No tax increase for school district
The school board tackled the previously tabled TransPar discussion, the teachers’ union contract, and the final budget vote at its special board meeting June 17.
The TransPar proposal for consulting services on district busing concerns were voiced by board member Eugene McKeon, who said the district commissioned a study several years ago and the recommendations of the study were not implemented, due in part to budget issues. He suggested that the larger expenditure currently under consideration might also result in recommendations the district is unable to follow.
McKeon also said TransPar plans to relocate an employee to the Lehigh Valley to act as a consultant, and suggested that the company intends to supply services for longer than the three years specified in the contract.
In response to board member Tom Thomasik’s question about an opt-out clause, district CFO Stacy Gober explained that the contract is structured as a one-year agreement with non-mandatory annual renewals for two subsequent years. Board President Mike Faccinetto compared the TransPar plan to the consulting project undertaken by Weidenhammer Consulting Group several years ago to support the district’s growing IT department in its early stages. He noted that as the district hired full-time IT staff, work was transitioned away from consultants. Board member Craig Neiman expressed his support for the proposal, commenting that as a parent of children in the district, he has experienced busing as a pain point. The board voted 7-1 to approve the TransPar proposal, with McKeon against.
The board adopted the final zero-tax-increase budget for 2019-20 by a vote of 7-1, with McKeon again the sole dissenter, and approved the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Bethlehem Education Association (teachers union) by a vote of 8-0. This contract will take effect July 1 and will run through June 30, 2023. It includes salary increases of 3.5 percent on July 1 each year from 2019 through 2021, and an increase of 3.25 percent on July 1, 2022. Medical and prescription drug coverage remains the same as in the expiring contract. The length of in-service days for professional development has been extended by 90 minutes, and teachers will be required to make up one of the four built-in snow days every year with a day of professional development.
The finance committee reviewed several routine renewals to be proposed June 24, including the tax collector appointments, insurance for students and staff, IU 20 service provision, IT consulting services from Weidenhammer at $2,250 per month, and school lunches at Centennial School. In discussing United Way grants for next year, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy highlighted the addition of Northeast MS to the community school partnership program.
A full-time community school coordinator will be provided by United Way to assist with the social and emotional needs of Northeast MS families.
Gober broached the proposal to increase the BASD Employee Benefit Trust’s operating reserves in response to concerns raised by district auditor William Gorman. The trust currently holds reserves equal to four to six months’ worth of health insurance claims; the proposal increases the amount to equal six to 10 months’ worth. Gober cited the looming Cadillac Tax, the high cost of newly approved prescription drugs, and the expected natural variance in new chronic and catastrophic claims.
The committee also announced the preliminary allocation figures for federal grants for 2019-20: $3,902,553 to provide student resources, family engagement activities, and supplemental staff benefits through Title I, Part A; $572,609 to reduce class sizes and provide professional development through Title II, Part A; $169,020 to provide supplemental services for English language learners through Title III; $6,603 to provide supplemental services to immigrant students through Title III; and $298,593 in safety and technology funding through Title IV.