MINUTES, JUNE 11, 2002


The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 9:00 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 (was not present)

Board Members:    Mr. Gary L. Bergosh

Mrs. Cary Stidham

Dr. Elmer Jenkins


School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr. (was not present)


Superintendent of Schools:  Mr. Norm Ross, Deputy Superintendent, represented Mr. Jim Paul



Dr. DeWitt called the Special Meeting to order at 9:00 a.m.



There being no objection, the agenda as outlined, was followed. 



(Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit “A”)

Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs, reviewed handouts provided to the Board regarding the most current 2002-2003 budget information.  She estimated that there were approximately 3.5 million dollars in available funds, but noted that figure would change as more data became available and/or decisions were made on any additional budget reductions or increases.


Mrs. Linker reviewed the following budgetary concerns:


Health Insurance

Mrs. Linker noted that the general fund budget reflected a 17% increase to health insurance over the 2001-2002 actual costs. (NOTE: The 17% increase was based on the assumption that the District would not absorb the entire increase in the cost of the health insurance plan).  She noted that “anything done to decrease that cost (i.e., increased employee/retiree premiums, plan changes, co-pay adjustments on prescription drug plan, etc.) would increase available funds.”  Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mrs. Linker stated that the 17% increase was based on a detailed analysis of health insurance projections provided by Mr. Chris Clark, AON Benefits Consultant. 


She noted that Mr. Clark had also presented several options for decreasing that cost.  Dr. Doug Garber, Director of Human Resource Services, advised that the Insurance Committee would meet the following week, to evaluate the options presented by Mr. Clark and would then offer their recommendation (regarding the health insurance plan) to the Superintendent.


Pending Issues

Mrs. Linker stated that the following proposed budget cuts (recommended by the Superintendent at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting) were still pending:


1)   custodial changes

2)   bus compounding

3)   closing all buildings during Winter Break

4)   charging a fee for family dental insurance

5)   negotiating the removal of the retirement bonus


(NOTE: Items 2 through 5 were deferred to Executive Session at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting)

Employee Raises

Mrs. Linker noted that a 1% raise for all employees would cost approximately $1.4 million.  Dr. Jenkins had concerns with a 1% raise for all employees, noting that “last year the teachers got the biggest percentage of the raises, while Educational Support Personnel (ESP) were shortchanged, and administrators and Professional/Technical staff receiving nothing.” 


“Dollars into the Classroom”

Mrs. Linker advised that the District could be required to increase the amount of funds for “Dollars into the Classroom.”  She noted that the “Dollars into the Classroom” legislation, states that if you (the District) fall below the State average [based upon Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) scores], you would have to increase your expenditures by 1% to 4% in the classroom.” 


Teacher Bonus

Mrs. Linker noted that instructional personnel were paid a bonus (Teacher bonus) of $850 for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, from a “separate categorical funding source.”  She advised that there would be no “separate categorical funding source” for the 2002-2003 fiscal year and noted that the cost of the bonus would be approximately $2 million.


Voucher Schools

Mrs. Linker stated that the reserve for voucher schools (Opportunity Scholarships, McKay Scholarships) had been increased by $525,000, but noted that “if that does not happen then that money can go back into the available funds.” 




Gasoline (Object 450)

Dr. DeWitt noted that there was a “large amount of money being used to purchase gasoline for District cars assigned to staff.”  Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Shawn Dennis, Director of Transportation, stated that there were procedures in place, for ensuring that those cars were used for District business only.  Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, noted that the car assignments were based on an analysis (performed by the Internal Auditing department) regarding “those employees who have been paid the highest amount of local travel money.”  He stated that it made “economic sense” to assign the cars to those particular employees while the cars were available, noting that “when those cars eventually wear out, because we may not want to consider replacing them.” 


Print Shop Charges (Object 796)

Upon inquiry by Board Members, Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, explained that all departments and schools had been directed to use the Print Shop for all processes (i.e., printing, binding, reproduction, etc.).  He explained that because the Print Shop would charge a fee (75% of the commercial value) to all departments and schools for printing services, there “would still be budget items that will show printing [Print Shop Charges (Object 796)].”  He reminded the Board that as discussed at previous meetings, the purchase of updated equipment (i.e., digital typesetting, binding/collating, multi-color printing) with funds from the Print Shop’s equipment budget, would enable the Shop to effectively handle any printing, binding or reproduction request.


Postage (Object 371)

Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Norm Ross, Deputy Superintendent (representing Mr. Jim Paul) explained that mailing first semester report cards for high schools (rather than sending them home with students) was considered a “best practice” in making sure that the District does everything prudent to get that information into the hands of the parents.


Training Tuition Fees (Object 732)

Dr. DeWitt questioned the “reduction of $2,000 from the requested amount of $3,005 for training tuition fees for the Auditing Department.”  Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs, stated that “ideally we would have the full amount,” however, the reduction was based on “trying to cut the budget wherever we can.”  She noted that the final budget amount ($1,005) was a “comparable amount with other departments.”  Mr. Sam Scallan, Director of Internal Auditing, stated that the requested amount ($3,005) was recommended by the Audit Committee and was a “continuation of what had been requested in prior years.”  He explained the importance for training, noting that the Committee was “charged to make sure that certification stays current and that we stay current on audit functions and programs.”  Dr. DeWitt requested that Mr. Scallan provide the Board with a “detailed list of what was needed.”



Rentals (Object 360)

Dr. DeWitt questioned the need for the rental of a truck “to pick up Federal Impact Aid cards, when the District has many vehicles that could be used.”  Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business, explained that the District was looking into the possibility of having those cards delivered “and if we can, we certainly will.”


Beepers (Object 374)

Mrs. Stidham asked if there were employees that had both beepers and cell phones (or radio phones).  She also questioned “why Inventory Systems only has beepers,” and suggested “getting rid of the beepers and getting cell phones or radio phones instead.”  Mr. Ted Kirchharr, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, stated that the selection of beepers rather than cell phones (or radio phones) was generally just a cost issue, noting that “rates for beepers tend to be less.”  Mrs. Stidham requested a cost analysis of beepers versus cell phones (or radio phones).  In answer to Mrs. Stidham initial question, Mr. Mark Pursell, Director of Maintenance, stated that there were eight (8) employees, who were part of the Maintenance Department’s “emergency response team” that had both (beepers and cell phones/radio phones).  He explained that the Maintenance Department had recently eliminated their answering service for after-hours emergencies, and that “the emergency number now goes right to that cell phone thereby eliminating the cost of having an answering service.”


Data Communication Lines (Object 375)

Dr. DeWitt questioned whether “there would be a savings” in the amount spent for data communication lines, “as a result of the Fiber Optic Metropolitan Wide Network project (approved at the February 19, 2002 Regular Meeting).”  Mr. Bill Bush, Director of Management Information Systems (MIS), stated that “in the future, when the District becomes wireless, there will be a savings.”  He noted that the Fiber Optic Metropolitan Wide Network project was part of a long-term plan which would eventually eliminate lease payments for various services (i.e., Cox Cable, BellSouth, AT&T).  Mrs. Stidham noted that when the project was originally presented for approval, “the Board was told that there would be a five-year pay-out.”  Mr. Bush stated that he could “not guarantee any figure at this point in time, about something that will happen in the future”, however, “you will save money, whether it is two, three or five years, not sure.”


Professional & Technical Services (Object 310)

Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs, stated that the outsourcing of the “Administration of Section 125 Plan,” was critical to finance operations.  She explained that those functions (i.e., marketing of the plan, receiving of claims, auditing of claims, reimbursement of claims) were previously performed by staff positions that had now been eliminated.


Following review of Book I and Book II of the 2002-2003 Proposed Budget, the Board took the following action:


Mr. Bergosh moved for a 2% decrease in the total budget for Book I and a 0.5% decrease in the total budget for Book II, with the allocation of those decreases to be worked out by the Superintendent and his staff.  Motion was seconded by Dr. DeWitt.  After discussion, motion was approved 3 to 1, with Dr. Jenkins voting “No” and Ms. Finkelstein absent for vote.




There being no further business, the Special Meeting adjourned at 11:05 a.m.