Windham's WNUESD Board Minutes for 2/20/2020 page

WNUESD Board Minutes for 2/20/2020

WNUESD Board Minutes for February 20, 2020
Posted on 02/25/2020
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WINDHAM NORTHEAST UNION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT School Board Meeting – Thursday, February 20, 2020

WNESU Central Office @ 6:30 p.m. AGENDA

(Minutes, Draft, Subject to Approval)


Members in Attendance: Cheryl Charles, Melissa Carlstrom, Jessa Westclark, Jack Bryar


Others in Attendance: Chris Pratt, Edie Cole, David Clark, Fact TV


1.  Call to Order: Jack Bryar called the meeting to order at 6:49 pm.


2.  Consider Adjustments/Amendments to Agenda:


            a.  New Item 4: Budget Discussion a. Report of Budget Committee b. Approve FY21      Budget/Approve Warning Articles


3.  Communications and Public Comments: None


4.  Budget Discussion


      a.  Report of Budget Committee:


Cheryl Charles:  began discussion by stating that there was an error discovered that lead to an adjustment to the budget figure by approx $50k.


Edie Cole: said that the budget was adjusted by 51,750-dollars. This will change the tax sheet and the revenues.


Jack Bryar:  there are artifacts of the new e-finance system; there are many assessments that are 100-percent increases.


Edie Cole:  said this is because in a change in coding.


Jack Bryar:  we want to have two separate budgets that are laid out together.  There is a possibility that the courts will decide in our favor and we will need to be able to split out that stuff. 


Edie Cole:  said that legally she can’t split the budgets.  However, there is a spreadsheet that can be used to break it back out.


Jack Bryar: discussed an important staffing change.  Principal Doug Kussius is leaving the principal position at Westminster and will be heading to White River.  We are sad to be losing him.


Edie Cole: said to Mr. Kussius, we will miss you but your commute will be wonderful.


Jack Bryar:  this is important because there are a couple of staffing configurations that suggest themselves if this happens.


Cheryl Charles:  suggested leaving the budget the way it is now with two principals.  It is a momentous decision to change the principal configuration and that would require community involvement.


Jack Bryar: said that it would be 40k savings to go with a lead teacher and asked if it is the unanimous view of the board that we retain two principals in the budget?


Jessa Westclark:  said that we should not just decide about principals we should talk about what our visions are for our schools and for the future.  It would be short sighted to only change things at the leadership level without having those discussions.  Community members will be aware of the possibilities, rather than make a suggestion to the public; the public could make an amendment at Town Meeting if that is their wish.


Cheryl Charles:  added that we are looking at a proposed budget that is reduced from last year’s. We have done everything we can to maintain programming.  If we are going to make such a decision it should be done in a much more fulsome manner. From a fiscal point of view it feels good going with the proposed budget and letting the public know that this a topic for future consideration.  It is premature to make such a cut tonight.


Edie Cole:  added that the superintendent should way in on the educational impact of such a reconfiguration.


Jack Bryar:  added for consideration that having Studio-Y incorporated into the building at WCES instead of absorbing the overhead costs of maintaining the West-West building would achieve savings.  


The board went into recess at 7:06 pm.

The board was called back to order at 7:17 pm.


Doug Kussius: suggested creating an emergency fund to handle unexpected 7/8-grade tuition.


Edie Cole:  asked how the board would like to handle the surplus.  138k of the total surplus is currently offsetting revenue. 


Jack Bryar: asked what is average variation between the forecast and actual numbers of 7/8 graders moving in.


Doug Kussius: said that there is an average around 6 or 7 but just one very expensive move in can throw numbers way off.


Jack Bryar:  said that now that we are consolidated, assessments will not be sent to towns they will be sent to the district. 


Jessa Westclark:  asked, does the revenue report reflect the anticipated loss of grant funds?


Edie Cole:  said that it does.


Cheryl Charles:  said that this surplus was from what was the Westminster school.  Where does this number sit in accounting?


Edie Cole: it is part of the fund balance and is reflected on the balance sheet.  The fund balance is not a stable number. 


Cheryl Charles:  is the 138k in offsetting revenue subtracted from balance sheet?


Edie Cole:  said that it is.  Ms. Cole said that Doug’s suggestion about a reserve fund for tuition is a good idea.


Jack Bryar:  said that it is his personal view that a large surplus should be returned to the taxpayers.


Jessa Westclark: said that the Westminster district taxpayers generated the surplus.  In light of the unsettled lawsuit, Ms. Westclark supports a 100k reserve for tuition.  That leaves 23k in reserve.


Doug Kussius:  suggested creating a capital reserve fund as well.


Jessa Westclark moved to ask the voters of the Athens Westminster and Grafton to allocate $23,166 from the FY19 surplus into a capital reserve fund.




Cheryl Charles: with these two possible changes are we increasing the budget?


Edie Cole: no


Cheryl Charles: said that $51,750 is being taken out due to an error, now we are talking about additional changes to the budget.


Jack Bryar:  it will have no impact to the bottom line but it will impact allocation of funds.


Cheryl Charles: what is the impact to the taxpayers?


Edie Cole: Line 1 will be reduced by the $51,750 correction and it will trickle down. Local funds are $159,282 on line 9.  Line 11 will be reduced by the correction as well. 


Cheryl Charles:  said that tax rates look like an increase for Westminster and a reduction for Athens/Grafton and asked if that is correct?


Edie Cole:  said that FY21 was adjusted based on the CLA but FY20 may not have been. 


Jack Bryar: we are not hitting any state thresholds are we?


Edie Cole: no, you are below threshold of  $18,756.00.  Line 13 will be reduced. Ms. Cole said that she would reduce the eligible construction cost (principal/interest west bond divided by equalized pupils) on line 15. For the sped costs in excess of $50,000, the state will pay 90%.  The 10% that the school pays is a number that is provided by the state and is divided by line 12.  The O.P.E.B. for teachers that are new is $1,300 a year pay for benefits.  That number is also divided by the equalized pupils.  All that said the final number would below that threshold.  


The motion passed.


Cheryl Charles moved to ask the voters of the Westminster Athens and Grafton to allocate $100,000.00 from the FY19 surplus into a tuition reserve for unexpected 7th and 8th graders that move into the district.


The motion passed.


      b.  Approve FY21 Budget:


Jessa Westclark moved to ask voters of Westminster Athens and Grafton to approve an FY21 budget in the total amount of $6,792,186.51


The motion passed.


Jack Bryar moved that the Warning Articles for the annual Town Meeting include the following Article, ‘not withstanding the objection of the community to the state imposed school district, shall the voters elect board members for the WNUESD according to the interim articles of agreement, and to note for the record that the actions taken at this meeting are in no way intended as an affirmation of the legality of the State Board of Education’s Report and Order on State-wide School Merger Decisions issued on November 30, 2018.


The motion passed.


Cheryl Charles:  asked about the interim articles of agreement. Are those the governing documents?


Jack Bryar:  yes, they do not need to be warned or approved.


Edie Cole:  added for clarification that the FY20 tax rates were not adjusted by CLA.  They have now been adjusted.


Cheryl Charles moved to ask the voters of the towns of Westminster Athens and Grafton to approve $18,734.37 in ed. spending per equalized pupil, which is a 1.39% increase in education spending per equalized pupil over the previous year.


The motion passed.    



5.  New Business for Discussion/Action:

a.  Seek Legal Opinion from Larry Slason on the

Legality of Attached Warning Articles:


Jack Bryar:  There was a question asked as to whether or not the language on the warning was overly expansive.  Mr. Bryar said that he has received sage advice form Mr. Slason that if the language was ever challenged, the language was so expansive it would subject to a summary judgment.  Mr. Slason also said that the voters of Westminster could assert what they wish by voting for the articles that they wish.   Mr. Slason suggested having on the agenda an amendment recognizing that the committees exist, and that the boards can ask for their advice. We also do not have specific language on our recommendation about our successors.



b.  Approve Announced Tuition:  The deadline has expired.  Edie Cole recommends that if WNUESD should get a tuition student, that the district use the state average.


5.  Directors’ Comments:


Cheryl Charles:  said that this has been a very difficult process and it is something that the boards, the administration and the business office have been working on for months.


Jack Bryar: thanked his colleagues for their patience and said that he is aware it has been stretched a bit.  This is the way sausage gets made sometimes.


Jessa Westclark:  said that she hopes she is appropriately representing the views of the Grafton taxpayers the voters, the parents and educators all those we speak for.


6.  Executive Session:

      a. Personnel Matter:


Cheryl Charles moved to enter into executive session to discuss personnel matters the premature public knowledge of which would place the board and any individuals concerned at a substantial disadvantage and invited the appropriate administration to attend.

The motion passed.


Entered Executive session at 8:30

Out of the executive session: 8:43


Motion 1: This is a motion to confirm the Board's action to terminate the employment of Emily Erquart as of Jan 30, 2020.   


Motion 2: With regret, we accept the resignation of Principal Doug Kussius Principal of Westminster Central school as of June 30, 2020


(Both Passed Unanimously)


7.  Agenda Items for Next Board Meeting:  No discussion.


8.  Date of Next Board Meeting – March 19, 2020


9.  Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 8:00pm.


Respectfully Submitted,

Josh Aberman



Board Clerk,  ___________________________


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