Somerset School Board approves referendum resolutions
The Somerset School Board wasted no time approving a trio of recommendations regarding its upcoming referendum during its Monday, Jan. 7 work session meeting.
"These resolutions have to be passed to move forward with the ballot. This is what we have to turn into the state to tell them that we are serious about going to referendum. Now, we will get back and clean up the ballot language," said Superintendent Dr. Mark Bezek. "What we have seen so far are just samples ... The questions we put on the ballot have to be broad enough to cover what we are going to use the money for. We can't cover ourselves too tightly."
The three resolutions included:
• A resolution authorizing the school district budget to exceed revenue limits by $1 million for recurring purposes.
• An initial resolution authorizing general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $28.6 million.
• A resolution for a referendum election on the questions of the approval of a resolution authorizing the school district budget to exceed revenue limits by $1 million for recurring purposes and an initial resolution authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $28.6 million.
All three resolutions were approved unanimously in one motion.
"The ball is going to start rolling fast now. Tomorrow we are going to meet with all of the employees and give an overview of everything and make sure we get in the buildings more to talk about the details of this, as well as the strategy we are going to use," Bezek said. "We are going to start strategizing about the analytics of this election, because there is a strategy to this whole thing. And we will need a slogan for this."
According to Bezek, "changing the wording of the $1 million referendum from operational to recurring was a recommendation from our financial advisors, School Perceptions and looking at our data and where we are at. It is a better wording for what the money will be used for."
The second major discussion centered on a substitute teacher rate increase and the approval to hire a district-wide full-time substitute teacher.
"For the remainder of this year, we'd like to increase the daily sub rate to $120. Although our usage of subs is lower this year, that is mostly because we can't find subs. Time will tell during the remainder of this year if that increase will make a difference," Bezek said.
The board unanimously approved the increase.
"The other piece is that we'd like to pull in a full-time district sub. That would take probably take away from our pool, but at least it would probably be one of our best subs that we would guarantee we would have in our district rather than take a chance that they would go elsewhere on any given day," Bezek said. "We would like to try that for the remainder of this year and see how it goes. They would be on a long-term sub contract which would offer some benefits for them versus being called in on a daily basis."
Board member Catherine Cranston liked the idea of hiring of a full-time sub for the district, but only for the remainder of the school year on a trial basis.
"This will give us more of an idea of if it makes a difference or not. This is just a shot in the dark. I can tell you right now that it hasn't made any difference in the district where I teach. We have some full-time district subs, but it hasn't made any difference," Cranston said.
The board approved hiring a district-wide full-time substitute teacher for the remainder of the year by a 3 to 2 margin, with Bruce Baillargeon and Lorri Baillargeon voting no and Cranston, Marie Colbeth and Katie Thurmes voting yes.