Town of Lyme
Budget Committee Meeting
January 6, 2005
Lyme Town Offices
Minutes Prepared by Dave Caffry
Present: Budget Committee: Barney Brannnen (Chair), Judith Brotman (Selectman), Laszlo Bardos (Schoolboard), Dave Caffry, Josh Kilham, Jeff Lehman. Lyme School Administrators: Gordon Schnare (Superintendent), Gerry Clancy (Principal)
The meeting was called to order at 7:10 p.m. by Chair Brannen.
Chair Brannen suggested deferring discussion on the minutes from the 12/8 and 12/15 meetings in light of the low turn-out by Budget Committee members.
1. Presentation of the 2005/06 Lyme School Budget by Mr. Bardos. Mr. Bardos presented an overview of the school budget touching on the major issues affecting costs. The bulk of the increase for next year’s budget is found in several areas: salaries, benefits, fuel, teacher retirement, and planned book purchases. With regard to high school tuition costs, Mr. Bardos explained that while the high school age population is declining this cost savings is offset by an increase in tuition costs. In addition to cost increases, Mr. Bardos explained that changes in revenue are a major factor in the budget increase. Decreases in revenue drawn from the high school and special education trust funds have also contributed to the expected increases.
2. Discussion of 2005/06 Lyme School Budget. Mrs. Brotman questioned whether or not Hanover and Thetford calculated capital costs within their high school tuition rates. Mr. Bardos confirmed that they do. Mrs. Brotman raised the issue of whether the school was underestimating the number of “phantom students” used in projecting the number of high school age students in the district. She indicated that she knew of two additional high school students moving in to the district. Mr. Bardos explained that historically the numbers of incoming and outgoing students tend to balance themselves and they have not needed to increase the phantom student count.
Mr. Schnare discussed the special education program, stating that although the number of students identified by the district as requiring services has decreased, this has been offset by special ed. students moving into the district. In response to a question from a committee member, Mr. Bardos indicated that special ed. costs have decreased as a percentage of the overall budget. Mr. Schnare indicated that local high schools charge the district for each special ed. student enrolled in their program.
Mr. Brannen thanked Mr. Bardos and Mr. Schnare for their work and requested that the slides used in the presentation be made available to the committee.
Mr. Brannen suggested to the committee that this would be a good time address questions to the school administrators and school board chair that would require them to collect more information in advance of the next committee meeting. He requested that the high school tuition reserve account spreadsheet and the historical and projected enrollment figures for K-8 be provided to the committee.
Mr. Lehman expressed two concerns about the school budget: First, he noted the $100,000 earmarked in the capital improvement plan for renovating the school kitchen and asked if this was necessary. Mr. Bardos indicated that this entry should be removed and that there were no plans to expand or renovate the kitchen at this time. In fact, because of a drop in participation in the lunch program, the School Board and administration were considering ways to save money, including doing away with the program all together.
Mr. Lehman’s second concern related to the administrative costs of the Special Education program, specifically the fact that these costs seemed much higher as a percentage of the total high school expenses then for the elementary expenses. Mr. Schnare explained that the district’s Special Ed. Coordinator splits her time between the elementary school and high schools but has a higher level of responsibility at the high school level and consequently spends a greater percentage of her time with high school students. She “watches the store” at the local high schools and serves as the district’s representative at all meetings concerning special education for Lyme high school students.
Mr. Brannen indicated that the subsidy budgeted to offset losses in the food service program was less than the expected loss. A discussion of the food service budget followed, resulting in an addition of $10,000 to the subsidy line item and the inclusion of the entire subsidy in the projected food service revenue. This change had a net effect of reducing the funds to be appropriated through property tax by $10,000. Mr. Schnare indicated that we might be able to eliminate the half-time position in the food service program, but Mr. Clancy responded that the program would be hard to run with one person. The committee and school administrators discussed the pros and cons of cutting the lunch program entirely. It was a general sense of the meeting that the program benefited a significant group of
students and eliminating food service could result in some students going without lunch.
Mr. Brannen noted that the district had in excess of $100,000 in the Special Ed. Trust Fund and asked whether the School Board should draw $40,000 from the account to cover special education expenses. This action had been suggested by Mr. Bardos in his list of potential cost saving measures included with the school budget document. Mr. Schnare indicated that the amount in question matched line item 23 in the school budget, which is a potential expense that was budgeted but might not be incurred. Mr. Schnare questioned the need to budget for this expenditure in light of the uncertainty of whether or not it would occur. A discussion followed. The sense of the meeting was that the School Board should budget for the expenditure and for the withdrawal of $40,000 from the Special Ed. Trust Fund.
Mr. Brannen thanked Mr. Bardos for his work in putting together the list of potential cost saving measures and recommended all Budget Committee members review the document. Further discussion on various aspects of the school budget ensued, including the increase in teacher retirement, internet services, textbooks, fuel prices and the After School Coordinator position.
Mr. Brannen indicated that the changes discussed during the course of the meeting would result in a projected increase over the prior year in the revenue raised through local property taxes of $103,000 as opposed to the original increase of $135,000. If adopted, this budget combined with the town budget would result in an increase in the tax rate of less than 1%.
Ms. Brotman moved to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Lehman seconded. Vote to adjourn was unanimous.