Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rollover Budget Shows 1.23% Increase

Assistant Superintendent Dan Carlin gave the Board of Education a preview of a 1.23% budget to budget increase in the school budget for next year. This "rollover budget" of $44.6 million represents what it would cost in 2010-2011 to operate the same programs and services as are in place now, including known salary obligations, health benefit costs, utility rates, and retirement contributions. The projected increase is less than half of the budget-to-budget increase presented last year, and in percentage terms it is considerably lower than other Westchester School districts.

The rollover budget would be substantially higher had it not been for salary savings accruing from retirement incentives, unfilled vacancies, streamlined services, and other actions taken over the past year. It includes no funds for teacher salary increases other than the step advances required by law. Teachers, custodians, aides, and the clerical unit all have contracts that expire in June 2010, and negotiations have begun.

Getting to Zero

Last October the Board approved a financial goal that reads as follows:

Conduct a comprehensive budget review that minimizes taxpayer expense.
Budget options resulting in flat and lower taxes will be considered.

To reach 0%, the Board must reduce the rollover budget by about $542,000. At the February 6th budget workshop, the administration will present a series of budget options based on the school profiles prepared by the principals. These profiles - available in the archives of this newsletter - describe the staffing levels, mandated programs, enrichment programs, and student services available at each school. The budget options prepared for the Board spell out possible productivity improvements, program reductions, and structural changes.

These budget options will be discussed and communicated over the next two months until a final budget is ready for Board approval. All workshops and regular meetings are open to the public.

Board Considers Outsourcing Custodial Services

One budget option before the Board of Education is outsourcing custodial services. The district currently uses third party vendors for food services, technology management, and supplementary cleaning services. Now the Board has issued a request for proposals to expand the scope of outsourcing to include the night crew of cleaners and part of the day crew. Excluded from the proposals are supervisors, maintenance mechanics, and the grounds crew (i.e., these functions would continue to be provided by district employees.).

It is anticipated that outsourcing these services would generate considerable savings, therefore alleviating the pressure to reduce the number of teachers or shrink certain academic programs. In addition to cost, Superintendent David Quattrone stated that the Board needs to consider issues of quality (cleanliness, responsiveness, satisfaction), flexibility (special events, emergencies), management control, risk (safety and security), knowledge of the facility, and human factors. Prompted by Board member Pierre de Ste. Phalle, Quattrone added that he will present the Board with potential reductions that cut across all employee groups, including not only custodial staff but also teachers, clerical staff, coaches/club advisers, and administrative support.

At the January Board meeting, a large number of faculty and staff attended to show support for retaining current custodial employees. Ten staff members spoke in the public commentary section of the Board agenda, urging the Board to reject the outsourcing approach. Many speakers focused on safety and security concerns. Others mentioned the personal attention and team approach of the current staff. Some speakers cited the special contribution the facilities staff made after the 2007 flood and the current negotiations with the custodial unit. Others cautioned the Board to consider long-term costs, not just short term savings.

The Board will make a decision about outsourcing later in the budget process, in the context of other options and budget needs.

Architect Reviews Facilities Plan

Niall Washburn of KG&D Architects gave the Board of Education an update of Bronxville's ongoing facilities plan. His presentation summarized a more detailed analysis presented to the facilities committee in December.

We have completed the PTA-sponsored Bathroom renovation project, which updated the function and appearance of nine bathrooms. They are now fresher, brighter, and more easily maintained. A few punchlist items remain.

The Boiler/Switchgear relocation project is on hold, pending resolution with the bonding company. That process is underway. FEMA continues to be the funding source for this work. Contracts totaling $3,494,900 have been awarded -- 24% under budget.

Active issues related to completed projects include warranty issues involving the replacement of exterior oak doors and cracked stone floor tiles in the rotunda. Some signange needs are also pending.

Long-range facilities needs will be reviewed and updated as part of the five-year building conditions survey that will be conducted next year as part of a state requirement. That review is likely to identify ongoing needs with heating and ventilation, renovation of Middle School Science labs, and auditorium improvements. Projects in the 2010-11 budget include replacement of floor tile on the second floor and an outdoor storage shed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Superintendent Presents 2010-11 Draft Calendar

At its January meeting the Bronxville Board of Education took a look at next year's calendar as proposed by Superintendent David Quattrone. The draft, patterned after the generic calendar prepared by the Lower Hudson Council of Superintendents, reflects consultation with the Bronxville Teachers Association and the district administrators.

The 2010-11 calendar presents a specific problem: Labor Day (September 6) and Rosh Hashanah (September 9 and 10) both fall in the week of September 6th. Based on past practice this would leave only two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) available for student and staff use. (The BTA contract stipulates that school may not start prior to Labor Day.) Although the day after Labor Day has traditionally been a conference day for teachers, that would result in only one day of student attendance during the week of September 6. However, delaying the start of school until September 13 also presents problems. As a result, September 7 and 8 will both be student days.

Three conference days are scheduled throughout the school year. These days are used for workshops, training, and other activities related to professional and curriculum development. The first conference day is planned for Friday, November 12. Because the previous day, November 11, is a holiday, this gives students and families a long weekend.

The second two conference days are planned for March 24th and 25th. These dates split the difference between February and April vacations. Two consecutive conference days permit more sustained curriculum work and are also a more efficient way to use consultants.

This calendar will be presented for further review at the February Board meeting. The draft can be found here.