Dear Parents and Community Members,
In an ongoing effort to provide greater transparency and improve communications with the community the Litchfield Board of Education would like to provide information on the following topics:
- The Town Budget Hearing - April 26th, 2017
- Operational changes concerning school custodial services- Effective July 1st, 2017
- School exterior building maintenance - ongoing
Town Budget Hearing:
The Town Budget Hearing is scheduled for April 26th at 7pm in the Auditorium at Litchfield Intermediate School. Superintendent Sherri Turner, and Director of Business Operations, David Fiorillo, will be presenting the Board of Education's (BOE) proposed budget for FY 2017-18. The budget was approved by the BOE at a 3.1% increase over last year on March 15, 2017. The Board of Finance subsequently recommended reducing the BOE's Budget to 2.3%. In a show of support for the residents of Litchfield, the BOE supported this recommendation. Budget details will be presented on April 26, and there will be an opportunity for discussion afterward.
In 2012, the BOE entered into a contract allowing the Town of Litchfield, overseen by the Board of Selectman (BOS), to manage the custodial personnel responsible for supporting the interior cleanliness of the school buildings. This was in an effort to create efficiencies and reduce costs. Unfortunately, over the past few years the relationship has been strained which has adversely impacted the day-to-day school operations. For example, school administration was not allowed to participate in decisions related to hiring, firing, and transferring custodial staff between buildings. Vacant positions were not filled in a timely fashion, and there have been numerous issues with the lack of providing substitutes when custodial staff were out. We had concerns that the superb custodial staff that we currently have was not being supported adequately.
After a year of unsuccessfully attempting to clarify the scope of services provided and resolve our differences, the BOE voted unanimously to end the relationship in November of 2016. During the mandatory six month waiting period after termination, the BOS has now stopped providing substitute custodians services completely, and has not filled two at least two (2) vacant custodial positions.
At the request of the BOS, this week the BOE agreed to delay the effective date of the custodial transfer from May 7th to July 1st, in an effort to move past our differences. We believe this is in the best interest of the Town, the schools, and the children. With that said, the BOE is excited to welcome back the entire existing custodial staff and facilities manager.
Exterior Building Maintenance:
In 2003, the BOE and the Board of Selectman entered into an agreement to maintain the exterior of the school buildings. This agreement has been working well for the past fourteen (14) years. The agreement involves maintaining the buildings and supporting items such as HVAC, plumbing, water and sewer pumps, elevators, window maintenance, painting, grounds maintenance, and snow removal.
The BOE was supportive of this agreement in 2003 and continues to be now. We believe that the BOS, which manages the Town's public works department, is better equipped to handle exterior building maintenance. The Town's public works department owns plow trucks, maintenance trucks, has employees with expertise in these specific areas, and has a strong management team in place. We believe this relationship has served the school community well and has saved the citizens and taxpayers of Litchfield money since its inception.
The BOE was surprised to learn that the BOS voted to end the exterior building maintenance agreement during the March 21st meeting. In addition, the BOS motion was to return $117,500 of the $196,896 budgeted, which is roughly 60%. The BOE has requested clarity as to why this action was taken and why the BOS believes that this action will best serve the schools and the community. If the BOS insists that they will no longer support the 2003 agreement, the BOE is requesting a full accounting of all funds used to support the exterior maintenance of the schools in order to determine the financial impact on the schools and community. We are confident that if the exterior building maintenance services were returned to the BOE we could continue to maintain the buildings at existing levels. However, we are not confident that could be accomplished for the same dollar amount, and certainly not at 60% of the current budgeted amount, as proposed by the BOS.
The BOE does not believe that litigation is the right course of action, as we believe this sends the wrong message to the community and could be costly to the taxpayers. Rest assured that we are doing everything possible to resolve this dispute quickly and in the best interest of the community, schools, and citizens.
During the Town Budget Hearing on April 26th you will have an opportunity to share your opinion regarding the BOE and BOS proposed budgets, custodial transfer, and exterior building maintenance. As always, we appreciate your participation in the budget process, and look forward to hearing from you.
Chair, Litchfield Board of Education
April 24, 2017