Although the Sag Harbor School Board and Superintendent Dr. John Gratto will meet with their attorney today, Thursday, October 23, regarding teacher contracts, the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) is still pressing for an answer as to when they will be able to begin negotiating with the board again.
At the school district’s board meeting on Monday, TASH president Eileen Kochansz told the board that she and fellow TASH members want to settle on a timeframe for meeting so agreements can be worked out on contract issues such as salary.
The teachers’ contracts expired on June 30 and TASH also declared impasse that month, which required a mediator to come in to help the two sides agree on issues pertaining to the contracts. The mediator spoke with both sides in August, and the board asked for more time to review additional data. District attorney Tom Volz was asked to collect salary information from surrounding school districts and is expected to bring his findings to today’s meeting with Gratto and the board.
“I would like to direct this question directly to you Walter,” Kochansz said to school board president Walter Wilcoxen. “Will we be able to hear by Friday morning?”
“We could have an executive decision two weeks from today and we could set that as our wrap-up date,” Wilcoxen said, “I’d love to do it sooner and it is possible we could reach consensus on Thursday night. John [Gratto] and I will speak on Friday morning for some sense of plan.”
Kochansz said she was concerned that the school board is still reviewing data, which they said they were doing on September 23.
“And now it will be October 23, and the board is still going over data,” she said.
“My intent is to move forward as quickly as possible,” Gratto said, “and I’m happy to push for it. I will call you on Friday.”
“I will wait then,” replied Kochansz.
In addition to the teacher contract updates, Wilcoxen said the GASB report — which shows the district’s anticipated expense for health coverage for its current and retired employees — will be another topic the board will be discussing with attorney Volz at their meeting today.
School district business manager Len Bernard explained that GASB report shows tables that predict things like retirement age and life expectancy of district employees. From these tables the school district would be able to calculate each employee’s post-retirement benefits.
Bernard said that this is a new requirement for public entities’ yearly reports and all governmental units will be required to have this data for their 2009 audits.
“It shows for the next few years what the estimated cost will be for insurance issues and is more useful in the scheduling and how we will pay for the budget,” Bernard said. He explained that for 2009 there will be $370,000 for post retirement costs, but in 2017, it could quadruple to $1.3 million. Bernard said that the report adds a long-term liability to the balance sheet.
According to projections, the school district can expect to pay a total of $27 million in benefits over the life of its current employees and retirees. Lifetime benefits for employees and retirees in the year 2015, are expected to cost the district $50 million.
“That liability has to be included every year in our external audit report,” he said on Monday, noting that the report will be used to understand the commitment of the school district for over a 30-year period.
“It’s a way for the GAS board to have disclosure to the public,” said Bernard. “Every village municipality and every school district will be required to do it.”
Bernard added that the school district is ahead of schedule in having this information.
South Shore Purchasing Consortium
On Monday night, the school board also approved a resolution to join the South Shore Purchasing Consortium, an idea proposed by Gratto. By joining the consortium, the district will become part of a regional plan to combine resources in an effort to save money for districts on items like paper products, food, custodial supplies and fuel.
“We want to try to beat the state contracted and BOCES pricing,” said Gratto.
In early September, Gratto contacted the superintendents in nine surrounding districts to see if they would be interested in the idea.
“We will have the business officials in each district choose one high priority item and see if we can get a better price on things such as diesel fuel and paper,” Gratto said. “There is no downside to this opportunity.”
At Monday’s meeting, parent Kristyn Toole and her father, Paul Lankau, expressed concerns about Toole’s children’s bus stop. The children are being picked up at Hildreth Street at the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike but because it is dark in the morning when her two children leave for school, the family would like them to be picked up in front of their house. Toole asked Montauk Bus Service to consider driving down the street to pick the children up at their home but the Montauk Bus Service sent a letter to the board denying the request for the new bus stop.
“The school bus drives right past my house, but my kid still has to walk 500 feet to an intersection where the bus will pick him up,” said board member Daniel Hartnett.
Wilcoxen added that buses “shouldn’t stop for any particular kid ever.”
The board agreed to look at more information and will be addressing the issue at their next meeting.
On Monday, Gratto applauded the school board and thanked them in honor of School Board Recognition Week. Gratto read a proclamation from Governor David Paterson and presented each member of the board with travel coffee mugs as a thank you for their time and hard work for the district. The board then enjoyed punch and apple cobbler after the meeting.