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From the Cape Elizabeth School Board

SCHOOL BOARD NEWS

April 3, 2019

 

 

BUDGET UPDATE:

 

The FY 20 school budget process is entering its final phase and will go before the School Board for formal adoption on Thursday April 4 before it is presented to Town Council later in the month.  However, the groundwork for this budget began at least six months ago.

 

Starting in the fall of 2018, the School Board and Town Council held two joint public workshops with the goal of improving the way the two elected bodies work together, especially with regard to budget.  There was a renewed commitment to respectful and cordial behavior, and an understanding of the independent roles of each group, neither overseeing the other but linked together in their charges to do their best for the citizens Cape Elizabeth.   As suggested at those workshops, a joint School Board – Town Council subcommittee, made up of the Superintendent, Town Manager, School Board Chair, School Board Finance Chair, Town Council Chair, and Town Council Finance Chair, was formed in order to improve communication and the flow of information.  To date there have been two budget subcommittee meetings and a communicated desire by all parties to continue to meet beyond budget season. These meetings have been positive and productive with all parties sharing information, goals, concerns, and ideas. This effort toward effective, respectful communication and collaboration has had a tremendously positive impact on the budget process.

 

Later in the fall, the Needs Assessment Committee was formed to evaluate the school buildings and decide whether or not professional evaluation and study was warranted.  The committee was made up of community members, parents, students, teachers, administrators, Town Council members, and School Board members. The Superintendent and Town Manager attended and facilitated the committee meetings.  After multiple meetings that included information gathering tours of the three school buildings and intense questioning and discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the School Board include the cost of a Needs Assessment in the FY 20 budget.  

 

While the Needs Assessment Committee was doing its work, the School Board asked Colby Co. / Scott Simonds Architects to prepare a revised proposal for a Needs Assessment.  This new proposal, with a cost of $189, 060, was roughly $50,000 less than the previous proposal yet still included the critical structural and system/utility investigations, meetings, and reports with prioritized projects.  To see the scope of the project proposal and what it does and does not include, go to the school department website and click on the Needs Assessment link.

 

At the end of January 2019, the School Board began its series of budget workshops. The board first established three goals that would guide the process and all decisions:  

 

    • Maintaining and improving the high quality of education for every student.

    • Careful examination of line items and consideration of the success and

effectiveness of the expenditures in order to provide a fiscally responsible

budget.

    •Clear and continual communication throughout the budget process.

 

The original request version of the FY 20 budget was then methodically and purposefully examined at a series of five workshops.  We began with presentations from each building administrator and department head with cost center reviews that included enrollment, staffing, projects, needs, mandates, program reviews, and program proposals.  Board members and members of the public were encouraged to submit questions and comments at the conclusion of these presentations and throughout the series of workshops. These questions were collected and compiled, then sent to the appropriate people.  The questions were also shared with the Town Council. The next step in the review process was a presentation on the state funding formula and our state aid estimate (ED 279). Administrators presented the answers to the previously submitted questions, responded to follow up questions, and engaged in thoughtful discussion.   Knowing that staff salaries and benefits together are the greatest driver of the school budget, the board devoted quite a bit of time over multiple meetings to the study of our historical and current enrollment – not just the numbers but the needs of the student population, as well as how and why we staff our school department the way we do.  We examined data on class sizes, student teacher ratio, teacher load, and our own class size policy guidelines. The Superintendent presented information on Federal education mandates that helps explain why staffing and building costs have grown even while enrollments are flat or in decline. Not only are schools mandated to employ many more specialists now (in comparison to just ten or twenty years ago) to allow all students to access their public education, those specialists needs rooms and spaces in which to work.   

 

Upon careful review of the expenditure side of the budget, the Board gave guidance to the Superintendent that it would like to see a reduction in spending, lowering from 7.8% to 6%, with an attendant tax impact to citizens of roughly 5.1%.  The Superintendent met with the administrative team, and together they brought back a revised budget with a 6.09% spending increase. Among the cuts from the original version of the budget were some new staffing positions as well as current positions, efficiencies or deferments of facilities projects, cost-saving collaborations with the town, and adjustments to book, equipment, and supply lines.   The positive outcome was that educational and facilities goals could be met with this updated proposal and the tax impact to the community was reduced to a little over 5%.

 

On the revenue side, in late February there was good news for Cape Elizabeth:  our state subsidy estimate was an increase of $407,000. Three straight years of steep, cumulative cuts in funding (-$730,000 for FY 17, -$527,000 for FY 18, -$899,00 for FY 19) forced the school department to tread water at best, and make some unsustainable cuts.  The projected increase in state subsidy, although not getting us anywhere near back to where we were prior to the cuts, allowed for some forward progress toward our goals. In late March, the final piece of the school revenue puzzle fell into place when we received information regarding health insurance range of increases.  Having budgeted for a 10% increase, we were pleased to hear that the top of the increase range was 7%. That equated to a $104,485 savings for the school department. The School Board decided to use roughly $47,000 to reduce the expenditure budget and bring the spending increase down to 5.9% and thus reduce the tax increase to 4.9%.  The remainder of the cost savings, roughly $53,000 would be used to increase the contingency line in order to fund a possible need for increased ELL staff, possible Kindergarten staff, or other needs that arose. Any funds in the contingency line not used at the end of the fiscal year move into the unassigned fund balance and may be used to augment the revenue side of the next year’s budget and thus decrease tax impact.  While there was discussion of other ways to use the health insurance cost savings, such as trying to figure out which spending reductions previously submitted could be moved back into the budget, the board ultimately chose to be conservative by slightly increasing contingency funds and reducing spending and thus tax impact.

 

Throughout all budget workshops, citizen input was welcomed at the beginning and end of each meeting, as well as via email.  The board was gratified to have many people attend or watch the workshops online and participate in the process through sending emails or speaking at meetings.  The board wishes to extend its appreciation to everyone who watched and participated.

 

The School Board is pleased to continue to offer high quality education to all students while being fiscally responsible to the community.

 

POLICY:

 

At the March 12th Regular Business meeting the School Board reviewed the following policies for consideration and vote:

 

IHBAC: Child Find

DN: School Property Disposition

GCFB: Recruiting & Hiring of Administrative Staff

JRA: Student Education Records & Information

 

Revisions adopted at the meeting include:

 

IHBAC: Child Find - The policy was updated to reflect the requirement that the district provide Child Find within 30 days of the school year or within the first 30 days of enrollment for transfer children.    

 

DN: School Property Disposition -  The committee revised the policy with two changes.  The dollar threshold to trigger Board was raised from $500 to $2000, and a provision wherein the Board directed the sale or donation of surplus property was removed.

 

GCFB: Recruiting & Hiring of Administrative Staff - The board adopted a revised policy that removed an outdated reference to the State's five year goals, and is in line with the Maine School Management Association's sample policy.

 

JRA: Student Education Records & Information -  The board adopted the Maine School Management Association's sample policy, which reflects updated legal requirements regarding permitted disclosures of student records.

 

The policy committee met on March 26th to continue the ongoing review of CESD policies.  The following policies were reviewed for second reading and vote by the Board at the next regular business meeting.   There are no substantive revisions proposed to these policies:

 

KHB: Advertising in the Schools

BEDB: Agenda

BEDBA: Agenda Format

 

The committee discussed the following policies for first reading:

 

IHBEA: Program for Students with Limited English Proficiency - The committee discussed updating the policy to reflect the current terminology of "English Language Learner" and also to reflect the current roles of the Superintendent and Lau Plan Coordinator in the Cape Elizabeth School District.

 

FF: Naming of School Facilities - The committee discussed the need to update the policy on naming school facilities to allow for an appropriate information gathering, public input and decision making process around such naming.   The committee will seek further input from the Board at the next general business meeting.

 

KHC: Distribution of Non-School Materials - The committee discussed this policy in the context of the high volume of requests to distribute non-school related materials to students.   The committee is working on updates to the policy that will provide for fair application of the policy and limitation of distribution and display of non-school related materials.

 

All policies are posted on the CESD website in the School Board section policy tab.

 

Policy Committee meetings occur once per month and are open to the public.   The next policy meeting is scheduled for April 30th at 3:00 in the Jordan Conference Room.  

 

FUTURE DATES:

 
  • Thursday, April 4th, Regular School Board Business Meeting, 6:30PM - 8:30PM, Town Hall Chambers.

 
  • Tuesday, April 23rd, School Board Workshop, Agenda TBD, 6:30PM - 8:30PM, CEHS Library.

 
  • Wednesday, April 24th, School Board FY20 Budget Presentation to Town Council, 7:00PM - 9:00PM, Town Hall Chambers.

 
  • Thursday, April 25th, School Board FY20 Budget Presentation to Town Council Wrap-Up, 7:00PM - 9:00PM, Town Hall Chambers.

 
  • Tuesday, April 30th, Policy Committee, 3:00PM - 4:30PM, Jordan Conference Room, Town Hall.

 
  • Monday, May 6th, Town Council Public Hearing on Budget, 7:00PM - 9:00PM, Town Hall Chambers.

School Board Members 2019

Susana Measelle Hubbs - Chair
Heather Altenburg - Co-Vice Chair
Elizabeth Scifres
Kimberly Carr - Co-Vice Chair
Laura DeNino
M. Nasir Shir
Hope Straw
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