.

Of course, there would be a cost involved. But of the MUNIS modules I recall, they tended to be in the range of $2,000 + training (data input should be simple, but I have no idea about report-writing). I think $2,000 to $3,000 would be an acceptable cost for the huge benefit it would offer: time management.

I think the bigger issue would be getting employee buy-in. Eventually though (maybe after a few months) management would work through the kinks and be able to produce useful reports.

For me, the big benefit would come at budget time. Rather than the usual reliance on staff, elected officials could more easily identify programs and services that they think should be funded, increased, decreased, etc... and no positions (or even departments) would need to be mentioned... thus reducing the perception of politics (favoritism, retaliation, etc.).

I encourage you to bring that to the next BOE meeting and try to fast track it. I think the benefit could be huge.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my comment on your cranium's penetration quotient bothered you. I had know idea you had thin skin as you have never considered that when throwing your spears.

While I don't need Tony defending me and the council I appreciate his detailed explanations on what the BOE hopes to do and where the TC fits into all of this. This should make it abundently clear to you and any one else reading all these posts that nothing regarding turf replacement has been passed forward to the Council to date.

Yes the council heard suggestions for ways to pay for replacement turf down the road as the turf committee was making its case for the turf field a year ago or more but this was part of their sales pitch in my estimation. Council hasn't denied, deferred or delayed anything on the turf replacement. (I suppose proponants could make a case that the turf field was delayed.:0))

I think a few posts here have made a good case for setting up a fund and others for not doing it at all. Council will create a fund account if asked and approved.

I am very suspicious of budgeting "maintenence savings" to a replacement fund. This is gov't speak for making a surplus dump fund. BOE's will have to continue to fund it. I suspect that may happen for awhile and may lapse when other priorities arise. Afterall, elected officials serve for terms and their ownership of policies gives way to changes new elected leaders put forth.

Tim Slocum

Tim White said...

Tim S… I don’t give a hoot what you call me. I really don’t. You’re free to do as you please. I just want to get answers when I ask questions (all the while remaining cognizant of the fact that this is volunteer and your time is limited). Anyway, you just said:

This should make it abundently clear to you and any one else reading all these posts that nothing regarding turf replacement has been passed forward to the Council to date.

As a rebuttal to Tony’s comment on Oct 2nd,2011:

Last November, the BOE voted to send the turf field project and two other requests to the Town Council for consideration.

Two of the three requests were heard by the Town Council. One involved accepting the grant for the turf field and other for the turf field project itself.

The third request was never put on a town council agenda. The third request entailed establishing a town account to capture future turf field replacement funds.

Furthermore, you asserted that the Council will act when – and only when – the BOE sends something to the Council. That makes sense. But then this makes me wonder…

How did the BOE send three requests to the Council a year ago, but the Council acted on only two of the requests? With regard to your above comment:

Yes the council heard suggestions for ways to pay for replacement turf down the road as the turf committee was making its case for the turf field a year ago or more but this was part of their sales pitch in my estimation.

Is that the answer to my question? Are you saying that the BOE must send a formal request to the Council (appropriate in my opinion), but there is no guarantee that the Council will entertain the request? It’s just a crapshoot on the part of the BOE? If -- in your estimation -- the formal request is inappropriate, then the Council will not hear it?

If so, that’s fair. This is politics. But then I think it’s also fair to characterize your Council’s modus operandi as “deny, defer, delay.” As that’s exactly what has happened for the past year if Tony’s assertion is true.

Tony and / or Tim S… what am I missing? Did the BOE make three requests? If so, how did the Council heard only two requests?

Also Tim S… ignoring the notion of a special turf fund for the moment… will you be advocating the capture and reporting of all costs related to turf? I don’t see any need to establish a special fund simply for management reporting purposes.

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