Monday, October 17, 2011

Live reporting - Joint Budget Subcommittee - 10/17/11

Present: S Whalen, J Roy, J Nutting, P Mullen, S Rohrbach, S Gagne, M Goodman, S Winslow, M Sabolinski, C Creedon, E Cafasso, T Powderly, S Mason, J Roche, P McIntyre, A McCall (Milford Daily News)

Absent: (Not completely clear who are the members and who are the other participants)

Scott Mason announced that the meeting is being recorded by the Franklin Matters website.

Jeff Roy opens with a goal to explain what the School Committee has done, folks here to answer questions in detail. To find out what is scheduled for the upcoming budget hearing.

Discussion on the unfair labor practice charge filed on Oct 9, 2009. The charge stemmed from the change made to the high school schedule without the teacher union participation in the agreement. Started negotiations Oct 14, 2009. Grievance filed, budget workshop held. In middle of negotiations with teachers union, full team effort. First time an attorney was used to conduct the negotiations. All conversations were conducted by and through counsel at the table.

Discussion on the most difficult and costly part of the school budget is the contract steps and lanes. 13 rows (years) down one side of the table and several lanes across from Bachelor degree up to Doctoral degree. The table itself is pretty universal across school districts. Until a couple of years ago, the tables were not published. DESE has posted them on line. It is an occasion to review the salary structure. The School Committee posed a table change with 8 levels and bonus criteria in Sep 2010. Negotiations continued and litigation continued. We were not getting anywhere. We were on a path that was not good for the district.

Discussion on negotiation tactics, what could be said, what was legally bound to be 'quiet'. The unfair labor practice was dropped due to the schedule being changed. Settled May 16th. Budget hearing on Feb 11, 2011. Budget hearing to FinCom on May 9, 2011. Jan 18, 2011 started discussion with teachers on increases. The SchCom was cognizant of the folks feeling uneasy about an increase. There was a number of iterations along the way and neither side could come to terms. On Jun 6, 2011 within a quarter of a percent but no movement on either side.

Discussion on the impact of the Jun 16 announcement on fire fighters getting their 7.5% increase to the negotiation status. The fire fighters matched what had already been done for the three prior years. Actually, it was less than others got for the time period. School Committee would have appreciated notice before the announcement. Communication among the boards recognized as room for improvement.

Discussion on the Budget hearing question about whether the increase was in the budget or not. Slides were prepared answering those very questions. Questions were not asked of the SchCom.

Jeff Roy: The fact of getting passed the unfair labor practice, getting the agreement on negotiations around the schedule should get some notice. These are historic. The next deal will be arrived at with interested based bargaining.

Q - If the 1% increase is not a COLA what is it?

Jeff Roy - It is an increase. It is recognition that will less teachers and more students, still performing at a high performance level. It is called "in good faith".

Steve Whalen - One of the themes for interest based bargaining is that there is interest in both sides. While I respect your decision, I can still disagree with it. I don't see how giving the increase for nothing other than an intent to bargain is in the interests of both sides.

Jeff Roy - It was the right thing to do at the right time.

Tina Powderly - To hear these things laid out was good. The policy is in your purview. No question about it. We still have a funding problem. The horse has left the barn and I don't really have a good answer.

Discussion around again on the Town Council budget hearing. Premise on what was being passed from SchCom to Town Council (which wasn't). Clarification about the question on COLA's was answered incorrectly by the Town Administrator and let be answered incorrectly by the SchCom. The School Committee is not coming back to the Budget or the Town Council looking for an increase in funding to cover the contract increase as the money was in the budget that was approved.

The Town Council had a policy and it was acknowledged by the School Committee as a disagreement.

Jim Roche - I'll have to take some blame for the budget. Budget vs. actual should be in the budget book.

Jeff Roy - our packet before each meeting is sent out to those who ask for it. The Milford Daily News gets a copy Franklin Matters gets a copy (and for the record, the packet has not been delivered for several months).

Cafasso - If there is an intent to cut the SchCom budget on Oct 26th, let's it get on the table.

Discussion goes around again. The process has been triggered. There are no 2 councilors who agree on what to do about this, so there is no decision on what will be done.

Jim Roche - questions on special revenue and how the money is used. What are the fund balances? What should be in there?

Jeff Roy - fund balances are part of the packet. The funds are out there and available anytime you want to know. It has taken me seven or eight years to understand the end of year report and I won't profess to be an expert on it.

Jim Roche - Clarification is what is looked for. There are many moving parts. It is a pretty confusing budget.

Jeff Nutting - it is part of every budget in the Commonwealth, it is not something everyone sees or votes on.

Jeff Roy - the reporting requirements are incredible. Getting Miriam Goodman on board has helped tremendously.

Jim Roche - I remember one year where there was one line item for the School budget and I voted 'no' on it cause I couldn't tell what was in it. Things have improved a great deal. We need questions to be raised and answered easily.

Scott Mason - I have asked each councilor to consider the issue and what questions they would have. I will not be getting their input collectively as it would violate open meeting law before the meeting.

Jeff Roy - What would you like to prepare for the meeting? would you like a presentation? SchCom members to answer questions?

Scott Mason - Yes, all of the above. The concern of the Council is "how the increase is going to be funded on a go forward basis?"

No other questions so the meeting has ended.

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