|April 20, 2012 eNews|
April 20, 2012
“What happens when a position becomes vacant and why can’t more positions be shared such as the recently hired District Treasurer and Business Administrator?”
We have instituted a vacant position analysis in which we ask the following questions before determining if we fill the vacant position: Is this position a mandated position? What does the position entail? How does the position impact students? Are there other ways to deliver the service for the students?
As for sharing positions, this is at the forefront of our current and future hiring mindset. The difficulty in making the mindset a reality is that there must be willing partners for sharing. The primary examples in terms of the difficulty in gaining a partner for sharing involves the recently filled positions of District Treasurer and Business Administrator, for which the Weedsport Superintendent of Schools canvassed the other school districts in the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES to share each position. There was no other district at the current time that could or was willing to share the position.
“What can be done at the District level about mandated pension costs that must be accounted for in the school budget?”
Districts have virtually no flexibility in adjusting their pension costs, except to employ fewer people. We are mandated to contribute what the State dictates.
“What are the options available to a District to keep the costs related to health insurance minimized?”
Practically speaking, management is left with one option to reduce healthcare costs: raise employee contribution rates and that can only be accomplished through negotiations.
“Why don’t you look at contract snowplowing/lawn care?”
The District is committed to continuing to explore cost saving opportunities. In the short term, we will have a better understanding of the cost/benefits of engaging in such an arrangement.
“Can the District get comparable health benefits for employees at less cost?”
If we are talking about getting comparable health benefits at a lesser cost, the answer is most likely no. To reduce the cost of the plan there would have to be a reduction in benefits. Or, to reduce the District cost, as mentioned previously, there would have to be a shifting of the cost burden to employees that can only be accomplished through negotiations bargaining. Cost shifting is something that the District always looks at when contracts are open for negotiations.
With respect to the existing health care plan, the plan’s Board of Directors continually reviews the plan to determine if there are existing areas where cost reductions may be made. However, it must be kept in mind that health insurance is highly regulated by the New York State Department of Insurance, which mandates certain minimum benefit levels.
It is also cautioned that going to a different insurer away from the current plan can have expensive ramifications for the district and community. The case in point is when one of the area school districts decided to leave the Cayuga-Onondaga consortium to go to a different insurer in the mid 1990’s. In the first year, there were savings for the District but in the following year there was a significant increase in premium costs. The district returned to the consortium shortly thereafter.
“When we vote on a budget, what are we approving?”
When the board and the public vote on a budget, they are voting on a spending plan. They are saying to the superintendent and business manager that they cannot spend over a certain amount for that given year to run the educational program and operations of the district. Associated with that spending plan, there is another side to the budget, the revenue side. A board of education must take into account where the revenues are coming from when they put forth a spending plan for voter approval. Frequently, this means having in mind what the impact will be on the tax levy under any spending scenario. The public is not voting on a tax levy increase per se, they are voting on a spending plan.
“When there are positions cut, how does the District decide which PEOPLE are eliminated?”
The district administration determines only what positions we can survive without. From there, we must follow education and civil service law to determine who actually is left without a position. There are very specific and detailed regulations used to make such determinations. In many instances, as a rule, the last person hired (even if they have tenure and/or many years of service) is still the first one laid off. The District has NO leeway in picking and choosing. We are required to follow the law.
“Are there better ways to schedule bus runs to maximize the use of our vehicles?”
With our District’s geographic spread, we must always consider the amount of time children will spend riding the bus into our routing. While residents may see buses traveling the roads with few students on them, it may be that they are seeing the buses towards the beginning or end of a run before the majority has been picked up or after they have been dropped off. We also have many requirements in terms of transporting students to schools outside of Weedsport. Sometimes, for these special situations, of which we have many, there may be only one student transported in a van due to where he or she needs to go and when. We will continue to look for transportation efficiencies including partnering with other local school districts as we have done in the past.
“Can the District provided transportation be outsourced to a private company and/or can the District move to one bus run?”
The Board of Education has sought a quote from a firm that conducts transportation studies for clients to provide analytical information on the subject of hiring a private transportation service for student bussing and/or having only one bus run. On the subject of hiring a private transportation service for student bussing, the District would need to expend $9,000 for a 1½ year study. Consequently, the District is planning on gathering information on the feasibility of outsourcing the transportation in a less costly manner. On the subject of having only one bus run, the District continues to review this matter.
"What is the status of the C-O BOCES Regional Transportation Pilot Study and what impact will it have on Weedsport transportation services for this upcoming school year?"
The Regional Transportation Pilot Study is an ongoing analysis of out-of-district runs BOCES-wide. Although the local school districts currently cooperate informally with regard to these runs, there is no way to determine whether or not this practice optimizes efficiency and cost effectiveness. The study is currently taking all of the information from the participating districts and creating different computerized routing models to analyze the most effective manner to transport students involved in the out-of-district runs.
It is expected that there will be some models to review on a regional basis in the late spring of 2012. At that time, our district administration and transportation leadership will analyze the information to determine what, if any, savings or efficiencies we could enjoy if we made the decision to partner with the region and share the responsibilities and costs of a regional transportation system for out-of-district runs.
“Is it possible to share a grant writer amongst the area schools and to have the grant writer be a BOCES-aidable employee?”
According to the Assistant Superintendent for Management, Regional Services, and Finance at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, there is such an opportunity. The District will make the necessary inquiries into the creation of such and determine if the investment is worth the presumed funding benefits.