Thursday, January 21, 2016

Football's Back

It's been quite a while since I've posted, so I thought a bunch of brief news items would be appropriate.

Football's Back

At tonight's board meeting, Athletic Director Corey Parker presented a proposal to form a cooperative football team with Portsmouth High School.  Portsmouth already has a Division 1 football team, and they're looking for some more players to fill it out.  If both boards approve the co-op, Oyster River High students can start playing football at Portsmouth in fall 2017.   The cost is expected to be around $1000 per player.  It is expected that the players' families will bear the cost, aided by boosters, without cost to the school district.

There was a second co-op proposed with Portsmouth for girls ice hockey.  This one would be hosted by us, with Portsmouth students joining the existing Oyster River program.  It's possible this one could get going in late 2016.    We expect 4 to 8 players from Portsmouth on top of the 12 existing Oyster River players.  Board member Farwell was concerned that with 8 skaters expected from the middle school that Oyster River girls would be cut.  Athletic Director Parker stated that 20-22 was an optimal team size and he thought that it would be unlikely to be exceeded with the addition of Portsmouth girls.

The proposals seem to me to be an acceptable way to provide football to interested Oyster River students without all the problems that came up when a football program was floated a few years ago.  The football co-op may not last long -- it needs to be reapproved every two years, and Portsmouth has already said that it would rather play Division 2 football, and if its enrollment fell to the allowable level, it would end the coop and enter Division 2.  An ORYA coach named something like Willie Willette said that even a few years of football is better than none.

The board will probably take action at the next meeting, and I suspect both proposals will be approved.

Congratulations ORHS Principal Michael McCann

With Todd Allen's promotion to Assistant Superintendent, Dean of Students Mike McCann has been promoted to acting principal of ORHS.  Congratulations to Mr. McCann.

This is a temporary appointment.  The district is doing a search and expects to have a permanent replacement by next fall.

Athletic Director Parker will take on the additional responsibilities of Dean of Students.  An intern has been promoted to the paid position of Assistant Athletic Director to free up some time for Director Parker.  This leads to the surprising equation:

<Assistant Superintendent> - <High School Principal> = <Assistant Athletic Director>

Who knew?

Budget Ready, Deliberative Session Wednesday, February 3.

The warrant detailing the FY17 budget was presented at the Budget Hearing last week.  It has now been signed off by the board.  The public gets a chance to amend the warrant articles at the Deliberative session 2/3/16.

Last year the voters appropriated $41.2M.  Excepting the field bond, if the voters approved everything else the total appropriated would be $43.4M, an increase of 5.3%.  The district is expecting extra revenue that brings the "tax impact" as they call it under 3%.  Part of the revenue is a transfer from reserve funds.   I haven't been able to precisely reproduce the district's calculation, but I'll keep trying.

I'll write a guide to the deliberative session soon, so I won't belabor the budget here.

Field Bond Redux

The warrant includes a $1.5M bond to fund the $2.2M field.  It needs a 60% vote to pass.   I want it to pass, but given that very similar bonds have failed to pass four times previously, I'm not optimistic.

For a brief time, the board was going with a plan to fund the field with a single appropriation instead of a bond.  This would have only required 50% to pass, a level achieved the last four times.  Most of the money was to be scrounged from an expected health insurance discount, various reserve funds and by delaying capital expenses.

That would have worked great, but two unexpected health insurance shocks made short work of that plan.  First the expected premium holiday of $400,000 did not materialize.  Then we were told to expect a maximum premium increase of 16.8%.  The money was no longer available for the field, so the bond is back.

Later ORMS and ORHS Start Times considered

The board received the result of a small staff survey on various options to start middle school and high school later.  Option A had ORMS/ORHS at 8:35-3:30 and MW/Moh 9:45-4:10.  Option B had ORMS/ORHS 8:45-3:40 and MW/Moh 7:45-2:10.  Option C was A or B, don't care which.  Option D was not to change anything.  Of the 70 respondents, 56% chose A, B, or C while 44% chose D.  Not really overwhelming, but OK.

The board didn't seem happy with A or B and tasked the superintendent to come up with more options.  The administration seemed to prefer an implementation date of fall 2017, but board member Klein was urging we aim for fall 2016.

The superintendent is gathering information so the board can choose among the options the best ones to present to the public.  There is a board workshop on this issue scheduled for 6 pm February 8.

Madbury Valuation

A surprising number of people appear to have read my unadvertised piece on apportionment.  The main issue I was trying to track down was why Madbury's millage going up 6%.  I called Madbury and found out their recent revaluation will lower the equalized town value by 3.6%.  I calculated that all else equal, this will result in a tax decrease of 2% and a millage increase of 1.6% for Madbury.

But Business Administrator Caswell told me tonight that the changes in valuation don't take effect immediately, and that the apportionment is done using the previous year's valuation.  Administrator Caswell says the Madbury increase was due to an increase in the proportion of students attending Oyster River from Madbury.

The board cut the budget after the Madbury millage estimate came out.  The details are in the new MS-26 form which came out today, so I'll look into all that when I get a chance and report back.

That's enough of a roundup for now.  Stay tuned for a guide to the upcoming Deliberative Session.