Tag Archive | "len bernard"

LTV Studios Audited by East Hampton Town

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Following an audit by the East Hampton Town’s budget office of Local T.V., Inc., known locally as LTV Studios, the East Hampton Town Board began discussing internal controls it would like to put in place as it looks towards a new contract with the studio to provide public access to residents in East Hampton Town.

The town’s contract with LTV is up for renewal in November of 2012.

On Tuesday, during a town board work session, budget officer Len Bernard presented the findings of the audit, which was completed by certified public accountant Charlene Kagel.

According to Bernard, through Cablevision franchise fees the town collects, LTV received about $640,000 from the town last year.

That accounts for seven-eighths of the studio’s overall budget said Bernard, with a small portion of funding coming from the Village of East Hampton and through outside fundraising.

As East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson noted, the town is not required to give the 80 percent of Cablevision franchise fees to LTV, as it does, and could spend the money elsewhere if the town board felt it was warranted.

In his report on the audit, Bernard said that “generally speaking” Kagel found LTV did spend the money it received on equipment, services and other items related to its mission, which is to provide public access to the residents of East Hampton Town.

The studio does have an external audit performed each year, added Bernard, and those audits are available to town board members.

Despite spending the money correctly, Bernard said the studio does not follow a procurement policy that ensures it the best price possible on a service, or if it does, documentation is not available to show it is following that practice.

The budget office believes if the town negotiates a new contract with the board of directors of LTV it should require the studio follow the town’s procurement policy or at least the procurement policy laid out under general municipal law.

Another suggestion from the budget office is that the town require LTV to show what equipment, or hard costs, are purchased with town monies. That equipment, said Bernard, should LTV cease to serve as the public access agent for the town, would become town property and without a record it is impossible to discern exactly what would belong to the town should the studio shut down and what would belong to LTV.

Town board member Dominick Stanzione said he would also like to explore having LTV come to the town board, like all other town departments, and request its budget rather than simply get the money up front.

While LTV could very well show the studio’s budget is critical to keep at its current level, he said, it is ideal for them to follow the same practice of any other department within the town.

Janet Verneuille Named New Pierson Business Manager

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It’s official; the Sag Harbor School District has a new business manager to replace Len Bernard and the board’s pick is anything but expected. On Thursday, January 14, the Sag Harbor School Board appointed JanetVerneuille , a well known parent in the district and member of the school’s budget advisory committee, as the Director of Business Operations. For the past year Verneuille worked as the comptroller of the East Hampton Town. During the town’s organizational meeting on January 4, ushering in Supervisor Bill Wilkinson’s administration, Bernard was named the town’s budget officer. During a work session on the following day, the town board voted to reduce Verneuille’s annual salary from $130,000 to $90,000. As the business manager for Pierson, Verneuille will earn $120,000 and will begin working on February 1. She will serve a three-year probationary term in the district. Verneuille handed in her resignation papers to East Hampton Town on Friday, January 15.

Above: A Photo of Verneuille earlier in the year.

School’s Financial Manager Officially Resigns

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Sag Harbor School District Business Manager Len Bernard officially announced his resignation from the position at Monday’s board of education meeting. In early December, Bernard revealed he was moving on to a position in East Hampton Town. At the East Hampton Town municipal organizational meeting held on Monday, January 4, Bernard was named the budget officer for the town and will now serve under new supervisor Bill Wilkinson. Bernard previously held the same title with the town when current Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was supervisor of East Hampton.

At this week’s school board meeting, members unanimously accepted Bernard’s resignation and he thanked them for their support through his years in the district. In the next few months, Bernard is expected to occasionally work as a consultant to the district while the board crafts the 2010-2011 budget and finds a replacement business manager. Bernard will be paid on a per diem basis at his current hourly salary rate of $51.75. The board will retain Bernard’s services through March 31, 2010.

After the board opened the meeting up to public comment, the conversation turned to the recently failed $6.7 million bond for facility repairs at the elementary school and Pierson Middle/High School. Sag Harbor residents voted down the bond at the polls on Tuesday, December 8. At Monday’s meeting, Chris Tice, former Parent Teacher Association president, said the vote was “a failure of communication.”

“The issue was about effective communication,” noted Tice, who added the board had done a good job at explaining the merits of the bond at previous forums but would have benefited from more community outreach and advertising of the vote. “The turnout for the vote was low. I think the people who showed up were the people who felt strongly ‘no.’”

Parent Richard Kudlak believed parents felt they were forced to accept the parking project which was part of the bond vote. In his conversations with district parents, Kudlak said they supported the various facilities projects, but would liked to have seen the parking project as a separate line item on the ballot.

“I don’t think everyone understood we [the district] were retiring an old bond,” added Kudlak on the 1997 school bond expiring this year, which would have lowered any tax increases for payments on a new bond.

Fellow district parent Helen Atkinson-Barnes speculated that voters felt they were choosing between academic programming or fixing the buildings. Atkinson-Barnes added that though this perception may have been false, she believed the school should show how supporting the bond is also part of the district’s academic mission.

“I think we didn’t do a good job getting the word out about the financial benefits of funding things that way [with the bond],” remarked board member Ed Haye. He added the school’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee will conduct further accounting analysis to help explain this point to the general public. The district is expected to hold another bond vote in the spring.

The school’s financial planning committee is comprised of local professionals in financial fields. Pierson guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz requested on Monday that a member from the teacher’s association, the PTA and the PTSA be admitted onto the committee.

Carl Brandl

Parent Janice Arbia pointed out on the agenda that middle school guidance counselor Carl Brandl’s probationary period was extended from January 9, 2010, through January 8, 2011. She asked if Brandl could be awarded tenure although he isn’t a teacher but a counselor. If tenure is possible, Arbia asked why Brandl wasn’t granted long term status after dozens of parents and community members spoke in support of his work at previous board meetings. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto said counselors are eligible for tenured positions but refused to elaborate on the board’s reasoning for extending Brandl’s probationary period.

Corrective Action

On Monday, January 4, the board accepted the audit of the 2008-2009 school year and a corrective action plan based on the numerous recommendations made by independent auditors. Board member Ed Haye noted there have been a few drafts of the corrective action plan and called it a “living document” which can be amended in the future. The board mentioned the full corrective action report will be reviewed at an upcoming board meeting.

A Taste of Italy

Near the end of the meeting, parent Jennifer Houser Hoglund announced an upcoming dinner to benefit a school trip to Italy in February. The fundraising dinner, dubbed “A Taste of Italy,” will feature Italian food donated by 11 local eateries including Il Capuccino,  the Art of Eating caterers and Tutto Il Giorno. The event will be held on Sunday, January 31, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pierson High School Cafeteria. In addition to the Mediterranean fare, attendees will be serenaded by Pierson students Elizabeth Oldak and Luis J. Murillo. Admission is $25 for adults and $12 for children. Tickets are available for purchase at the Pierson High School front desk. For more information call Peter Solow at 725-5772 or Marianne Terrigno at 725-0564.

School Hopes to End 2010 with $625,000 Surplus

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Despite closing the 2008-2009 fiscal year with a $362,000 shortfall, officials with the Sag Harbor School District seem certain the district will be able to close out the 2009-2010 books with $625,000 in unreserved fundbalance, or surplus monies. During an interview on Tuesday afternoon with the press, superintendent Dr. John Gratto said $505,000 carried over from the last school year will likely remained untouched this year and will remain in the surplus fund for the district. As the board attempts to operate with leaner reserves, Dr.Gratto said the district expects to save $100,000 through a budget freeze, $160,000 from transportation costs, and $300,000 from a decreased need in services provided byBOCES . According to the district’s business manager Len Bernard, $625,000 will account for around 2.2 percent of this years budget. Although the state allows for schools to carry up to four percent of the budget in unreserved fundbalance into the next fiscal year, Bernard said keeping two to three percent in undesignated surplus is appropriate for a district the size of Sag Harbor.
Dr. John Gratto stated that the unanticipated expenses in the 2008-2009 budget, including $200,000 for tuition at the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, $360,000 for potential retroactive pay, and around $200,000 in other overspent line items, would have been further exacerbated had it not been for savings accrued over the year.The savings included eliminating positions in the school lunch program and the business office, switching telephone companies, and renegotiating special education contracts.
Although the district received positive feedback in several areas from their independent auditor Coughlin, Foundotos, Cullen and Danowski, LLP, the audit for 2008-2009 pointed out several areas of improvement. The auditors noted that some transfers “took place after the appropriation had beenover-expended ” and recommended that the district make budget transfers before over spending occurs. In addition, school board president WalterWilcoxen noted on Tuesday that the board will approve almost all transfers. Previously, the board only examined transfers over $10,000.

School Finds $360,000 Hole; Also Bernard Moves on to East Hampton Town

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With the Sag Harbor School District already grappling with a challenging budget year, independent auditor Jill Sanders visited the school board on Monday evening to reveal a $360,000 shortfall in the 2008-2009 budget. In addition the board members recently learned they must also find a replacement for Len Bernard, the district’s business manager. In an interview on Wednesday, Bernard revealed he will resign his position with the school district in order to take a financial job in East Hampton Town government.

During his tenure in the Sag Harbor School District, Bernard said he enacted several accounting controls based on recommendations made by the district’s audit firm Coughlin, Foundotos, Cullen & Danowski, LLP. Sanders, an independent auditor with the company, mentioned these improvements at a board of education meeting on Monday. Sanders was at the meeting to present the results of the 2008-2009 audit.

“I am pleased to render an unqualified opinion, which is the highest level of assurance,” announced Sanders at the meeting.

She added though, the board closed out the 2008-2009 fiscal year with a $362,000 shortfall due to unforeseen expenses. The district covered these expenses with undesignated surplus funds. By the end of the last school year, the district’s undesignated fund balence was precariously low at $65,818.

School superintendent Dr. John Gratto and Bernard attributed this shortfall to unexpected costs. The district had budgeted to send six students to the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, a charter school offering special education classes, but ultimately 10 children from Sag Harbor attended the school. Bernard said this increased out-of-district tuition expenses by around $200,000. In addition, the district overspent their budget for legal fees by $50,000 because of the ongoing teacher negotiations. Close to $30,000 had to be paid in unbudgeted overtime for the janatorial staff. Bernard added the district’s health insurance rates also increased at the beginning of January 2009, which exacerbated the over spending.

On a separate note, the auditors suggested the board increase the money set aside for potential staff raises (or accrued liabilities) to $388,785 for payments on renegotiated contracts. The board had originally funded salaries in 2008-2009 to reflect a one percent raise for the teachers, which was the offer on the table at the time. Subsequently, the board has offered the teachers a 2.5 percent annual salary increase, though the Teacher’s Association of Sag Harbor is seeking a 3.9 percent increase. Based on the recent recommendations by an independent fact finder, the auditors suggested the board prepare for a three percent salary increase, taking into account the fact pay raises would be retroactive to 2008.

Dr. Gratto said the $360,000 which would cover those potential three pecent raises will be derived from $505,000 in unreserved surplus that was moved from last fiscal year into this year’s budget.

Though the money is being set aside, Dr. Gratto cautioned this doesn’t obligate the board to amend their contract offer to TASH.

“Say you have $10,000 to buy a car, but you might find an $8,000 car that serves you better. You surely aren’t obligated to spend [the rest of the money],” said Dr. Gratto, by way of example. He added that money in this account not spent would be redirected to the surplus and could offset the school tax increase.

The state allows school districts to retain a maximum of four percent of their total annual budget for a fund balance, or rainy day fund. Bernard noted the current school board has sought to pare down the district’s fund balance so that it falls within state guidelines. In previous years, the surplus was larger to provide a substantial financial cushion for the district. For example, the 2005-2006 budget year ended with a fund balance of $3.8 million (or roughly 16 percent) out of a $24 million budget. In 2008-2009, the end of the year overall fund balance was close to $860,000 (or three percent) for a $28.5 million budget. Bernard added an audit report from 2007 said before June of 2006 the district’s fund balances “exceeded the statutory limit.”

“When you have a budget that has a general fund balance that is theoretically in the legal limit and come the end of the year the fund balance exceeds this limit, you clearly over budgeted,” noted board member Ed Haye. “The district did this for a number of years. With zero-based budgeting, the board made a conscious effort to budget more accurately. When you have mistakes in the budget they become more apparent with a lean budget.”

Haye added the board will accept a corrective action plan, based on the results of the 2008-2009 audit, at the board of education business meeting on Monday, December 21.

Bernard said he will help the district through the transition period in finding a replacement.

“I will help with the transfer [of duties] through the [2010-2011] budget process,” he said.

“At this point, the plan is to transition someone [into the position] in January,” said Bernard in an interview. “I feel my heart is in East Hampton and I want to get the town back on its feet, but I am not going to leave the district high and dry.”

Bernard has a history of working for the Town of East Hampton. From 2000 through 2004 he served as the budget officer for then supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Bernard later lost his own bid for the supervisor’s seat to Bill McGintee. Bernard added that the current contentious teacher contract negotiations in Sag Harbor weren’t the impetus for his decision and that in fact, he wished to work for East Hampton Town once again.

School to Save a Bundle on Bus and Van Purchase

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Like any household strained by the economy, the Sag Harbor School District continues to scrutinize spending to find ways of cutting costs. The imminent purchase of a school bus and van, a provision voted through by the community on May 19, is expected to save the district an additional $56,000, reported school business manager Len Bernard at the board of education meeting on Monday, June 8.
Originally, Bernard and superintendent Dr. John Gratto predicted the purchase would cut transportation spending by $125,000, but by combining the responsibilities of the full time bus driver, the measure is expected to save the district $181,000 next year.
“The savings will be outstanding,” declared Bernard. “The first year our net savings will be about $181,000. Once our debt services [for the bus and van] kicks in [next year] the savings will probably be around $140,000 per year [for the next five years]. After debt service is finished we will be back up to savings around $180,000 to $190,000.”
Bernard reported that the full time bus driver employed by the district will also conduct lunch duty around 150 days and will do spot monitoring for two hours per week. The plan of doubling up the responsibilities of the full time driver, said Bernard, would save the district nearly $12,250 overall. Bernard added that the school already has a trained and certified candidate for the position, who is also familiar with the area.
The school will also combine several bus routes, slashing district spending by around $255,000. The morning and afternoon bus routes for Ross School students living in the district will be synched with the bus schedule of the Sag Harbor Elementary School, totaling almost $100,000 in savings. Other combined routes include the morning buses for Stella Maris, Ross School and Hayground, and the afternoon buses for Hayground, the Ross Lower School, Our Lady of the Hamptons and the Montessori school.
In addition, the school is eying a plan to team up with the Bridgehampton and Springs school district to share transportation costs in the summer. Two Sag Harbor students are attending a “Life Skills” course over the summer in Springs and the Springs School District is willing to pick up these students, reported Bernard, saving the school around $4,500.
Last week, Dr. Gratto reported that the school would jointly transport students to the BOCES Riverhead location for summer classes with Bridgehampton School, but after further review the schools discovered a New York State law prohibiting school districts from sharing the services of private companies. In the original plan, Pierson kids were to be transported to Bridgehampton where a private bus company was to take the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor students to Riverhead.
Among the laundry list of items mulled over by the BOE on Monday night was an idea to implement a student and staff recognition program. Board president Walter Wilcoxen said the school already had avenues to recognize achievements in sports and scholastics, but wanted to see students receive school appreciation for community projects and artistic accomplishments. Dr. Gratto noted that three Pierson students had recently performed at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“Testing isn’t everything. We are also making community members out of our students and this is another way to re-enforce that role,” said Wilcoxen.
Dr. Gratto suggested the school hand out certificates to student and staff with the words “We’re proud of …” printed on them and filled in with the persons name and their accomplishment.
Sprucing up Pierson
Over the summer, the school plans to beautify the Division Street side of the exterior landscape with the help of students and art teachers Peter Solow and Joe Bartolotto. According to Solow, the students hope to construct a small brick wall along the grassy knoll leading up to the main side entrance. Bartolotto, who is also a professional mason, will teach the students basic masonry skill as part of a service learning project. Although the school has agreed to pay for the materials, Solow says the group is still looking for additional outside funding for Bartolotto’s time and are waiting for cost estimates for the brick.

Local Venders Get Shot on School Bids

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Today bids will be let at Eastern Suffolk BOCES for arts and crafts supplies for East End schools, and for the first time the bid specs may be small enough — and the number of districts few enough —to encourage local vendors to apply.
At the beginning of the school year, Sag Harbor Schools Superintendent Dr. John Gratto was pushing for a South Shore Purchasing Consortium (SSPC), which would inform and encourage local bidders to provide items in East End school districts such as fuel oil, supplies and paper in the hope of saving districts money. Gratto said that by encouraging local bidders to apply, districts might be able to save money because the transportation and delivery costs would be less. Businesses can also be competitive, according to Gratto, without having to bid for a much larger area.
Though many local school districts expressed interest in Gratto’s idea, in November he called that plan “defunct” after approaching BOCES who offered to create four zones, including a new zone which would take in an area similar to that proposed by Gratto in the SSPC.
Previously, BOCES asked businesses to offer bids for goods and services for their entire region, which includes 51 school districts between Montauk and Orient to Islip and Brookhaven. Now, with the new zone in place, businesses can bid on projects solely for local school districts in Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns.
“As a result of Gratto’s initiative, BOCES is breaking up into four zones, to allow more local bidders to get involved,” said Len Bernard, the Sag Harbor School District’s business manager.
He explained that any vendor could apply for a project in more than one zone, but for some companies, staying within the borders of just one zone could help them competitively bid for projects. The new zones now stretch as far west as Babylon and Huntington.
“It was basically a re-structuring,” said Bernard.
Last Thursday, the Sag Harbor School District invited local companies and others to attend a meeting to learn the process of bidding for local projects. Bernard noted that approximately 12 vendors attended the event, including Robert Evjen representing the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. BOCES representatives explained that arts and crafts supplies will be the first item put out for bid. Following that, there will be a bid for custodial supplies in May, fuel oil in June, and a stationery and paper bid in August.
At the meeting, Laurie Conley, school purchasing agent for BOCES, handed out a sample bid package for the arts and crafts supplies. In the package, there was information pertaining to the contract, a reference form, and the bid proposal. Conley reminded bidders that they must have obtained this form from either BOCES or the Long Island Bid Notification System, to be considered.
Elizabeth Dow, owner of Mixed Media Art and Supply Store in Amagansett and director of the Applied Art School there, is currently bidding on the arts and crafts for all four zones and attended Thursday’s meeting.
“Overall, BOCES was well represented and very accommodating,” said Dow. “It was clear that the effort to focus on local business was heartfelt and genuine.”
During the bidding process, the bidder must come in at the lowest price, “but they must also have systems in place to fill and ship orders to multiple locations,” said Dow. “This may sound easy but is not that simple. Many vendors are not stocking materials to keep their cash flow unencumbered. This creates longer lead times for the end user and makes for a bigger challenge in filling orders in a timely fashion.”
She said bidding can also be difficult because it can involve multiple vendors with strict guidelines. Further, Dow said that some vendors require large minimum orders in order to get the best pricing and can typically be out of reach to many local businesses.
“That said, I am personally rolling up my sleeves and sharpening the pencil to try and compete,” said Dow who feels that the new zoning developed by BOCES is a good idea, because it gets local companies involved in the bidding process and gives them “an opportunity to take on as much or as little as is their comfort level.”
Bernard said in addition to attempting to get more local companies involved, BOCES is also offering to bid out services such as plumbing, HVAC, painting, carpentry and electric, and the majority of people who attended Thursday’s meeting were those in the service industry.
“For example, if there were a need for a cracked sink to be fixed, there would be a list of vendors for BOCES contractors,” said Bernard, adding this has never been done before.
Gratto added that landscaping may also be put out for bid.
“It was a really productive meeting,” said Bernard, “It would be great to get some local vendors involved.”
According to Gratto, another presentation may be held in the coming weeks through the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce for those who were unable to attend.
BOCES posts all bids on www.longislandbidsystem.com and are advertised in Newsday’s Suffolk edition. Information on how to bid for projects can also be viewed at that web address.
If a company applies for a bid, BOCES will inform that company of rejection or approval once the bids are opened. This process can take anywhere from two to eight weeks from the date of the opening of the bid.

 

Venders can also view bids by visiting:

http://esboces.org/CB

 

 

Area Students May Get to Choose Pierson

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The Sag Harbor School district is “moving slowly,” but moving none the less on trying to get more students to come to the district on a tuition basis, with Superintendent Dr. John Gratto leading the initiative.

Right now, students in schools in Amagansett, Springs, Wainscot and Sagaponack are sent to East Hampton High School, for the remainder of their middle and high school careers because those schools do not reach grade 12. Gratto said he would like to see if it is feasible that school boards of those smaller schools agree to give kids a choice of whether or not they want to attend East Hampton or Sag Harbor schools.

According to Business Manager in the Sag Harbor School District, Len Bernard, this is not uncommon. Currently, Tuckahoe school in Southampton gives students an alternative; they can either attend Southampton High School or West Hampton Beach High School — because classes at Tuckahoe only go to eighth grade.

Gratto said for example Sag Harbor could easily absorb the four or five students expected to graduate from Sagaponack, which only goes to fourth grade, for next year. And this, he said, could be done without the need for increased staffing or other expenditures. “It would just be revenue,” he said.

“If 20 students came here at $20,000 a piece, then is $400,000 of revenue a taxpayer wouldn’t have to come up with,” the superintendent said.

Two weeks ago, the Sag Harbor district gave a tour of their schools to the Spring’s school principal, Eric Casale and Gratto reported Casale “liked what he saw.” According to Gratto, there is a possibility that 10 students could come over from the Springs School next year.

Gratto noted the board of education in Springs, has not yet made a decision on the matter, but they are “open to the idea.”

He added the larger perspective is striking a balance between expenses and revenue — the two sides to every budget.

“If you want to keep the same level of program and your expenses are relatively constant, although we did cut out a lot of expenses this year, then that means our taxes are likely to go up. If you bring in more revenue, then you mitigate the cost of taxes.”

And according to Gratto, by adding tuition based students to the school’s roster would help that cause.

Dana Wexler a Pierson High School junior, who lives in Sagaponack, was a tuition-based student who came to the district last year.

At Monday’s Sag Harbor board of education’s meeting, the eleventh grader asked the board if it was possible the school taxes her parent’s pay be used toward her tuition.

Currently her parent’s must pay tuition because there is an agreement between the Sagaponack school district and the East Hampton district.

Currently, a school district that does not have the full 12 grades, must pay for a student to attend the district agreed upon by the school board. If the agreement suggested by Gratto is approved, then students in Sagaponack could have a choice of either East Hampton or Sag Harbor. Then, the tuition would be paid for by the Sagaponack school district for a student such as Wexler to attend Pierson, rather than the parent.

The intent of Gratto’s initiative, explained school board president Walter Wilcoxen, is to get schools like Sagaponack to agree to allow the students to have a choice of either district.

According to Bernard, a student such as Wexler would pay around $18,622 per year for her to attend Pierson.

“It is not unprecedented for a district to sign agreements to send their students to other districts,” Bernard said.

According to Bernard, there are nine kids currently paying tuition at the school’s in the Sag Harbor district, but in the past three years, since Bernard joined the institution, there have been as many as 12 at one time.

Although Bernard could not confirm a number of new tuition paying students for next year, he did say the school received “calls of interest.”

Wexler’s father, Peter, said his daughter chose Pierson over other schools in the area because “she liked the people and she liked the school.” He also said she spent an entire day at the school and seemed to really enjoy all the aspects, including the small class size.

“It seemed like a really good public school,” said Peter, although he also looked at sending her to private schools in the area close to the same price.

Gratto said he expects to hear back from neighboring school districts by April 2009, in hopes of gaining new students for the 2009-2010 school year.

 

 

There is Hope Lunch will Pay for itself at the Sag Harbor Schools

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The lunch program for the Sag Harbor School District is nearly out of the “red zone,” according to those in the department and district business manager Len Bernard.

Cafeteria manager Lisa Koehne and Bernard jointly gave a presentation to the board of education on Monday night, to show the status of the lunch program and its performance from September 2008 through January 2009. The only situation preventing the program from being at a self-funding status, according to both speakers, is the purchase of a new cash register, software and trays. The items were bought this school year to help the lunch line move more quickly and for the entire department to work more efficiently. The purchases were also made to keep better track of expenditures and profits from the lunch program, which had been “a mess” in years past, according to School Board President Walter Wilcoxen.

“The program was something that was a mess for a long time,” Wilcoxen said, “We wanted to support the program but it had to support itself too.”

Bernard explained the average daily receipts for the 2008-2009 are $871 compared to $761 from the 2007-2008 school year. That, he said, is a difference of $110 per day.

Koehne explained there were only three students who pre-paid last school year, and this school year, the program hosts about 70 pre-paid students.

Bernard further explained that last year, the lunch program was around $20,000 in the red. This year it was necessary that the lunch program be completely self-funded in order to continue to function.

The total cost of the lunch program for the 2008-2009 school year is $95,300. Bernard added, however, the program is only in the red by $6,700 and by taking out the purchases of new trays, software and the cash register – the program would be fiscally supporting itself. Further, Koehne and Bernard predicted by the end of the school year the program will be running with a profit.

Bill Madsen is the district’s athletic director, head of buildings and grounds and is in charge of wellness for the district. He explained at the meeting that all the food being served in the cafeteria currently complies with the federal government’s nutrition policy. He and Koehne have been working together to get vending machines which will also offer food up to those required standards.

 Madsen said the vending machines would not only add revenue to the lunch program, but also offer nutritional choices for kids who participate in after school activities.

Koehne added the vending machines are free.

Other ideas for adding revenue to the department includes partnering with the Bridgehampton School district, to supply “bagged lunches.” Bernard explained the Sag Harbor School district did supply lunches to Bridgehampton when they worked with a previous company.

Koehne agreed this would be a good money-making tool, but argued this may not be feasible with only three employees working in the department on limited cooking appliances.

Koehne said there is a stove, “sitting in the basement, wrapped up,” and it would add productivity to the lunch program.

 “With a little up-front investment, it could really pay for itself over the next few years,” Bernard said.

 

Sag Harbor School’s Budget Advisory Committee Proposes $29.5 million

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The projected Sag Harbor school budget for next year is $29.5 million, a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s spending plan, although those numbers are not final.

The Sag Harbor school district’s budget advisory committee (BAC) has been meeting regularly to work on the 2009-2010 school budget to bring their recommendations to the board. On Monday, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto headed the meeting and said that he would be giving a “condensed version of the budget.”

Gratto explained that some of the major increases over last year’s budget include teacher salaries and the district’s contribution to the teacher retirement system. The district was required to estimate the increase in teacher salaries because teacher contract negotiations are still being hashed out.

The estimated increase for teacher salaries is just over $800,000, the teaching assistant salaries have an increase of $190,000 and the district’s contribution to the retirement system is estimated at an additional $40,763.

This year, the BAC also worked on reducing expenditures and cutting costs. In doing so, the committee shaved $278,825 from the BOCES contract by changing certain services provided by BOCES. Gratto also announced, that the school was able to save $126,549 by purchasing a bus and a van.

There was also $40,000 savings from the combination of the Athletic Director and Facility Manager positions and a $17,899 savings in a reduction for dental insurance costs.

In their findings, the BAC and the district administration also outlined that the estimated tax rate per $1,000 assessed value is a 5.78 percent increase for East Hampton ($660.80 to $699) and a 5.8 percent increase for Southampton residents ($4.03 to $4.26).

The draft budget also has a 2.5 percent buffer, adding approximately $600,000 for unforeseen expenditures.

That buffer became a point of contention at the meeting, when Mary Lynne Hess, BAC member, thought that it would not be enough of a cushion.

“We need to accrue for the retirement for next year,” she said.

But former school board president Walter Tice, a BAC member, said, “This is one of those unusual years, the amount is uncertain from this year to next year’s budget.”

School board member Mary Anne Miller said that some school districts go up to eight percent, which is highly controversial in those areas, but the state comptrollers recommend at the most, an increase of four percent. Gratto said that he thought the 2.5 percent “buffer” is a good compromise.

Chuck Neuman, president of the Noyac Civic Council, said that he was concerned about covering the costs of retirement. 

“Len [Bernard, business manager for the district] and I did a cost analysis for retirement,” Gratto said, “but we don’t have that many teachers at the age of retirement.”

These preliminary numbers will be presented to the board of education on February 23, leaving an entire month for the board to make changes before it needs to be finalized.

Also during Monday’s meeting, BAC member Sandy Kruel asked the superintendent about a rumor that the district was canceling its participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Gratto replied that “it is not false,” and informed the room that he sent a letter to the organization in an effort to save $5,000 — the membership fee.

Gratto said that could change, now that he has received feedback from others.

“Now I’ve been hearing what a terrible decision that was,” he said.

Kruel said that it is a “great program,” and that the organization offers a scholarship of nearly $30,000 to one graduating senior from the school — every year.

“I can reverse that decision,” Gratto said.

But Noyac resident and BAC member Elena Loreto was not in favor of keeping the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the school.

“I think it is a great thing, that is $5,000 we can use somewhere else,” said Loreto.