Tag Archive | "meetings"

Town Annual Budget Meeting, A Meeting Of No Substance And No-Shows, Scheduled For Tonight

By: Maria Moore

The New Hartford Annual Budget Meeting, scheduled for this evening at 7:00 p.m. would have,  in times past, brought together voters to debate next year’s budget line by line, make changes where they saw fit, and then approve the budget ~ or not, as was known to happen.

Tonight’s town Annual Budget Meeting, a shadow of its former self, having been stripped of its purpose by the Selectmen at a Special Meeting on Tuesday, April 20, is set to draw only a handful of participants, most of them required to attend by their official roles: the three Selectmen (maybe), the Town Clerk, a Moderator; and one or two reporters.  Why would any voters interrupt their dinner?  No discussion of the proposed budget will be allowed at the meeting and the referendum date of May 4 has already been set.  Even the Board of Selectmen meeting, which should have preceded the Annual Budget Meeting, has been cancelled, and with it, residents’ last opportunity to address the content of the proposed budget before the referendum date.

Our reporter attended the town Annual Budget Meeting that is no longer an Annual Budget Meeting and was back home within a half-hour.

At 7:07 p.m., the town Annual Budget Meeting was over.   Reggie Smith, Jr. was elected Moderator, a role Reggie graciously takes on.  He read through the Notice of Annual Budget Meeting, and the Budget, untouched by the Board of Finance at their last meeting, was sent to referendum on the predetermined date of Tuesday, May 4.

Our reporter underestimated the number of people at the meeting. At its beginning, the following were present:

  • First Selectman Dan Jerram;
  • Selectmen Tom Klebart and Bruce Gresczyk;
  • Town Clerk Donna LaPlante;
  • Moderator and Board of Finance member Reggie Smith, Jr.;
  • Board of Finance Chairman Ben Witte;
  • Board of Finance members Roy Litchfield and Laura Sundquist;
  • and our reporter.

As the brief meeting concluded, Board of Finance Member Alesia Kennerson joined her fellow Board of Finance members, and the Register Citizen reporter arrived with his video camera.

Conversation With Town Clerk Donna LaPlante

Our reporter checked in with Donna LaPlante and asked if she remembered when the townspeople actually attended Town Budget Meetings to discuss the budget. Donna replied that yes, she remembered it well. “The meetings used to be held at Pine Meadow Elementary to accommodate the people.” Donna said. Our reporter asked if there were really that many people who showed up at the meetings and Donna said that it wasn’t unusual for 100 voters to show up at the Town Budget Meeting. “That’s when they could discuss the budget and cut or eliminate line items from the budget before voting on it.” Donna said.

Elevator Conversation With Ben Witte

Riding down in the elevator one flight with Ben Witte and Bruce Gresczyk, our reporter told Ben that with all the Board of Finance members who showed up at the meeting, she was way off on the estimate she had given in her short report before the meeting. Ben answered that he wasn’t going to go to the meeting, but that on reading the statute he thought he’d better be there in case the budget didn’t go to referendum and he’d be needed to present a budget. As the elevator doors opened, our reporter asked Ben: “You mean you had a budget with you?” At which Ben smiled, holding his portfolio in hand, and the elevator doors closed.

Our Reporter’s/Editor’s Take

There is something slightly uncomfortable in attending a public meeting whose main reason for being has been removed, and at which no public input may be given ~ despite Reggie’s adding that anyone with a question could speak to the First Selectman personally after the meeting.   All present followed an unwritten script, from which there seemed no room for deviation.

Looking back on this 7-minute town Annual Budget Meeting, one has to wonder whether the time has come to bury this construct of a public meeting, and proceed with whatever other form of government should take its place.  This would save the half-dozen or so from the necessity of having to go through a meeting of no substance, just at dinner time.

At the beginning of the Annual Budget Meeting on Tuesday, April 27.  Photo: Maria Moore

At the beginning of the Annual Budget Meeting on Tuesday, April 27. Photo: Maria Moore


The Town Budget Meeting on Tuesday, April 27.  Photo: Maria Moore

The Town Budget Meeting on Tuesday, April 27. Photo: Maria Moore

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Daily Calendar: Tuesday, April 27

Following are the Community Calendar listings for today in New Hartford, CT:

Tuesday,April 27, 2010:

  • New Hartford Senior Center activities: at Senior Center, Town Hall, 530 Main St., New Hartford. Activities: Fitness at 10:45 a.m. ($2.50 per person, per class, includes a fitness card which is stamped for every class attended); Cribbage ‘n cards at 1:00 p.m. For more information please call Jean Barnicoat at 860-379-3980 between 8:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
  • Early Literacy Program: Comprehension Session: at 9:30 a.m. at the Beekley Library, 10 Central Avenue, New Hartford. For more information about this Early Literacy Program please see the flyer posted in our Bulletin Board or call the Library at 860-379-7235.
  • Bakerville Library Story Time for 3 to 5 year-olds: at 10:15 a.m. Bakerville Library, 6 Maple Hollow Road, New Hartford. For more information about the library please visit the Bakerville Library website.
  • CANCELLED: Board of Selectmen Regular Meeting : for lack of agenda.
  • Annual Budget Meeting: at 7:00 p.m. in the Senior Center at the Town Hall, 530 Main Street, New Hartford. To learn more about this meeting and to see the Notice of Annual Budget Meeting and Notice of Referendum please see our April 21 report Selectmen Meet Briefly, Set Future Budget Dates.
  • Have a Spring-related business you want to advertise?: Check out our BRAND NEW Yellow Pages: an economical, simple way to get your business in front of our 32,066 visitors (this past March). Use the “Submit Your Listing” form to send us your information and we’ll list your business. Looking for a lawn care service? Check our Yellow Pages where we’ll be listing companies as soon as their info. is submitted to us.

Our Community Calendar section provides additional information about the events listed above and information on past, current and future events – a permanent record of events in New Hartford. Also check out our Bulletin Board where you can see flyers on events happening around town, and where we have listed information on local non-profit groups.

…NHGrapevine

“There’s no selectmen’s meeting but there will be the Annual Budget Meeting at 7.”
“It’ll be a 5-minute affair.”

First Selectman Dan Jerram and his Assistant Christine Hayward told our reporter yesterday. Odd to think that a town Annual Budget Meeting is no longer the place where the town’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is discussed and voted on. There must have been some heated meetings in the past to get us to this point…

Contribute to the …NHGrapevine… Let us know what you’ve heard – or seen – in town and we’ll add it to this listing, and also add it to the …NHGrapevine.. section. So let’s hear what you’re hearing around town…

042410trillium_fl

Trillium in full bloom in a wooded area along the banks of the Farmington river. Photo: Maria Moore

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Meeting Summary: Board of Selectmen Meeting On Tuesday, March 23

By: Maria Moore

In trying to keep up with our coverage of the budget process for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2010-2011, we find that we have not yet reported on the Board of Selectmen Special Meeting held on March 23, 2010. Below is our summary of that meeting which will continue unbroken our coverage of the town’s Board of Selectmen meetings for the past 14 months ~ that’s a lot of meetings under our expanding belt-line!

The March 23 meeting of the Board of Selectmen was moved to 5:30 p.m. from its regular 7:00 p.m. time slot so that First Selectman Dan Jerram could present the proposed Town Government budget to the Board of Finance Special Meeting held later that evening at 7:00 p.m.; please see our March 25 report of that meeting Board of Finance Almost Gets to Zero…

Item #4: Executive Session ~ Personnel ~ Building Inspector Negotiations

At the beginning of their meeting the selectmen went into executive session to discuss negotiations with the Building Inspector, Paul Volovski.  At the conclusion of the executive session, First Selectman Dan Jerram announced that the Building Inspector’s employment with the town had been modified; Paul would no longer be a part-time employee of the town but rather he will be a contracted employee at a rate of $40 per hour, not to exceed 15 hours per week.

Item #3: Operations Updates

2nd Industrial Park washout:

First Selectman Dan Jerram gave an update on the washout at the Greenwoods Industrial Park, the second since one occurred last year; see our August 5, 2009 report Industrial Park Washout Repair Work Underway, one of several reports on last year’s washout.

Dan said that a separate section had slumped into the wetlands, that emergency repairs had stopped the problem getting worse and that engineers and Planning and Zoning were evaluating the situation. Two out of the three discharge pipes have failed, Dan said, and the repairs to the original washout were not up to standard. Inland and Wetlands were asking the town to fix the situation. “It will be comprehensive and not cheap.” Dan said.

Note: On March 23 the town’s Inland Wetlands Enforcement Officer, Karl Nilsen, had hand-delivered a Cease and Correct order to the Town of New Hartford to cease and correct the situation; a downloadable copy of that Cease and Correct order is included at the end of our report on the Industrial Park washout.

On March 30 the Inland Wetlands Commission held a Show Cause Hearing for the Cease and Correct order at the Industrial Park.  The Commission “reiterated the need for the Town to communicate with the Inland Wetlands Commission prior to commencing work of this nature. Several members also commended the Town for addressing this issue promptly.”  The Inland Wetland Commission voted to continue the Cease and Correct order in the matter of Town of New Hartford, Washout and repair, Industrial Park Road, noting that the Commission is pleased with the Town’s efforts to date in addressing this issue, and requesting that the Town update the Inland Wetlands Commission as the work continues; to read the official minutes of that meeting, please see the Inland Wetlands Special Meeting 3/30/10 minutes in the Minutes and Agendas section of the town’s municipal website.

To download a copy of the Cease and Correct order: in place for the Industrial Park washout: Cease and Correct Order Industrial Park Washout, 03 23 10, p.1 (201), Cease and Correct Order Industrial Park Washout, 03 23 10, p.2 (193).

Personnel Changes:

  • Dan informed the other members of the board that Doug Spencer had been appointed the Interim Foreman at the town’s Highway Department; see our March 22 News Updates: Doug Spencer Appointed Interim Foreman At Town Garage…;
  • Dan also informed the other members of the board that the Town Hall janitor had resigned.  Our reporter later verified that Norm Paul, the part-time janitor at Town Hall had been asked to change his work hours and that the parties involved had not been able to arrive at a mutually-acceptable work schedule.

USDA/Wastewater Treatment Plant Funding:

First Selectman Dan Jerram gave a funding update to the other selectmen. He said he had met with the USDA to understand who would design the payment structure. He said the town has to send the USDA the parameters it wants for the payment plan and the USDA will then slot in the payments. Dan said he is looking at implementing an annual payment plan, with payments made in arrears so that the first payment would not be due until September 11, 2011. This means that the wastewater treatment plant will not impact the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, 2010-2011 (for the period July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011).

Item #6: K-12 Regionalization

Dan informed the other selectmen that the Regional #7 Board of Ed had considered the question of whether to undertake a self-study for a K-12 Regionalization plan.  The Regional #7 board had decided to table the matter until after the budget process was completed.  Dan said that the study would take time and that if the recommendation is for a K-12 Regionalization, then it would be brought to referendum.

Dan asked whether the Board of Selectmen wanted to go on record as supporting the self-study plan.  Tom Klebart said he would go on record recommending it.  “I want to see if there are financial savings and if there are benefits to have the same programs within the four towns (which make up the Regional #7 district).”  Bruce Gresczyk asked: “How many split school systems are there?” Referring to the local elementary schools being the responsibility of each of the four towns, while the middle school and high school are regionalized.  “Not many!” Dan answered.

The selectmen voted unanimously to go on record in support of the Regional #7 Board undertaking a K-12 Regionalization self-study, the first step in any eventual regionalization of the elementary schools.

Item #5: Budget Review

In reviewing the Town Government Budget which First Selectman Dan Jerram was to present to the Board of Finance later that evening, a discussion ensued among the selectmen about the strategy to be implemented for the maintenance of the town’s roads.  In the town’s proposed budget the Chip and Seal line item is being increased 322.8% from $63,860 in the current year’s budget to $270,000 in the proposed budget for  upcoming Fiscal Year 2010/2011.  At the same time, the Asphalt/Bituminous Paving line item is being decreased  by 40%, from $250,000 in the current year’s budget to $150,000 in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Tom Klebart said this appeared to be a switch in philosophy from paving roads to crack and chip sealing them.  Tom referred back to a study that had been undertaken a few years back which had recommended moving away from chip sealing to paving roads.   The other selectmen asked who had done the study and Tom said he remembered that a group of townspeople in the industry had been members of the task force.

Bruce Gresczyk said that from his experience and from a course he had taken, chip sealing was the most effective way of maintaining roads.  Tom said he understood that the town hadn’t been doing any chip sealing in recent years and that the roads had to be in good enough shape to chip seal.  He said the study looked specifically at paving versus chip sealing.

The other two selectmen advocated for chip sealing the roads.  Bruce said: “I question the study.”  and Tom answered:  “If we’re shifting philosophy, we should at least read the study and decide if it makes sense.”  Dan said he didn’t think there had been 2 miles of roads paved in town last year.  Tom agreed but he said that it had nothing to do with last year or the year before, that he just wanted to be sure they were doing the right thing.

Christine Hayward, the First Selectman’s Administrative Assistant, said that it might have been a Roadways Task Force set up by Bill Baxter that had come up with the study.  Tom said that group had shifted the philosophy away from chip and seal.  Bruce said: “And they went to cold mix ~ a little bizarre. Nobody has had an understanding of maintaining the roads in the last few years.” Tom answered: “I happen to remember something (a study) was done. Before we do a flip-flop we should at least look at that and evaluate it.”

Bruce came back with: “That philosophy hasn’t worked. I know sealing is the best way to go!”  Dan again said that if they paved, they would only end up doing 2-3 miles and that they could never keep up with it.  He said the CRRA money  ($148,000; see the Bookkeeper’s Report in our May 19, 2009 report of the Board of Finance meeting) could fund repairs to the lower portion of Steele Road, “from the corner at Lindell’s to Pine Hill.”  He added: “If you try to take the money out of the budget, the budget is gone!”  Tom responded: “As long as the chip seal is used for what it’s supposed to be used.  I don’t want to change philosophy if it’s not the right thing to do.”

Bruce said: “It costs $100,000 per mile” to pave a road, to which Tom answered: “Sometimes that’s what has to be done.” Dan’s last comment in favor of chip sealing was: “In terms of fairness to everybody, so every taxpayer has some money come back into their neighborhoods. So they can see we’re not just dumping it in one corner of town.”

“Let’s move on.” Tom said. And the board went on to discuss other aspects of the budget.

To read about Dan’s presentation of the Town Government budget: to the Board of Finance later that evening, please see our March 25 report Board of Finance Almost Gets To Zero…

To see the video presentations: of the three proposed budgets that make up the Town Budget ~ New Hartford Schools, Northwestern Regional #7 and Town Government ~ at the Board of Finance’s Budget Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 6, please see our report Budget Public Hearing Videos.  Bob Moore, our patient Techie, has uploaded 8 videos and he promises there are only 2 ~ maybe 3 ~ left to go.

____________________

Agenda for the March 23 meeting:

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE REGULARLY SCHEDULED BOS MEETING FOR MARCH 23, 2010 AT 7:00 PM HAS BEEN CANCELLED AND THIS SPECIAL MEETING IS CALLED FOR 5:30 PM.

Board of Selectmen
Special Meeting
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
5:30 PM
Town Hall

AGENDA

1.)Minutes – March 11, 2010
2.)Opportunity for Public Comment on Agenda Items Only
3.)Operations Updates
Industrial Park Washout
Appointment of Interim Highway Foreman
Town hall janitor
USDA/WWTP funding update
Proclamation – Boy Scouts
4.)Executive Session – personnel- building inspector negotiations
5.)Budget Review
6.)K-12 Regionalization
7.)Recycling
8.)Request for Tax Refunds

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News Update: Zoning Officer Suspended While Allegations Of Time Card Fraud Investigated

[Updated at 3:30 p.m.: Copy added of official statement from First Selectman's Office]

By: Maria Moore

The First Selectman’s Office confirmed this morning that Karl Nilsen, the town’s Zoning Officer, has been suspended without pay while allegations of time card fraud are being investigated. Karl, who is a full-time employee of New Hartford is also employed part-time by the town of Burlington as its Zoning Officer. The allegations are into time cards submitted by Karl which show him clocked in for New Hartford while carrying out work for Burlington. Those materials are not available to the press while the investigation is ongoing. Karl is also said to have been suspended by Burlington, pending the outcome of the New Hartford investigation; see Kari Banach’s report in today’s Republican American. Our reporter called Burlington Town Hall but was unable to confirm this directly; we will update this report when our call is returned by Burlington’s First Selectman’s Office.

Karl is a long-time employee of the town; our reporter remembers Karl working with Paul Volovski, the town Building Inspector at least 20 years ago. Karl originally was a municipal employee of New Hartford, with part of his salary being paid by Barkhamsted. As Paul Volovski’s hours decreased to a part-time position, Karl’s position became one in which he worked full-time for New Hartford.

Traditionally, smaller area towns have not hired full-time zoning officials. Rather, they have hired part-time zoning officials who may, or may not have been full-time employees of other municipalities. In the case of the two full-time zoning employees of New Hartford, Karl is hired part-time as the Zoning Enforcement Officer by Burlington and Rista Holda is hired part-time as the Zoning Officer by Barkhamsted. The Zoning Official’s office hours in Burlington, where Karl is hired part-time, are listed on the Burlington Town Hall website as Monday and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon. When our reporter asked whether the office hours for Friday mornings were still current, she was told that the Friday morning hours were no longer available. The Zoning Officer’s office hours in Barkhamsted, where Rista is hired part-time, are listed on the Barkhamsted municipal website as Tuesday evening from 4:15 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., Thursday evening from 4:15 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., and Fridays after 12:00 noon by appointment. When our reporter asked about Friday morning hours which had previously been listed, she was told that now that New Hartford Town Hall was open on Friday mornings, Rista was not available to Barkhamsted during that time.

Karl is a member of the municipal employees’ union at Town Hall. His hours in the union contract are given as 40 hours per week; most recently this was clarified to our reporter as being 35 hours in the office and 5 hours available for meetings, etc. outside of office hours. Our reporter has asked both the employees’ union and the First Selectman’s Office for a copy of Karl’s job description but neither had one available; we will publish a copy of the job description if/when it becomes available to us.

Our reporter asked Nancy Eldridge, President of the employees’ union for a comment on Karl’s suspension this morning and she said the union does not have an official comment at this time; Nancy did say that the union’s attorney has been contacted regarding this matter. The First Selectman’s Office also does not have an official statement about Karl’s suspension at this time.

Since March 1 municipal employees are being required to record when they are out of the office on town business; First Selectman Dan Jerram explained to our reporter that this is being made necessary for insurance purposes, since employees are not covered by the town’s insurance if they are injured while not on town business. The log book is being kept in the First Selectman’s Office and all employees, including elected officials, are being required to record their out-of-office trips on town business. Asked whether this was a new requirement, Christine Hayward, the First Selectman’s Administrative Assistant said that such a log was kept some years ago but that it had not been kept in recent years. Asked whether the First Selectman was also recording his out-of-office trips, Christine said that he was not.

Our reporter spoke to Paul Volovski, Building Inspector regarding Karl’s suspension. Paul said that he hadn’t known anything about it until he heard it reported on the radio on his way to work this morning. He said that he had had a private conversation with the First Selectman this morning but, other than that, he had no comment on the matter.

Rista Holda, Zoning Assistant said that she was out of the office yesterday afternoon and so hadn’t known of the suspension until a conversation with Karl later that evening. As of 10:00 a.m. this morning, she said that she had not received any information from the First Selectman’s Office about the suspension, nor did she know whether an interim Zoning Officer would be appointed. She said she had been receiving phone calls from individuals who were concerned about the status of their paperwork with the Zoning Office. Rista said that she was making the personal commitment to commission members and to those with applications pending that their papers would continue to be processed.

Addendum: We received the following official statement from the First Selectman’s Office at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, Tuesday, March 30:

032910official_statement_fl

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Daily Calendar: Thursday, March 25

[Today's calendar has been delayed due to Maria's work commitments; Thank you for your understanding!]

Following are the Community Calendar listings for today in New Hartford, CT:

Thursday, March 25, 2010:

  • The Tax Collector’s office is CLOSED today, Thursday, March 25: The office will be open again tomorrow, Friday, March 26. The Tax Office hours on Friday are 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon.
    • Early Childhood Screening at New Hartford Schools:For more information please see the press release from New Hartford Schools which we published on March 17. For more information please call the Student Services Office at New Hartford Elementary School at 806-379-1653.
    • New Hartford Senior Center activities: at Senior Center, Town Hall, 530 Main St., New Hartford. Activities: Line dancing at 9:30 a.m.; Fitness at 10:45 a.m. ($2.50 per person, per class, includes a fitness card which is stamped for every class attended; Yoga at 4:00 p.m. For more information please call Jean Barnicoat at 860-379-3980 between 8:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
    • Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation: with Laura Dunfield, Reiki Master/Teacher and certified Vibrational Healer. Tibetan Singing Bowls represent the sound of energy. These bowls have been used in sacred ceremonies in the monasteries of Tibet and Nepal for over 3000 years. The sound is deep and allows you to go deep within yourself to a place of peace and healing. This session will cover the history and uses of these magical Tibetan singing instruments, followed by a meditation with them. Please join us for this amazing experience. For more information, please visit Passiflora’s website.
    • Should your event be listed here and you don’t see it? Please email us the info. and we’ll add it! Send your email to newhartfordplus@gmail.com and write Calendar in the subject line.
    • Have an item you’d like to sell?: Sell it in our FREE Classifieds! Send us the details and we’ll list it for you for free! Check out our Classifieds section which we update as we receive the ads.
  • Our Community Calendar section provides additional information about the events listed above and information on past, current and future events – a permanent record of events in New Hartford. Also check out our Community Bulletin Board where you can see posters and information on local groups and events.

    …NHGrapevine

    “Right now, it’s budget, budget and more budget!”

    Between covering budget meetings, reporting on them and keeping up with work commitments, Bob and our reporter/photographer/editor are running hard just to stay even. If you’ve asked them to do something for you on NewHartfordPlus and you don’t see it, please send them a reminder at newhartfordplus@gmail.com. Thanks for going through another budget cycle together!

    Contribute to the …NHGrapevine… Let us know what you’ve heard – or seen – in town and we’ll add it to this listing, and also add it to the …NHGrapevine… section. So let’s hear what you’re hearing around town…

    The anemones in Norma Pappalardo's garden are in full bloom.  When going to New Hartford Post Office be sure to go up Church Street North to see what's blooming at Norma's.  Photo: Maria Moore

    The anemones in Norma Pappalardo's garden are in full bloom. When going to New Hartford Post Office be sure to go up Church Street North to see what's blooming at Norma's. Photo: Maria Moore

    The arched walkway leading through the garden to Norma Pappalardo's home.  The small garden, which has been a source of delight to many residents throughout the years, may be coming to the end of its cycle as Norma's house and garden is now up for sale.  Photo: Maria Moore

    The arched walkway leading through the garden to Norma Pappalardo's home. The small garden, which has been a source of delight to many residents throughout the past decade, may be coming to the end of its life cycle as Norma's house and garden is now up for sale. Photo: Maria Moore

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Schools Board of Ed Asks Teachers' Union To Meet Again

By: Maria Moore

In a meeting that followed a non-meeting, the New Hartford Schools Board of Ed members decided they would ask the teachers’ union (the New Hartford Education Association) to meet with them in a collective bargaining session.  There was no discussion surrounding this item other than that all members of the Board were welcome to attend the session.  This meeting should take place sooner, rather than later, Board members agreed.  It will not be open to the public, nor will it be posted.

The meeting of the Board started about 15 minutes later than the posted time of 7:00 p.m.  Our reporter arrived late at New Hartford Elementary to find a dozen or so members of the public waiting outside the doors of the gym.  Those waiting informed her that there was a “non-meeting” taking place inside the gym.  And so they waited for a while until the doors of the gym opened and Board of Finance Chairman Ben Witte emerged, and the doors closed again.  Ben chatted pleasantly for a while and then went home, leaving unasked questions unanswered.

Once the doors were opened and the public had been let in, the official meeting began.  The following is a summary of some of the items discussed by the Board; the agenda for the meeting is included at the end of this article.

Item H-1: Reduction in Force 2010-2011

The Board approved sending non-renewal letters to 4 untenured teachers, leaving only one untenured position left in the system.  Board Member Steve Tuxbury asked whether that was based on years of experience and Superintendent Philip O’Reilly  answered that there was contractual language they had to follow and they had sat down with the union and their attorney to do this.  The Spanish teacher had not been included in the list of names read by the Superintendent and a Board member questioned that omission.  Philip said that the Spanish teacher was tenured and there was a different procedure set up for terminating tenured staff.

Philip asked the Board members for their thoughts on decisions he’d made after their last meeting.  He said that a 6th grade classroom teacher had been restored, so that the class size for 6th grade was now 19.2, and class sizes from Kindergarten through 6th grade ranged from 17.5 to 21.75.

Philip then said he’d restored the Curriculum Specialist position, saying that he felt it was “shortsighted” to cut that position.  The Board members didn’t question this decision, but rather left it up to his discretion.

The meeting ended shortly after 8:00 p.m.  On the way out of the building, our reporter held the door open for Board member Jennifer Zenuh, who was taking home a large box of materials from the meeting.  Homework, no doubt.

To read the official minutes of this meeting when they are available, please see the Minutes of Board of Ed Meetings section on the New Hartford Schools website.

The New Hartford Schools Board of Ed meeting on Tuesday evening, March 16, with Board of Finance members Alesia Kennerson and Reggie Smith (on the right) in attendance.  Photo: Maria Moore

The New Hartford Schools Board of Ed meeting on Tuesday evening, March 16, with Board of Finance members Alesia Kennerson and Reggie Smith (on the right) in attendance. Photo: Maria Moore

___________________

New Hartford Public Schools
Board of Education Meeting
New Hartford Elementary School
7:00 PM on Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Agenda

A. Chair to Open Meeting

B.Chair to Select Order of Business

C.Superintendent’s Report
1. Connecticut Race to the Top
2. Plant Facility
3. New Hartford Education Endowment

D. Building Report

E. Routine Business
1. Approval of Minutes –February 20 & March 2, 2010
2. Personnel Report
3. Expenditure/Projection Report

F. Opportunity for Public Comment

G. Curriculum

H. New Business
1. Reduction in Force 2010-2011
2. Healthy Foods Certification

I. Old Business
1. 2010-2011 Budget
2. Policy (First Reading)
4118.51 Use of New Web Tools,
5141.27 First Aid/Emergency Medical Care
5144 Physical Restraint Report Forms
6141.321(a) Computers Acceptable Use of the Internet…..

J. Reports

K. Communications to the Board of Education

L. Adjournment

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In News Reporting, Timeliness Is Next To Range And Accuracy: A Teacher Grades NHPlus

As I’ve been covering more Board of Ed meetings recently, I’ve found myself slipping back into my “teacher mode,” something which all teachers, whether currently teaching or ex-teachers, as I am, will recognize: I find myself grading everything I report on, or don’t report on, or wish I had the time to report on. These grades are recorded in my mental gradebook, a fun game I play while I drive to work, or to my next news assignment for NewHartfordPlus, or as I listen to a carefully-prepared speech delivered by a resident on a topic that he or she feels passionate about. As any good teacher, I have a rubric in mind and carefully assess each important aspect of an assigned topic before totalling up the parts to reach a final grade. This morning, as I rest from an 18-hour work day on Thursday and catch my breath before another 18-hour work day on Saturday, I thought it would be fun to share one of my grading games in writing ~ “a busman’s holiday” for sure, but hey, as long as I’m having fun, it’s not illegal and I don’t get rapped on the knuckles too many times!  So here goes:

Topic: News Reporting on NewHartfordPlus:

Rubric:

  • Is NewHartfordPlus providing coverage of the “news and events of New Hartford”?

Evaluation: A look at the range of news coverage included in the Latest Articles  section on the front page shows the following articles: Daily Calendar (a calendar of meetings, social events, a snippet of news reported in the grapevine; a report on the New Hartford Schools budget presentation to the Board of Finance; a press release from a local nonprofit, Community Connections about the new 2010 Telephone Directory recently mailed out to residents; a report on how the different department heads and team leaders at Town Hall saw their budgetary needs for the coming fiscal year; a News Updates on tax sale warrants issued by the town to delinquent taxpayers, plus a news update on a free dental clinic in Middletown (NOT local, but of interest to residents who might need the free dental care).

  • Range of news covered: Excellent range for a three-day period: Grade: 95 (“A”)
  • Accuracy of news covered: Readers are always ready to correct and clarify our news coverage, and we always step up and make those corrections. Egg on my face?  Great!  It means someone who knew better was inspired to share their knowledge with our readership!  Grade:  95% (“A”).

Wow! With a 100% average and only one more empty box left to fill in the rubric, I’m feeling pretty confident at acing this subject.  But wait: Imagine your sternest teacher looking up as she lays her red grading pen and frowning sternly your way as she asks: “What happened to the last criterion, Timeliness?”

  • Timeliness: The facts don’t look good: The last report, which is yet unfinished, is of a Board of Finance meeting that was held this past Tuesday. And where’s the Regional #7 Board of Ed meeting report held on Wednesday night? And the Board of Selectmen meeting report held last night? Grade: 25% (“F!”) for the video clips of the Board of Finance meeting, which is still unfinished!

The grade: 95 + 95 + 25 = 215 divided by 3 = 72 (“C-“).

And that’s the grade that Maria and Bob Moore of NewHartfordPlus would receive from “Mrs. Moore.” : “-CNOT written in red ink ~ I never liked red for grading ~ with a note “Please see me at the end of class!

When I was teaching, this is where my teaching really started, with that all-important note:  “Please see me at the end of class!” Because once the standardized test score has been calculated, the good teachers sit down with their students and try to figure out what happened with that last criterion and strategize together on how to correct it.

In this case what happened is simple: Bob and I both work at our paying jobs so that we can afford to keep on living in our old, rambling farmhouse in New Hartford. Our work commitments are 1.5 FTEs (Full Time Equivalents, not Employees!), leaving only 0.5 FTE (20 hours per week) for NewHartfordPlus. For a 7-day per week operation, that’s 3 hours per day which doesn’t go very far, as anyone who’s employed a part-timer ~ or as those of us who work part-time ~ know.

As a teacher, I’d discuss how over-extended my student is and offer some possible solutions:  Cut down on the news coverage, or increase the time you can put into covering the wide range of news you now try to cover. “Let me see what I can do!” Is the sheepish answer I give myself as I close my mental gradebook, grab my reporter’s notebook and head down to Town Hall which will be closing soon at 12.

A Note To You, Our Reader: With an average of over 1,000 visits per day so far this month, and from the positive comments we receive from you about our news coverage on NewHartfordPlus ~ despite our “C-” grade from “Mrs. Moore,” we’d like to ask you to consider contributing financially to NewHartfordPlus so that we may continue to provide you with the same range and accuracy of reporting that you enjoy, while  striving to improve our timeliness.  So far today, we’ve already worked 3 hours on NewHartfordPlus, not counting the above commentary, and our workday is just beginning!

Please check out: Our Stakeholders section to see the many ways you can become a Stakeholder in NewHartfordPlus.  We welcome the support of individuals, non-profit organizations and businesses as we strive to maintain our news coverage on NewHartfordPlus free and accessible to all!

Ex-teacher Maria Moore during a 3-day whirlwind family reunion in Tuscany last spring during which she got to wander around Pisa with her brother Nick, who teaches in Germany.  Photo: Nick La Faci

Ex-teacher Maria Moore during a 3-day whirlwind family reunion in Tuscany last spring during which she got to wander around Pisa for an afternoon with her brother Nick, who teaches in Germany. Photo: Nick La Faci

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Completed: From 1.91 Down To 0.69 And Back Up To 2.71 ~ With A Max of 3%: Schools Board Of Ed Decides

By: Maria Moore

“We have budget with a 1.91% increase over last year, with direction from the Board of Finance for a 0% increase.” Sue Lundin, the New Hartford Schools Board of Ed (BOE) Chair, said at the beginning of the Board’s meeting last night, Tuesday, March 2.

By the end of the meeting, Board of Ed members approved Katie Natale’s motion to “accept a 2.71% increase with the addition of unemployment and legal fees not to exceed 3%.” With only two of its members voting against the motion, Steve Tuxbury and Bryan Keilty, that is the increase built into the budget that the Superintendent of Schools Philip O’Reilly will present at the Board of Finance meeting next Tuesday, March 9.

The meeting was held at the New Hartford Elementary School and the auditorium was filled with parents, teachers and members of various town board members, just as had been the case at the last Board of Ed meeting at Ann Antolini School. An in a replay of the Board’s last meeting, the first part of yesterday’s meeting was again given over to members of the public to express their concerns and to comment on the budget that the Board was considering.

The first parent who spoke asked the Board to consider a 3% budget to bring back some of the teachers cut.  The next parent asked about the letter from the teachers’ union in which the teachers had suggested budget savings by offering an early retirement incentive be offered to teachers.  “Where is it?”  The parent asked about that option.    The Board members answered that they had made the retirement offer contingent on teachers accepting the wage freeze.  “It would allow us to save the people but not the positions” Superintendent Philip O’Reilly added.  The same parent was concerned about class size increasing; excluding the preschool program, the current class sizes of 14.8-22.25 are projected to rise to 18.75-24 in the 2010-2011 school year.  That parent asked what the teachers’ contract says about class sizes and Philip answered that “The Board will make every effort to keep class size at 25.”

Another parent said she wished she had known what the teachers contract would mean, that she hadn’t understood that it would lead to a tax increase.  “It leads to buyers’ remorse, it leaves a very bitter taste for those who voted for it.”  The parent said.

A home builder read a prepared statement in which he said: “The town must find a way to pay our obligations.”  And that: “The town is asking them to shoulder the responsibility for the town’s financial problems.”  He added that he had heard it rumored that the teachers would support a pay freeze in return for not cutting postions and he urged the Board to revisit that.

Another parent said education is a barometer of the quality of the town.  He said that education shouldn’t have to suffer for other areas of town that had been mismanaged.  A teacher in another school system said that he had seen his classes increase from 18 to 22 which had an effect on the quality of the teaching.  “It’s a different world out there socially ~ it’s not the same profession as in 1991 when I started teaching.”  He said and he concluded by saying that the town had made a promise to the teachers and that it needed to keep it.

There were no more comments from the audience at the start of the meeting. There was another opportunity for public comments after the Board had approved the 2.71% increase budget at the end of their deliberation. A summary of those comments will be included after the summary of the Board’s discussions.

Sue Lundin asked Board members for their input on the 1.91% increase budget before them, keeping in mind that they had been directed by the Board of Finance for a 0% increase.

The majority of the Board had wanted a budget closer to 3% and they decided to look at putting something back. Board member Katie Natale asked about the feasibility of bringing back even one teacher but fellow Board member Bryan Keilty responded that they’d have to make more cuts to do that.

Bryan said that with the original budget coming in at 9.3%, he’d asked Philip to come up with numbers for an early retirements/wage freeze/health incentives scenario which, he said, would bring them closer to a 3%-3.63% budget. “We should consider it. We’re not preserving positions but we’re keeping all the personnel. It should be looked at a lot harder.” Bryan added that it would mean a wage freeze at every bargaining unit and it would incorporate some, not all of the teachers’ proposals; see our copy of the letter from the teacher’s union outlining their proposals which is included as a downloadable PDF to our February 25 report Between a Rock and a Hard Place… (Part II).

Katie said that as an educator she has been very supportive of the schools but she said she represents the interest of the community and that during the recent elections she had heard a lot of frustration and anger expressed  by people who are hurting from the economic downturn.  She said she wasn’t relinquishing her commitment to education but: “We’re facing the tip of the iceberg… we have no control over what’s coming down the pike.  We have to think long-term: this budget is easier than next year’s.  I support coming in at 3%.”

Bryan said that when the teacher’s contract was negotiated noone could have foreseen the huge increase in health benefits.  “We need to go back and ask for help with health care.  How about looking at benefits?”  Jennifer Zenuh, Board of Ed member, agreed saying: “Get all the bargaining units together and revisit the benefits package.”  Philip responded that he had sat down with three of the non-teacher bargaining units and had asked them to consider the Regional #7 (health care) package and all three had rejected it that morning (Tuesday, March 2).

Board member Elaine Carmelich asked whether the 1.91% budget in front of them reflected the cut in the custodian.  Sue responded that it was not included, that they had voted at their last meeting not to cut the custodian.   This brought a puzzled reaction from some of the Board members, as well as our reporter, who recollected the Board agreeing not to replace the custodian who was retiring at the end of this school year.   Later in the meeting Bryan came back to the status of the 5th custodian position, asking: “Did we actually vote on that?”  He too was told: “We did.”  That was not his recollection and Bryan, who put a $63,000 price tag on the custodian position, later brought it up for a vote.  Noting that it involved hiring someone to fill the vacated position, Bryan proposed a motion to cut the one custodian position, and not to hire a new custodian, leaving the 3 schools with 4 full-time custodians.  The motion was defeated, and the 5th position was left in the budget.  As the budget now  stands, the schools will be hiring a new custodian to replace the one retiring.

In answer to a question from a Board member asking what it would take to get to a 0 (zero) budget, Philip said it would mean cutting down the whole of Central Office by one day.  Katie said this was unrealistic since Central Office was already thinly staffed, and the matter was dropped.

Steve proposed cutting one day from each of the two school psychologists.  The schools currently have 2 full-time psychologists, one at Antolini and one between New Hartford and Bakerville schools.  The motion passed, cutting the 2 FTE positions down to 1.8 FTEs.

Cuts were discussed for the Director of Student Services position, included in the 1.91% budget at .8 FTE, but that position was left intact at 4 days per week, with Philip saying that although they had been allowed to contract it out for the current year he wasn’t sure whether they’d be allowed to do that for a second year.

Steve proposed a motion to cut the Library Media Specialist, saying: “It comes down to what you want: Do you want classroom teachers or keep the library media specialist?”   The motion was defeated, and no cuts were made.

Katie asked about the effects of cutting the Instructional Assistants (IAs).  Philip said there was currently 1 FTE IA at Antolini, and two other IAs for New Hartford Elementary School and Bakerville School, one at .5 FTE and one at .4 FTE.  Philip said that it would mean the teachers would do all the copying and that they would lose recess and lunch room coverage; their duties are basically clerical and supervising children, he clarified.  Katie asked whether that would still leave the paraprofessionals and Philip confirmed that it would.  Katie then asked about the contract language related to assigning those duties to teachers, and Philip confirmed that there was no language in the contract not to assign duties, adding that teachers now have minimal duties.  Katie proposed a motion to eliminate the IA positions identified by Philip and the motion passed.  All three IAs will be cut under the Board’s proposed budget.

At this point Philip calculated that the budget stood at 0.69% increase.  The Board went into a brief executive session to discuss the transportation contract renegotiation.  At the end of the executive session, the public was allowed back into the meeting and the budget discussion was picked up again.

Board members noted that a 0.69% budget was a $50,000 increase (approximate figure), and that a 3% budget was a $227,000 increase (approximate figure).  Board members discussed bringing back two of the teachers cut for a total of $147,500 (approximate figure) which would bring the budget up to a 2.71% increase.  They also discussed adding unemployement costs and legal fees, which brought the budget close to a 3% increase.

Katie proposed a motion to: “Direct to restore 2 teaching positions up to a level of 3% over the current year.”  The motion was passed, with only Steve and Bryan voting against it.

There was a short discussion about the Board’s legal requirements to let teachers know about cuts if the Board’s proposed budget was not passed.  Philip said that they would still have time to make the cuts.  He concluded by saying that it was imperative for the Board members and for the community to attend the Board of Finance meeting on March 9 when he would be presenting the schools’ budget to that Board.

The public was again given an opportunity to comment on the budget.   Our reporter asked whether any potential savings from the renegotiation of the transportation contract would be used to reduce the Board’s budget.  With the Board’s agreement, Philip said that they were looking to continue with the present contract, adding that with only one year left on their 5-year contract they had decided to keep it the way it was.

A resident who said she had been laid off last summer but was fortunate not to have to go back to work suggested that the schools look at using volunteers to help out with the duties that the IAs were presently doing.

Another resident asked whether the New Hartford Schools teachers were still being underpaid relative to other teachers in the state.  She said that the figures available were for before the present teachers’ contract went into effect in 2008 and that with the effects of the economy on teachers’ pay in other towns, she wanted to know how the local teachers’ salaries now compared.  There was no response to her question.

Reggie Smith, Board of Finance member, asked whether the Board of Ed would also have a budget at 0% to present to the Board of Finance.  “That’s what you’re going to hear from the Board of Finance ~ keep that in mind.”  Reggie said.

First Selectman Dan Jerram, who is also Vice Chairman of the Regional #7 Board of Ed, said that as a father with three children in the schools, he was happy with the service he was receiving, and that he applauded the work being done.  Turning to the budget, he referred to the “brinksmanship of a pay freeze,” and suggested that the Board look at making a different proposal.   He reminded the Board that a lot of the lower paid bargaining units would be willing to give back.  “The town will be hit with extreme costs from all parts of the budget.” He said, adding:  “Maintain a little bit of hope, go back and try something new and maybe you’ll get some giveback.”

Stan Brobston, a member of the Conservation Commission who identified himself as the son of two teachers, asked the Board to look at other things to cut costs, to look at other efficiencies such as a decentralization of a power supplier which would save 3-4%, and perhaps look at turning the heat down 2-3 degrees.  Turning his attention to the budget, he said that the rationale for the negotiations that he had heard “doesn’t sound like good negotiation.  It sounds like bullying to me.”  And he asked whether the Board would negotiate the early retirement option with the teachers.  Stan also referred to the school security survey which was worded in a way to elicit responses by those who didn’t want a security system.  Philip said that there was overwhelming support for a security system and that the survey had been to give an opportunity for those against such a system to voice their opinions.  Regarding Stan’s suggestion of looking at other ways to save money, Philip said his office was constantly looking for ways to cut costs and that they looked for grants as much as possible.

Stan didn’t receive a response to his question on whether the Board would negotiate with the teachers on the early retirement option and with the opportunity for comments about to end, our reporter asked the Board for their response on whether they would negotiate with the teachers on the early retirement option that the teachers had proposed as a way to save money without making it contingent on their accepting a pay freeze.  Philip responded that since September the Board had made continued efforts to negotiate with the teachers and that the Board now needed to give a budget to the Board of Finance.  Our reporter later confirmed with one of the Co-Presidents of the teachers’ union that the early retirement proposal had only been broached with them as part of a pay freeze package which their union members had rejected.

Two final comments from the public were made.  The first resident suggested that the schools hire several part-time employees as opposed to hiring full-time employees to save money; and the second resident, who identified himself as an engineer, suggested that, as great as it is to have a technology plan, in hard times the Board should consider postponing their technology plan rather than cutting employees: “Machines can’t do what people do!”  He said.

Conclusion: The Board approved Katie’s motion to: “Accept a 2.71% increase, with unemployment and legal fees not to exceed 3%.”  Steve and Bryan both opposed the motion.

The New Hartford Schools budget will be presented: By Superintendent Philip O’Reilly to the Board of Finance at that Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held in the Sessions Conference Room at the Town Hall.  If there are more attendees than the conference room can accommodate, meetings are usually moved to the Senior Center.  Look for  a note on the door if the meeting has been moved.

____________________

To review the schools’ budget process thus far: Please see our previous reports:

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