School Committee Night
When I walked in, the Tiverton School Committee was discussing the issuance of a few more layoff/non-renewal notices related to a possible move of the fifth grade (it sounded like) to the elementary schools. The move hasn’t even been considered, but the notices have to meet a deadline.
I may have noted this before, but the superintendent is expecting a 4% decrease in Blue Cross/Blue Shield costs. Nothing specific, yet, but an estimated savings (off next year’s budget) of $100,000, based on higher premium payments than claims.
Town Administrator Jim Goncalo and Town Council President Don Bollin are here to address the committee reporting on the town council’s budget doings.
Goncalo met with all unions except fire seeking concessions. “If we are unable to acheive concessions, we’ll have to take more extreme measures.”
Bollin is asking for concessions from the school committee (as it were), specifically for some return of money allocated for, but not spent on, pensions ($548,000 from pension payment reductions related to the governor’s cutting of education aid).
The committee is going to have substantive discussion in executive session. They’re concluding that the governor’s supplemental budget is a wash for the school district. Mr. Bollin argued that, by the way budgets flow, the change wouldn’t be as “revenue neutral” as they assume.
Thanks to the can-kicking General Assembly, everything’s in limbo. Everybody’s trying to work out budgets on hypotheticals. The example is stunning.
Don Bollin reported that the town is hearing, as it tries to find potential cuts, questions (complaints) about whether the school department is doing anything at all to help with current budget problems, and the answer thus far has been “no.”
Let it be noted (although nobody of official capacity has done so) that the school committee would have certainly been able to assist the town with its budget shortfal — Bollin: “We’ve gotten to the point that we’re actually not going to pave a road,” for example — if it had not given hundreds of thousands of dollars away to the teachers, including in retroactive pay.
On discussion of why the committee can’t be detailed in its minutes, the schools’ attorney discourages detail for reasons of practice and liability. The law requires only “the essence” of the meeting.
The issue of the minutes came up because committee member Danielle Coulter thought some summary of the points and arguments of the committee and others regarding the recent contract debate should have been included, not just the vote tally. The attorney agrees that the law appears to require at least a bullet-point format of discussion.
There’s some extensive debate going on about the difficulty of providing summary minutes. As a guy who sits in the audience and summarizes key points (from my point of view, of course), I find the objections bemusing.
TCC & budget committee member Rob Coulter is addressing the committee with a follow up on inappropriate actions on the school district’s part in encouraging voters to approve the budget at last years financial town meeting.
Oddly, the current school committee has not been updated on the exchanges between the superintendent and the Department of Education. After the initial request from the state for a statement, Supt. Rearick informed the committee, but he says that he was waiting for a response from RIDE before offering an update.
As seems usually to be the case, substantive discussion about the law and the operation of the school district will be performed in executive session.
There was some unnecessary contention. Rob asked whether it’s committee policy to adhere to a charter amendment (passed but not ratified by the state) prohibiting public funds for advocacy, and Sally Black said that Supt. Rearick had already confirmed that.
Rob made the obvious point that the committee hadn’t made an official statement, and Carol Herrmann noted that the district’s attorney had advised them not to do so prior to closed discussion.
My summary reads mildly, but the tone and expressions bespoke the underlying tensions of the town.