ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, FEBRUARY 28, 2002
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Workshop Meeting at 8:00 a.m., in the Board Room, at the Dr. Vernon McDaniel (Administration) Building, 215 West Garden Street, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:
Chairman: Dr. John DeWitt
Vice Chairman: Ms. Linda Finkelstein
Board Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh
Mrs. Cary Stidham
Dr. Elmer Jenkins
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Norm Ross, Deputy Superintendent, represented Mr. Jim Paul
I. CALL TO ORDER
Dr. DeWitt called the Special Workshop to order at 8:03 a.m. He explained that the purpose of the Special Workshop was to give Board Members the opportunity to discuss proposed budget cuts that which would be voted on at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
II. PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS
Implementation of Budget Reductions Previously Approved by the School Board
1) Reduce diesel fuel allocation by $100,000
Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, explained that the implementation of trunk routing, coupled with the auditing of bus routes had resulted in a reduction in the number of miles that buses were covering. He further explained that the reduction in mileage had resulted in fuel savings.
2) Transfer $500,000 of Maintenance expense to the 2-Mill Fund
No discussion was held.
3) Transfer of Office of Facilities Planning expenditures to PECO Funds
No discussion was held.
4) Close Dixon Elementary School
Dr. DeWitt noted that closure of Dixon Elementary School was approved at the January 8, 2002 Special Meeting. (A separate motion to allow Dixon Elementary until January 31, 2002 to complete a charter application was also approved at that time.) For the record, Dr. Jenkins stated that although it was approved, he had opposed the motion for closure of Dixon Elementary School.
5) Close Old Hometown Program
Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Ross stated that although the University of West Florida had previously expressed a desire to continue the Old Hometown program, there had been no commitment to do so, as of the present time. Dr. DeWitt expressed his support of the program and noted that at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting, he would recommend that the District continue to support (financially) the Old Hometown program for another year. Mrs. Stidham noted that the Old Hometown program had already been provided ample time (approximately a year) to secure alternative funding. At the request of Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Ross stated that a breakdown of the $90,000 proposed savings for closure of the Old Hometown program would be provided prior to the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
6) Close Roy Hyatt Environmental Center
Upon inquiry by Ms. Finkelstein, Dr. Doug Garber, Director of Human Resource Services, stated that the $196,000 proposed savings for closure of the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center, represented mostly salaries in addition to some operating costs. Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, stated that outside funding sources and other methods were being explored as well as other methods to operate the facility. He noted that several community/national groups such as the Cantonment Rotary Club, the National Audubon Society, and the Districts Applied Technology Department (Vocational Education) were all interested in some cooperative effort to continue operating the center. He explained that the property must continue to serve an educational purpose for the District, otherwise it would revert to the federal government. He noted that the property could be given to Tate Agricultural Program for other uses or attached to Ransom or Tate to continue some services to the District. Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, stated that while there were on-going discussions with several community/national groups regarding their interest in providing support for the Center, no firm commitment had been made. He noted that once a firm commitment was made, it would be presented to the Superintendent for recommendation to the Board. Mr. Bergosh and Mrs. Stidham both believed that the programs offered by the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center were beneficial to students, however, if alternative funding was not secured, the Center would need to be closed. Dr. DeWitt suggested that partial funding from Title I sources be looked into noting that many inner-city students benefit from the programs provided by the Center. Mr. Ross stated that various issues would be reviewed and reported to the Board prior to the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
7) Positions eliminated
NOTE: Savings will be realized from the culmination of prior years administrative, professional and district-level instructional employee reductions. Employees will revert to instructional contracts, terminate, be consolidated with other positions or contracted services will be utilized.
Dr. DeWitt noted that the position Coordinator of Community and Legislative Affairs was included as eliminated position. He explained that the position was actually transferred from the Superintendents staff to the Boards staff (with a reduction in salary), rather than eliminated and therefore, the entire salary for the previous position should not be included in the savings. Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Financial and Business Affairs, stated that the savings amount reflected only the difference in salary, not the entire salary of the previous position. Mr. Negron suggested that the statement read abolishment of position with transfer of duties to a lower pay grade rather than eliminated for accuracy. Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Dr. Garber stated that 2001-2002 Salary Schedules and Classification Guides (for both Administrative and Professional) would be presented to the Board for approval at the March Regular Board Meeting. Mrs. Stidham noted that the Board had previously discussed equalization of salaries to the State average. Upon inquiry by Mrs. Stidham, Dr. Garber stated that the salary proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which will be presented to the Board by the beginning of the next fiscal year, will reflect the ability for certain positions to be enhanced financially.
Proposals for Cost Savings to the General Fund Presented by the Department of Operations
1) Privatization of custodial services
Dr. Jenkins expressed his concerns regarding the general concept of privatization and its potential impact on District custodial employees. He stated that he would not support privatization of custodial services and suggested that the District look into ways to administer custodial services more efficiently. Mrs. Stidham noted that according to the proposal for privatization, District custodial employees would have the opportunity to compete for contract. Mr. Bergosh believed that the proposal for privatization protected District custodial employees because they could remain within the system. He also believed that the proposal also provided current District custodial employees fair competition by giving them the opportunity to compete with outside industry for contract. Mrs. Stidham stated that she had heard concerns from District employees regarding a decrease in quality of work that would occur if custodial services were privatized. She believed that if the Request for Proposal was written to outline specifics regarding expectations, then the quality of work could be maintained. Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Dr. Doug Garber, Director of Human Resource Services, stated that notice was provided to the union regarding consideration of privatizing custodial services. He believed that the only other obligation to the union, was to discuss whether there were ways to maintain the current custodial services and realize a cost savings. Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt and Dr. Jenkins, Mr. Mark Pursell, Director of Maintenance and Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, explained how privatization of custodial services could reduce the current District expenditures for custodial operations. Ms. Ellen Lawrence, Director of Escambia NEA UniServ, expressed her concerns regarding the Boards obligation to the unions (as outlined in union contract) and the impact of privatization on current District custodial employees. Ms. Finkelstein requested detailed information on what the proposed cost saving of $625,000 ($2,084,000 at full implementation) represents. In answer to Ms. Finkelsteins question, Dr. Garber stated that once a Request for Proposal is issued, the District would then proceed with impact bargaining with the unions. Mr. Bergosh requested information regarding the salary range for current District custodial employees. Dr. DeWitt explained that the issue that would be voted on at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting would be whether to issue a Request for Proposal for the privatization of custodial services. The Board collectively agreed that if the issuance of a Request for Proposal was approved, they would review the item before it was presented for bids.
2) Outsource courier service and reduce service to three (3) days per week
Upon inquiry by Dr. Jenkins, Mr. Ronnie Arnold, Director of Information Services, stated that this action would affect two (2) employees, who would be transferred to similar vacant positions within the District.
Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Arnold explained that another proposed cost savings idea discussed by staff was to install an automated telephone system. He noted however, that the consensus of staff from a customer relations standpoint was that an automated system would be less customer friendly than the current system. The Board collectively requested an analysis of the cost savings to install an automated telephone system. In response to concerns expressed by Mrs. Stidham, Mr. Ross explained that most schools use an automated telephone system due to problems experienced in the past concerning bomb threats. He also noted that the menu options on an automated telephone system for the administrative offices would certainly surpass those for any of the school facilities and believed that the system was not customer friendly. Ms. Patsy Grayson, Telecommunications Manager, explained some of the differences in the current telephone system and an automated telephone system. Mr. Ross stated that a cost analysis on this issue would be provided to the Board prior to the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
3) Bus Compounding
Mr. Shawn Dennis, Director of Transportation, responded to questions posed by Board Members and reviewed bus compounding transition issues and strategies as outlined in information previously provided to the Board. Mrs. Stidham had concerns with going forward with this issue (i.e., further review, negotiations, etc.) if this concept was not feasible, noting that much time and effort would be wasted. Dr. DeWitt explained that the issue that would be voted on for the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting would be whether to approve the concept of this bus compounding. Mr. Ross noted that bus compounding was an initiative encouraged throughout the State by the Commission of Education.
4) Closing all buildings during winter break
Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, explained that while many District facilities already close during the holidays, closing all buildings would result in savings of energy.
Ms. Ellen Lawrence, Director of Escambia NEA UniServ, believed that both this issue and the prior issue (Bus Compounding) would directly violate union contract language. She requested that the Board negotiate all bargaining issues before approving those items. In response to further comments by Ms. Lawrence, Mr. Negron advised that the issue of closing administrative sites was not a bargaining issue, however the impact (on employees) of closing administrative sites was. Dr. Doug Garber, Director of Human Resource Services, stated that upon approval of this item, he and Mr. Gene Pettis, Administrator on Special Assignment (Employee Services), would set up an impact bargaining process to deal with all bargaining issues.
Proposals for Cost Savings to the General Fund Presented by the Department of Human Resources
1) Charge a fee for family dental insurance
2) Negotiate the removal of the retirement bonus
Mr. Bob Husbands, Executive Director of NEA UniServe, advised that both issues (fee for dental and removal of retirement) were bargaining issues that could only be changed through negotiations process and requested that those issues be deferred and that the projected savings be removed from any advertised anticipated savings. Mr. Negron stated that he was not sure that the fee charge for family dental insurance was a bargainable issue and stated that he would review the issue and advise the Board prior to the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
3) Charge fees for all locally issued teaching certificates equal to those charged by the State of Florida
Dr. Doug Garber, Director of Human Resource Services, stated that charging fees for all locally issued teaching certificates equal to those charged by the State of Florida, would be a means of providing additional revenue to the District. He noted that the District currently charges less than the State of Florida.
Proposals for Cost Savings to the General Fund Presented by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction
1) Eliminate middle school athletics
Dr. Alan Scott, Director of Secondary Education, explained that eliminating middle school athletics and implementing an intramural program would increase the number of students who can participate in athletic activities which would embrace the true middle school concept. It would eliminate the problem with scheduling high school facilities for middle school events and bring about a cost savings by removing a large amount in salary supplements as well as additional costs for transportation, uniforms, facilities, custodial, etc. Mrs. Stidham expressed her concerns regarding the advantages of team sports, parental involvement, student grades, transition to high school athletics, and female participation in athletics. Mr. Ross stated that more information regarding this issue would be forthcoming following the Workshop meeting. Dr. Jenkins suggested that the District look into ways to reduce the costs for middle school athletics rather than eliminate.
Dr. DeWitt explained that due to time constraints, the following two items (Items 2 and 3) would be discussed at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
2) Close the Districts print shop
3) Maintain vacancies in Management Information Systems (MIS) department
4) Contract after-school child-care and increase fees
Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Tommy Taylor, Director of Applied Technology, stated that by converting the existing eight (8) District-operated after-school child care programs to contracted services, the District would generate an additional revenue. In addition, an increase to $2.00/child/hour (from the $1.00/child/hour that the District currently receives through the after-school child-care program) would also generate a substantial amount of revenue from existing contracted programs. Dr. DeWitt and Dr. Jenkins expressed their concerns with converting these District-operated programs to contracted services, noting that they are essentially self-supporting. They also noted that these programs have also contributed money to the schools to purchase equipment, computers and other materials that the schools themselves could not afford to purchase. Ms. Finkelstein believed that with District-operated after-school child-care programs, the teachers and administrators were more involved with the students. Mrs. Stidham requested that a breakdown of the amount of savings for both recommendations be provided prior to the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting.
Dr. DeWitt explained that due to time constraints, the following remaining items would be discussed at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting:
5) Partial holdback of Supplemental Academic Instruction (SAI) funds
6) Reduce the number of visiting teachers from 10 to 5
7) Move Judy Andrews Pre-k and Petree Pre-k to existing K-5 sites
Proposals for Cost Savings to the General Fund Presented by the Department of Finance and Business Affairs
1) Increase pupil-teacher ratio by two (2) for basic Grade 3 and by one (1) for basic and vocational Grades 4-12
2) Reduce school operating budgets by 5% reduce departmental operating budgets by 10%
There being no further business, the Special Workshop adjourned at 10:00 a.m.