I just returned from the Board of Education meeting at approximately 10:00 p.m. The meeting began at 6:00 p.m. at the Education and Community Center.
Tonight the 09-10 Budget Draft was presented to the full Board. I had previously told you that at the Finance Committee meeting on June 10th this draft was presented and that the proposed Tax Levy was 3.8% To clarify, In my blog I will give you information but I will not present my opinions if I don't have all of the facts presented to me. This was the case with the Budget.
We had citizen comment tonight which had to be taken into consideration before I made a vote. I also had questions that needed to be answered. We also had a Personnel meeting in closed session, which weighed very heavily on decisions I would be making.
I had previously mentioned that I was in favor of a salary freeze for Administrators. Tonight it was recommended by the Administration, and voted unanimously by the Board that salaries would be frozen for one year. This is not just the Superintendent. This is not just the Directors. This is for all non-union employees, including hourly employees. The budget needs to be amended, but the savings to the District with this freeze will be approximately $74,000.
I want to say that the employees who will be taking the pay freeze are good employees. We have some of the best Administrators around. We have dedicated office staff who works hard with and for the Administrators. We have excellent staff in Technology, Guidance, Social Workers, Psychologists Recreation, Bus drivers, Nursing, HR, Special Education...the list goes on. I want to say thank you to them for their service to Franklin Public Schools.
Another item came up under the Finance discussion, and that was regarding a Wide Area Network - fiber optic cable purchase by the district. Our technology is not up to par in Franklin. This is an important aspect of education and we can't fall behind in technology. While I realize that an upgrade is needed, some on the Board questioned $875,000 for the fiber optic. This allocation of funds was to come from the Fund Balance. My concerns were that a fiber optic cable that I am told will last 40 years doesn't mean that much to me in the long run. With the way technology changes so quickly, I don't know that purchasing this cable is the best route to go. I asked whether a comparison between leasing and purchasing was done and was assured it was.
Tonight the figures were presented to me with what the savings would be to the District by purchasing rather than leasing. But they were presented to me over a 25 year period. Again, I don't want to know the savings over 25 years...I want facts for here and now. While I am in favor of the fiber optic, this was presented to the Board with a hurry-up attitude. I at least expect to have financial questions answered, perhaps with some back-up paperwork. It was also mentioned that only $400,000 might be needed, and it could be added to the budget later, rather than using the Fund Balance. This was not mentioned on June 10th.
With the information presented to me, or lack there of, I could not support this purchase. I will not be rushed into decisions if I am not presented enough information or information is presented one time, and changed the next without documentation. The Board, by voice vote, approved the purchase of the fiber optic cable for the district with a vote of 6-1, with me voting NO.
Over the last several weeks I had heard from Gifted and Talented parents on behalf of the GT program , Private School parents on behalf of busing, and secretarial aides regarding cuts that were proposed. I paid a visit to one of the schools to see the secretarial aide situation first hand, after a request was made by a Secretary for Board members to please drop by and see them in action. I have returned all of my emails and phone calls to citizens who have had concerns. These matters, along with all aspects of the Budget needed to be thought about carefully. I believe I did so, keeping the community as a whole in mind, along with students and their education. My votes are serious and I don't take it lightly.
Tonight Linda Witkowski and I made an argument against a 3.8% Tax Levy. Considering the recession we are in and the burden on taxpayers, we felt it wasn't appropriate. Others on the Board were not in agreement. One of the considerations was that, facing reality, next year is possibly going to be a worse situation, which will include program cuts and more. Most likely there will be a much higher tax levy. Do we want to not increase the levy now, and have the levy increase even more next year? Wouldn't that be more of a burden? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to raise it now and keep it more consistent?
While I realize things could be worse financially in school districts next year, considering that citizens are losing jobs, taking furloughs and pay freezes, and having a tough time in general, I could not support a 3.8% tax levy. The Board, by voice vote, approved the Budget Draft with a vote of 6-1, with me voting NO.
The Budget Draft will be posted on the Franklin Public Schools website (which will be having a new look in July, by the way) in the near future. I will update this post with the link at that time.
I did not see a NOW reporter in the audience.
I made the new Board member novice oversight of not requesting Roll Call votes - I won't overlook that in the future.
Note regarding commenting on this post:
Your comments are welcomed on topics presented in this post in order to generate citizen debate, but I ask that you do not direct comments to me for a personal response via the blog.
As a Board member, I encourage you to contact me any time via District email so there is a public record, by phone call, by mail, or in person before or after any meeting. You may reach me or any other Board member through this link.
I look forward to hearing from you.