On each ensuing Friday, the eNewsletter will be a listing of questions and responses relating to the 2012 – 2013 Budget development process. The frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) and their answers are attempts to answer questions from the community that have either been asked in person at public meetings, as part of the Board’s engagement with the community during the budget forum, at other times when survey opportunities have been offered to educational stakeholders, and even in an attempt to address expected questions. Hopefully they will provide you with information that you find useful.
"Why does the District allow employees to serve as chaperones at their children's interscholastic athletic contests?"
While the District has the option of who to hire for such a position, the District cannot discriminate against an employee to work in such a capacity based upon the fact that the employee is a resident of the District and/or has children who attend the District. If such were to occur, the collective bargaining unit representing the employee would have grounds for pursuing a grievance against the District which could become a costly and time consuming effort that, in all likelihood, would result in a decision against the District.
In such instances where an employee with this profile is hired to work in such a capacity, there are conversations that occur to clarify primary roles and responsibilities.
"Why does the District pay ticket-takers, chaperones, clock keepers, etc. for home contests? Can volunteers perform these duties?”
This is a matter of honoring contracts that have been negotiated and agreed upon. The rate that is established in the contract cannot be arbitrarily rescinded, waived, or reduced by the District. If such an action of alteration was initiated by the District, the collective bargaining unit that negotiated such rates would have grounds for pursuing a grievance against the District which could become a costly and time consuming effort that, in all likelihood, would result in a decision against the District.
“Why not reduce the number of field trips?”
Field trip expense amounts to a small percentage of most school budgets. We have eliminated district funded field trips that are not educational in nature. We continue to analyze the purpose and educational value of all field trips and, if costly, look for viable alternatives.
“Will staff development, particularly out-of-district opportunities, continue to be not budgeted for?
For the third consecutive year, we will not be budgeting for the opportunities for our staff to engage in staff development in the general fund of the school budget. We realize that not providing staff development opportunities could have a direct impact on student achievement so we do anticipate apportioning some funds that we expect to receive from specific Federal grants tied to improving teacher effectiveness so that we can promote teacher advancement.
“Isn’t the District required by the Race To The Top Reform Initiative to provide professional staff development?”
Through the Race To The Top Reform Initiative we are required to have professional training for staff members to meet new standards of achievement and thus must budget for such which we have done in our BOCES budget and substitute budget expenditure. Sadly, the federal funding provided to offset the required training falls short of the overall cost of the training and it becomes a local expenditure for the mandated training.
“Do we have to travel so far for our sports contests?”
Due to league obligations and certain limitations posed by what schools participate in which sports and their alignment, we have less control over our sports opponents at the jayvee and Varsity level. However, at the modified level there is more flexibility about playing teams that are geographically closer For example, we have shifted our modified sports winter schedules so that the contests are played against our neighboring schools of Port Byron, Jordan-Elbridge, Cato-Meridian, and Hannibal. We continue to pursue this for each sports season.
“Can Section III defray some of the cost of teams traveling so far for games/meets?”
Section III officials and the Onondaga High School League officials have become more conscious of travel costs and there have been conversations at the meetings pertaining to cutting down on traveling costs. There has been success at the league level in cutting down on travel costs at the modified level. At the high school level, and to some degree at the modified level, there is less flexibility given league alignments and sports offerings (e.g. field hockey and swimming & diving are not sports offered at each school or only at select neighboring schools) but even that is being scrutinized more so than it has in the past.
At times, a perception exists that certain sports have to travel considerable distances while others do not. In particular, football travel is viewed as having greater transportation costs given that league play against similar-sized foes involves playing Beaver River, Sandy Creek, and so on. To offer some perspective, an analysis was done of the transportation costs (gas and bus driver salary) for the away, league-related contests for Varsity Football and Varsity Swimming & Diving. The transportation costs for Varsity Football away contests ($866.92) was less than the transportation costs for Varsity Swimming & Diving ($936.79) away contests.
“In the next round of negotiations with the Weedsport Teachers’ Association (WTA) will the District seek to eliminate insurance coverage for retirees when they turn 65 years old, give teachers a flat rate increase in salary, and take a conflict position when negotiating?”
While we cannot comment on specific negotiating strategies that will be employed with our collective bargaining units in the future, please know that in the past we have sought concessions in the area of health care and we anticipate that the issue will be addressed in the future together with the ability of the community and tax payers to support any future changes in other areas of compensation.
“Why can’t BOCES services be cut back and we conduct the business at Weedsport especially when it comes to supporting our children with disabilities or alternative learning needs?”
We have reduced BOCES service requests over the past few years to the point where were are functioning at a base level of utilizing the BOCES structure of sharing services and costs to operate our critical systems in the most cost-effective manner, providing necessary services that would be cost prohibitive if the District opted to bear the financial burden alone, servicing our at-risk students and our students with disabilities, and providing occupational educational opportunities. We review the BOCES service requests carefully and make the appropriate adjustments firmly believing that simply because the service is offered or we have bought that service in the past then we must purchase these services in the future. Moreover, we make every attempt to program for our students in-house prior to enrolling the students in a BOCES supported program which is necessitated by student needs, a lack of available District resources, and cost efficiency.
“Why must the District keep expanding buildings and employee positions while enrollment is declining?”
First and foremost, the District has not engaged in a building expansion linked to enrollment since the completion of the Capital Project work that was accomplished nearly a decade ago. The District has engaged in building work in recent years that has been necessitated by health, safety, handicap accessibility, and energy efficiency issues. Such work was approved by the community in December of 2009 and the work will be completed in the short term.
In terms of the assertion that the District is expanding employee positions while enrollment is declining, the District began reducing staffing levels for the 2009 – 2010 school year to reflect the decreasing enrollment levels. Since then, administrative staff has been cut by 17%, the teaching staff by 8%, clerical staff by 25%, and teacher aides by 16%. Reducing staff is a difficult reduction that is made in a school budget. Vacated positions determined to be appropriate for elimination is the easiest way to deal with these reductions but we have not had an abundance of situations recently where we have departing staff members who retired or left for another job. The changes we have made in staffing levels in the past have been painful for affected individuals and their families as well as our district’s culture. However, as dictated by enrollment and finance, no other reduction or elimination can generate savings close to the magnitude that occurs when personnel cuts are made.