June 14, 2010
Hopkinton School District School Board
Hopkinton Board of Selectmen
Joint Public Meeting Minutes
June 14, 2010
Hopkinton School Board: Chairman David Luneau, Vice Chairman Elizabeth Durant, Board Members: Larry Donahue, Louis Josephson, William Jones, Student Representatives: Cameron Givens, Samuel Helrich
School District Administration: Superintendent Steven Chamberlin, Business Administrator Michelle Clark
Hopkinton Board of Selectmen: Chairman Jim O’Brien, Selectmen: Chris Lawless, Bryan Pellerin, George Langwasser, Tom Congoran
Town of Hopkinton Administration: Town Administrator Neal Cass
Moderator: Gary Richardson
CALL TO ORDER AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:
Moderator, Gary Richardson, called the meeting to order at 6:35pm, June 14, 2010, and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
a. Introductions (out of agenda order)
Mr. Richardson asked for introductions around the table:
Neal Cass, Town Administrator: Bryan Pellerin, Selectman: George Langwasser, Selectman: Jim O’Brien Chairman, Board of Selectmen: Gary Richardson, Town Moderator: David Luneau, Chairman of the School Board: Liz Durant, Vice Chairman of the School Board: Louis Josephson, School Board Member: Larry Donahue, School Board Member: William Jones, School Board Member: Steve Chamberlin, Superintendent of Schools: Michelle Clark, Business Administrator: Jean Eaton, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent: Cameron Givens, Student Representative: Sam Helrich, Student Representative.
At this time, Mr. Luneau asked Mr. Chamberlin to speak about the newly elected School Board Student Representatives.
Mr. Chamberlin stated that it is tradition the School Board Student Representatives leaving us introduce the new student school board representatives. Noah Meister came forward from the audience and wished Samuel Helrich and Cameron Givens good luck.
Mr. Richardson announced that Mr. Chris Lawless, Selectman, joined the meeting at this time. Mr. Lawless introduced himself.
PUBLIC COMMENT (1)
ADDITIONS/DELETIONS FROM AGENDA BY MODERATOR
- b. Statement of purpose on joint meeting (Board Chairmen)
Mr. David Luneau, Chairman, Hopkinton School Board
Mr. Luneau thanked everyone for coming out tonight and Mr. Richardson for moderating tonight’s meeting. He stated that he hopes this is a more regular type of meeting where the two boards cooperate. Mr. Luneau stated there are lots of common areas of responsibility and to the extent that they may find ways to cooperate together, they may find more ways in which to become more efficient in carrying out those responsibilities at a lower cost.
Also, in areas where the town and school have been working closely together (Safe Routes to School) there are common areas of interest particularly in the area of geographical information system (GIS). By working together we can help the town get some work done, as well as teach our students. This would help the town and provide an educational experience for our students.
Jim O’Brien, Chairman Hopkinton Board of Selectmen
Mr. O’Brien stated this is his third year as selectman and every year they have talked about getting the two boards together, he is happy it has come to fruition. Also, he hopes this is not the last meeting and that a goal of this meeting will be to schedule another meeting. He stated that if you look at where the taxes go, 80% of our spending/tax base is from these two boards (60% school, 20% town side), so he felt it was important to get both boards together to talk about goals and priorities. How they collaborate is very important and he is excited they are all here.
Moderator Gary Richardson asked for comments from the Superintendent and Town Administrator.
Steven Chamberlin, Superintendent of Schools
Mr. Chamberlin stated Safe Routes to School has been a great example of a successful school/town partnership; working together for the safety of our kids has spurred all this collaboration. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is currently in round four. From purchasing vests, bike racks, and sidewalks, it has been a wonderful opportunity for the town and school to work together.
Ms. Durant asked Mr. Chamberlin to give a brief overview of how the town/school overlap with SRTC.
Mr. Chamberlin stated Natalie Duval, community member, discovered and pursued this and has led us for a number of years. The school serves as the fiscal agent, they collaborate around projects (brainstorming and looking at plans) and the town handles the implementation phase. We use the form of our monthly meeting to keep track of projects and to seek input from the community. The town does much of the work, e.g. vendors, engineers, shovels to the ground. The town and school share the load working with the state to meet all federal obligations, collaborating to make a difference for kids.
Neal Cass, Town Administrator
Mr. Cass stated that SRTS is a federal grant and it is one hundred percent covered; there are no real costs to the town or school district. He thinks it is unique how the town and school have worked together. He believes this is why we have received the most money out of the SRTS program of any town in the state.
Regarding health insurance, Mr. Cass stated that because the town has joined with the school to form a risk pool, the rates are substantially better than they would be otherwise.
- c. Comments From the Board Members
Mr. Donahue commented: What value and what is accomplished with a joint meeting that is not otherwise accomplished? What is it about a joint meeting that creates higher value, than the separate meetings we have routinely? He asked if the joint meeting was more of a public forum, or if it is meant for following up on action items and work that has been assigned to the town administrator and the superintendent. He is a bit skeptical on what this additional meeting brings to us in terms of value.
Mr. Congoran commented on Mr. Donahue’s point. It is hard to imagine what is to be gained if the parties don’t understand the plans for the other e.g., the school district looking for another administrative building. The town owns several buildings and is in a position to help and transfer property or give access to property or buildings. This is not about just this list; it’s about understanding where the school board needs help and where are they going, and where the town is going.
Mr. Lawless stated he is parallel with Mr. Congoran. Sometimes people see them as adversarial because they are separate, but they are going in the same direction. Just having face time is worthwhile for sharing common problems and the future.
Mr. Luneau agrees with Mr. Lawless and Mr. Congoran. Having everyone together to discuss and see where the conversation goes has some merit. It is important for everyone to hear this at a public meeting. Mr. Donahue made a good comment that forums have value as well. Both types of meetings have merit and different outcomes that are respected.
Mr. Luneau stated though it is perception that both boards work separately, referring back to SRTC, he really enjoys working with Neal Cass and other members of the town body; while it is not a meeting of boards a lot of new ideas come out.
Mr. Langwasser looks to the meetings as an opportunity to enhance communication and enrich the understanding between the boards, so both boards know what is on each other’s horizon. It is easier for the board to explain at tax time if we understand what is transpiring at the schools e.g., the school district is looking for property and the board of selectmen is in the process of selling excess property. He looks at this meeting and future meetings as a vehicle for communication and understanding.
Mr. Donahue stated that it is worth mentioning that our roles as boards are different, selectmen are a managerial board and the school board is fundamentally a policy board.
Mr. Richardson stated that he understands different boards have different roles, but he does not think that the goal of communication is different.
PUBLIC COMMENT (2)
Ms. Merle Dustin, community member, stated this type of meeting is a great idea.
Mr. David Lancaster, community member, stated one thing that may have fallen between the cracks last year is the generator. This is one thing that he believes should be talked about if funds come available in the future. He stated we did have an opportunity to fill a void at minimal cost to the town and everyone was handling it like a hot potato.
Regarding SRTS, Mr. Lancaster stated he thinks Park Ave. needs to be looked at because there is a lot more traffic on it. The kids walk to school with their backs to the traffic and sometimes the kids have to walk in the road when it snows. He stated it should be made a high priority in the next round, because students are in danger of being hit by a car.
ITEMS FOR JOINT BOARD DISCUSSION
- a. Areas of current Town/School District collaboration
i. Safe Routes to School (covered, beginning on page 2193)
ii. Health insurance
Mr. Chamberlin stated that one thing they always look at is the economy of scale. When we combine with the town we increase our economy of scale with a larger pool, which defrays some of our cost increases – it is a savings to the community as well as to the employees.
(See page 2194, line 22 for comments on health insurance from Mr. Cass.)
iii. Maintenance (athletic fields, snow removal)
Mr. Donahue stated that some time ago they received a surprise bill for snow removal. When there are things such as maintenance, where the town has the equipment and expertise, what is the benefit or reason to breaking out the budget items e.g., snow removal (if the roads need to be plowed, so do the schools). Maybe as part of our next discussion we detail how we deal with this and if there is a more efficient way to handle maintenance in general.
Mr. Luneau stated the issue of field maintenance has come up at Budget Committee the last couple of years. The town budgets because they perform the activity, then the school has to budget because they pay the invoice to the town. There was some discrepancy in what the town was budgeting and what the school was budgeting. Mr. Luneau stated senior administrators should be at the table during discussions if this is something we pay for, so school district expectations are being met.
Mr. Langwasser stated plowing and field maintenance should be revisited. We need to take a hard look at what the town spends for supplies and keep them separate from the other activities. He suggested they have an ongoing discussion before the budget cycle this year.
Mr. Congoran thinks Mr. Chamberlin and Mr. Cass should develop and document service agreements between the school and town.
Ms. Durant asked if the school and town were the only ones who cost share in the athletic fields.
Mr. Cass replied yes.
Mr. Donahue clarified the following for Mr. Richardson on what was being proposed: To give the superintendent and the town administrator the action item to document a service agreement and to bring it before the two boards.
Mr. Chamberlin stated that one of the things the boards are focusing on is efficiency – this is the environment we are trying to create. The relationship where we are right now is strong, he feels very comfortable calling regarding town services.
Mr. Cass stated that fields have been an issue and, for transparency purposes, if you look at the school budget there is an amount budgeted and if you look at the town budget there is an amount budgeted (the school budget amount is included in the town).
Ms. Marion Paxton, community member, stated what Mr. Cass said rings true. When you have the same item spent by the town and school, it looks like you are spending more for that activity because you are not showing the revenue.
- iv. Fuel purchasing
Mr. Chamberlin stated this was another area for collaboration to ensure the cost is the best we can do.
b. Areas in which Town/School District collaboration may be improved
- i. Service billing
(Covered on page 2196)
ii. Joint purchasing
Mr. Chamberlin stated we do not have the luxury of a lot of storage or warehouse space, but maybe there are other items we can purchase together for better efficiency and cost.
iii. Insurance study
(Covered on page 2195)
iv. Other ideas
Mr. Luneau stated the bus came up several years ago regarding helping out with transportation to and from the Slusser Senior Center e.g., Concord or Boston. This is a piece of equipment the school district has and maybe way they can share some resources during the summer.
Mr. Lawless stated the recreation department brings up the van all the time. This is a perfect example where they could use the bus vs. purchase a new van. Mr. Chamberlin stated the bus is used during the week in the summer, but not on weekends. This would be a great resource they could share.
Mr. Pellerin asked if there were any insurance restrictions. Mr. Chamberlin stated that this under his approval and they insure the licensure.
Mr. Donahue stated we have a deeper IT staff, which has collaborated before. Maybe there is an opportunity for greater and more efficient collaboration. Mr. Chamberlin stated we have a strong IT group and we would like to use our services as much as we have time for.
Mr. Luneau stated the school district has a monthly technology committee meeting and maybe we want to have town presence at this meeting.
Mr. O’Brien stated that he thinks this is a great idea.
Mr. Cass stated the town has a GIS system that has not been used. Maybe there are opportunities for one of the classes at the high school to help the town find culverts, etc. This would be a great area for them to help each other.
c. Capital Improvement Planning
i. Future projects
Mr. Chamberlin stated if there were any future plans he would make sure both boards were aware e.g., school configuration group (will convene next fall), office space for the school district.
Mr. Langwasser picked up a rumor that the school district was going to expand Maple Street School and do away with the Harold Martin School. He said if this were to happen, it would solve a problem for the town because that building could be utilized as town office space, which they currently need. Mr. Langwasser reiterated this is why communication is so important.
Mr. Donahue stated this rumor might have come from the configuration committee. The board pressed upon the superintendent and his administration to look strongly at efficiencies. He stated we should not accept what we do as being necessarily the best way. Part of that is how the schools are configured – does it make sense to have two elementary schools and the middle high school. Looking at configurations is driven by what is the best way to do things and best includes efficiency: cost efficiency and effectiveness efficiency.
Ms. Durant asked if there was a committee on the town side that looks at long-range facilities planning, or is it just discussion at selectmen/administration level.
Mr. Cass stated there have been some studies before his time, but in the last six months there has not been any discussion.
Mr. Luneau asked if there was an update in the last year to the Capital Improvement Plan.
Mr. Cass stated that this is something that is done every year.
Mr. Luneau stated that maybe this is another area, where both the town and school have substantial infrastructure assets, to communicate. He had no idea the town was so interested in space.
Mr. Lawless stated this stems from efficiency. They have a town hall that the whole top floor is just sitting there. Does it make sense to us as offices – they would need to build an elevator. There should be some talk about planning, maybe it makes sense to have one huge building and sell everything else.
Mr. Langwasser stated it has been suggested that, in this economic time, it might be a good time for the town to invest in the golf cart building for some office space and a community center.
Mr. Josephson stated that he couldn’t imagine we would get down the road too far with a project, such as doing something different with Maple Street School, and not talk to the town. Maybe we should have a policy or an understanding where we will share information.
Ms. Durant stated that she would like the two boards to meet beforehand (prior to the configuration committee), to discuss what the town and the school see as there needs in the next five years and what facilities could possibly be used. It is important to be proactive about this before one group presents its needs.
Mr. Luneau stated that we need to make these efficiencies part of our normal everyday operation.
- ii. Bond status
Mr. Cass and Mr. Chamberlin presented current bond information to both boards, as they feel it was important for the boards to understand the capacity and obligations of the school district and the town.
Ms. Paxton stated it might not be one hundred percent accurate. Doesn’t the town’s CIP reflect some of the long-term needs of the community?
Mr. Lancaster stated that maybe one of the joint meetings should be before the planning board looks at the CIP, and then the planning board has something to work from.
Mr. Lancaster stated, going back to purchasing, that the town and school could purchase office supplies together, as they may get a discount.
- d. Budget Planning
i. Calendars (Town Meeting, School District Meeting, Town Report)
Mr. Chamberlin stated this was to ensure the town report was prepared and meets our target dates, in order to have it available to the public two weeks prior to school district meeting.
Mr. Lawless stated that there is a committee working on the report this year and it will be slimmer this year; everything that is required by law will be there and not much else.
Mr. Donahue cautioned Mr. Lawless to be careful, because the school board has learned a lot about providing the right amount of information to the public.
Mr. Lawless stated they are leaving all of that information, but are reducing the number of pagers given i.e., the Rotary Club gets one page vs. three, Sylvia Larson gets one pages vs. two, etc.
Mr. Luneau stated this information helps the budget become manageable and digestible, so people who don’t go to meetings can read the reports, then go to Town Meeting and School District Meeting and make informed decisions.
ii. State downshifting of costs to town and district – revenue decrease
Mr. Richardson stated that he would ask the legislative budget office to run the most recent numbers for Hopkinton from the state, to anticipate how much state money they expect to receive.
Mr. Luneau stated from the school standpoint, the funding affects our ability to educate students – tearing into every aspect of our budget.
Mr. Donahue stated the funding affects our ability to provide for stability in the tax rate and fulfilling our mission.
Mr. Richardson stated hopefully state funding would not be as bad as thought to be. The City of Concord is getting $340,000 more than expected.
Mr. Richardson stated our current tax structure has a structural deficit in it, so we constantly have to look for more revenue from some place. As long as the governor is going to veto a sales or income tax our options are limited.
Mr. Luneau stated the retirement system as an example. The school district has joined a lawsuit with the New Hampshire School Boards Association and the Local Government Center; we need to express our position, but also keep moving.
Mr. Charles Gangle, community member, asked who were the decision makers, how the funds are spent, and who were the final arbiters regarding SRTS?
Mr. Luneau stated an ad hoc committee drives SRTC. The committee consists of community members, Neal Cass, Bob Carpenter, Contoocook Village Precinct, senior members of the school district, and David Luneau. There is quite a long list of people that are on the email notification list – it is not a closed club. There is not a single person arbiter.
The committee works with Central New Hampshire Regional Planning and the State of NH Department of Transportation (DOT) to identify projects that provide improvement in pedestrian safety going to the elementary schools and middle school (it is not a program that supports pedestrian safety to high schools).
Superintendent of Schools Steven Chamberlin, Town Administrator Neal Cass, Chief of Police Stephen Pecora, Superintendent of Public Works Harold Blanchette, as well as members of the committee review the proposals and determine what to put forward as an application for federal funds. Next, the application goes to the school board and the board of selectmen for presentation and approval. When the funds are approved by the DOT, the projects are well defined; the funds must be used for what was in the application.
e. Future Meetings
Mr. Donahue gave the following review on what they are looking for in the next joint meeting.
Field Maintenance and snow removal
Document status quo – make a recommendation on how it should be handled, taking into account both transparency and efficiencies.
Report back; collaborate use
What degree we can help with district resources.
District/town office space
Administrators continue to work closely together to keep each other informed, and support each other where they are facing challenges in their own operation.
Mr. Donahue stated a meeting every six months would end up being useless. Quarterly would be better to follow up on things identified in the last meeting and then anything for future focus.
Mr. Luneau stated he thinks a quarter is going to go by fast. He would like to see the pick up be with daily operations; both boards being informed better as a result of the daily communication. He does think we should have a joint meeting coming into budget season.
Mr. O’Brien liked the idea of getting together before budget season.
Mr. Richardson stated the plan is to have another joint meeting in September.
PUBLIC COMMENT (3):
Ms. Janet Krzyzaniak, community member, stated this was a very good meeting; it gave them a chance to hear both sides. She appreciated Mr. Richardson’s comments as state representative on the state’s standpoint.
Mr. Richardson stated he was glad to be here.
The meeting adjourned at 8:08pm
Respectfully submitted, Jean Eaton