Town of Weathersfield
School House Road, Ascutney, Vermont
Monday, January 8, 2018 at 7:00pm
Joint Meeting with Weathersfield School Board
Select Board Members Present: Dan Boyer, Peter Cole, Tom Leach, and Kelly Murphy
Select Board Member Absent: Amy Beth Main
Town Staff Present: Ed Morris, Town Manager
School Board Members Present: Sean Walen, Heidi Remick, Jaqueline Antonivich, Robin Tindall, and Laura McNaughton
School Staff Present: Jean Marie Oakman, Principal and David Baker, Superintendent
School Budget Advisory Committee Present: Kelley O’Brien, Gloria Ballantine, and Roger Newhall
Others Present: VT State Representative Anne Marie Christianson; Patrick Kendron, Eagle Times
Select Board Meeting was called to order at 7:05pm by the Chair.
While the School Board and their Budget Committee finalized their meeting, the Select Board reviewed items for discussion with the School Board, and welcomed Tom Leach to his first meeting.
The joint meeting of the Weathersfield School Board and Weathersfield Select Board began at 7:25pm.
Superintendent Baker announced that the School Board had just voted on a budget of $5,660,601.00, which included $70,000 from the “Rainy Day Fund” and $154,000 from the previous fiscal year’s fund balance to decrease the tax burden. The School is anticipating a 9 to 10 cent tax increase, even though the total budget is $23,000 less than last year. This is due to anticipated State tax increases. The main factor in the decrease is a renegotiated employee contract that shifted more of health insurance expenses to the staff.
Peter Cole asked Representative Christensen if the State has confirmed their funding yet. She stated that at this time the Governor’s budget is not finalized. Unfunded mandates, State initiatives, and last year’s tax deduction are many of the items on the table, which will create a tax increase for the coming year.
Kelly Murphy asked the School Board for a summary of their goals with the new budget. Principal Oakman shared the following:
• Staff level will remain unchanged at 14; even though one class will mean either 27 or 29 students, which will challenge the class size policy;
• Expense deductions for guidance, education media, ELA, math and athletics;
• Expense increases in the Spanish K-8 program, academics bus transportation, and social studies.
Principal Oakman discussed high school tuition. Currently the Vermont average is slightly over $14,000 per student; however, Weathersfield currently has eight students attending Hanover and Lebanon, which cost approximately $20,000 per student. Weathersfield School has a policy to pay the Vermont State tuition average for any student attending private school, and the full tuition amount of any public school. Currently, there are 19 high schools that educate Weathersfield Students. The School Board has not formally discussed any thought to amend the policy and cap tuition reimbursement, public or private, to the Vermont average, which would shift the remaining balance to the parents choosing their child’s high school.
Principal Oakman stated that the school lunch program has a 47.4% poverty rate.
With no further questions of the School Board, Town Manager Morris gave a summary of the Select Board’s budget, considerations and goals. Currently, the proposed budget is an increase of 5% over last year; however, the Select Board plans to review more figures following the joint meeting. Factors impacting the budget include:
• 9.7% health insurance increases;
• Cost of living raises for employees, along with consideration of a compensation structure;
• Historical use of fund balances to off set taxes have distorted the actual expenses incurred for those years;
• 12.6% increase submitted by the Library’s Board of Trustees, which included a compensation increase for the librarian.
• State has created the Storm Water plan (an unfunded requirement of the State) to address hydraulically-connected runoffs, which will be a major undertaking for the town over the next 20 years.
• Many roads throughout town have been delayed in maintenance and repairs in previous years’ budgets, and must now be addressed.
• The Police Department is addressing the drug crisis on a local level and needs adequate funding, as well as compensation for the police force.
Additional goals outlined by Town Manager Morris included:
• Review of the community forum outcomes – improve sense of community, more events, gathering places, recreational locations, and central communications mechanism;
• Grants for village revitalization and recreation currently underway;
• Collaborating with surrounding towns for cost sharing opportunities;
• Economic development is a high priority with long term strategic planning.
Sean Whalen, who is also a member of the Act 46 Committee, stated that West Windsor’s school has created a proposal to incorporate Ascutney Mountain into their education plan to make their school more vital and sustainable.
Principal Oakman stated that Weathersfield School ranked in the top 25% of all Vermont schools on the Vermont Digger website.
Laura McNaughton would like the two boards to continue and communicate the spirit of collaboration that is currently going on. Kelly Murphy suggested drafting a joint letter of the two boards for the beginning page of the town report. It was agreed by all to complete this task and continue ongoing communications. Sean Whalen suggested incorporating the Select Board into a component of the School Board’s strategic planning retreat coming up soon.
Kelly Murphy stated that at the last Select Board meeting a community member had questioned an expense for a recognition/appreciation dinner during the holidays. A community member had inquired of whether the school provides any such activity. Principal Oakman stated a number of things occur:
• The Weathersfield PTA does a teacher appreciation event,
• A half-day of school, prior to the start of the Christmas break, is scheduled in which the current staff and retired staff have a potluck holiday get together,
• The school sponsors an end of year appreciation event for all volunteers (approximately 100 volunteers are invited), which includes a tea, certificates and food of some sort.
Representative Christiansen stated that she is headed back to Montpelier and can be reached via email or phone. Kelly Murphy requested that the Representative’s presentation at Town Meeting should be very upfront and candid about the funding realities at the State and federal levels. Tax breaks that result in a double or triple expense to tax payers several years later are not helpful, neither are unfunded mandates. Representative Christiansen stated it wasn’t all “doom and gloom” and that the good things should be shared as well.
The joint meeting of the Weathersfield School Board and Select Board concluded at 9:05.
The Select Board continued its meeting with a review of the budget.
Fire Services: at the previous meeting, the Fire Commission’s budget increased by $2,000 to provide necessary hose testing, which was confirmed. The Board discussed the allocation amounts in previous years: 2015-$20,000; 2016-$20,500; 2017-$22,500; 2018-$32,500. Given the changes in financial procedures and the town assuming all maintenance expenses for apparatus of both departments, the suggestion was made to allocate $27,500, a reduction of $5,000 per department for this year.
Administration: the Insurance line item may be reduced by at least $12,000 due to the new finance director opting out of insurance. More will be known at the next meeting.
Social Services allocations line: Shirley is currently reaching out to all organizations that submitted requests. The organizations will participate in a public Q&A at the next Select Board meeting. These numbers will change after that meeting.
Library budget: Ed identified several line items that had not been adjusted by the Library Trustees when they increased the librarian’s salary line item. A final budget should be expected at Monday’s meeting.
The Select Board reviewed the draft warning. Articles Two and Three were removed at the recommendation of VLCT due to these being Vermont State Statutes. The town clerk is reviewing the open elected positions for accuracy. A new draft will be reviewed in greater detail at the next meeting.
Motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:43 was made by Peter Cole; Seconded by Dan Boyer.
Minutes submitted by:
Kelly Murphy, Chair