School Board Finance Committee Update

Hi Neighbors —

The Finance Committee did not meet in September, but we did meet earlier this week. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been working on over the last few weeks.

The biggest news, of course, is the settlement of the contract with the Burlington Education Association. I’d like to congratulate the negotiating teams for both the District and the BEA, and to thank them for all of their work. The three-year contract that the two parties have signed is a fiscally sound compromise on the key issues of salary and health care, and is one that will enable the District to remain competitive in its efforts to hire and retain high-quality teachers for the District.

The remainder of the items are things that we discuss on October 2 at the most recent Finance Committee meeting. BHS Principal Amy Mellencamp presented the preliminary findings of an evaluation team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The NEASC is the organization which provides accreditation for both high schools and colleges throughout the area. They had a number of commendations for the District on how the high school is operated, but also listed a number of items that need improvement.

A significant number of the items identified by the NEASC team fall under the category of on-going and/or preventative maintenance work that needs to be done at the high school. Along the same lines, the Finance Committee received a request from the District’s maintenance head, Chris Giard, that his budget for preventative maintenance be increased to deal with a number of outstanding issues. There is a policy, adopted a number of years ago by the Board, that instructs the Superintendent to prepare a budget each year that includes 1.5% for preventative maintenance. The Finance Committee instructed the Superintendent to prepare her budget in compliance with that policy; if adopted by the full Board and the voters, that would increase the District’s spending on preventative maintenance to approximately $650,000 next year.

A portion of that money would be spent on school security, including new locks throughout the District and new doors in many classrooms. Unfortunately, the recent incidents of school violence here in Vermont and across the nation have made this item a priority. I will keep you posted on the progress of that work.

Chris Giard also updated the Finance Committee on a number of on-going capital improvements around the District. The new elevator at the high school is essentially completed (which addresses one of the recommendations of the NEASC team). New piping at Hunt Middle School is nearly done, as is the installation of a new boiler at the Wheeler School. A concrete pad has been poured at the high school for the installation of the new woodchip boiler, and framing of the building will begin shortly. It now looks like the new boiler will go online some 6-8 weeks sooner than anticipated, which means that it will help out with more of the winter heating season than was originally anticipated.

The new high school field, already a couple of months behind schedule, will be further delayed by the onset of winter. Most of the major construction problems (undiscovered ledge, water mains, new electrical service, etc.) have been resolved, and the massive mound of dirt in right field of the ball park is rapidly disappearing. The field should be virtually completed prior to winter, but there will still be some work left to do in the spring on the bleachers. The Finance Committee will get a final completion date for all work at its next meeting. All of the additional work has resulted in a cost overrun for that project; the excess charges will be paid out of the District’s capital project budget for next year. However, the planned replacement of the windows in the Edmunds Middle School next summer will still go forward.

Superintendent Collins announced that the National School Board Association had accepted a proposal by the District to do a presentation about Burlington’s Farm to School program at the NSBA’s annual conference next spring. It is a chance to showcase the work of the District and in particular, the leadership of Doug Davis, who was selected last year as the New England Food Director of the Year. The Finance Committee voted to authorize the Superintendent to use funds to send three representatives of the District to the NSBA conference to make the presentation: the Superintendent, Doug Davis, and a Board member to be named later by the Board Chair.

The Finance Committee heard a brief presentation on the Vermont Catamount Health Plan passed by the Legislature last spring. Under the terms of the law, the District will be required to pay approximately $80,000 per year in contributions to help provide health coverage for the District’s uninsured employees. As the program is currently structured, it does not provide an alternative to the health care programs that the District has negotiated with its various bargaining units.

Last, the Finance Committee received a brief overview of the budget process. The Superintendent is in the process of gathering data and suggestions from building administrators and department heads. The Superintendent will use that information to put together a preliminary budget to present to the Finance Committee in early November. Additional information will be gathered and a revised budget will be officially presented to the Board at its December meeting. Between December 12th and January 9th, the Board will hold a series of meetings to present the budget to the public. The budget will be officially adopted on January 9th and submitted to the voters on Town Meeting Day.

That’s all the finance-related information right now. Either Amy or I will post a school board update after next week’s meeting. If anyone has any questions or comments, please let me know.

Fred Lane
School Board Finance Chair
12 Catherine Street
FLane@bsdvt.org

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