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School district's retirement costs going up


July 21, 2009
ALTON — School board members felt the impact of state budget cuts first-hand Monday night, as Superintendent Kathy Holt informed them of an impending increase in the district's contribution to teacher retirement accounts.

Explaining that the state legislature voted, as part of the biennial budget enacted earlier this month, to cut its contribution to retirement funds for teachers, police officers, and firefighters from the traditional 35 percent to 30 percent the first year and 25 percent the second year, Holt said that under the new figures, the district will have to shoulder an $8,000 increase in retirement during the 2009-10 school year.

She announced at a later point in the meeting, however, that the increase will be partially offset by $7,963.44 in unexpected stimulus funding for Medicaid, which will be turned back to local taxpayers.

Holt also presented the board Monday night with a request from the Local Government Center (LGC) asking for financial contributions toward a class action lawsuit against the state in response to the reduction in retirement funding, which the LGC views as an unfunded mandate, and therefore a violation of the state Constitution.

Noting that the lawsuit was the second one filed so far in response to the state budget, Vice Chair Jeff St. Cyr pointed out that the board chose not to participate last year in a similar retirement suit.

Before making any decisions, he suggested that Holt contact the board of selectmen and ask where the town stands on the lawsuit, since there is no need for two boards from the same community to support it financially.

While she saw no issue with joining the suit since the money would be returned if it was dropped, board member Lynda Goossens questioned the purpose of it, given the fact that taxpayers would foot the bill whether or not the state was forced to contribute more toward retirement funding.

"Which pocket does it come out of?" she remarked.

Board Chairwoman Terri Noyes agreed with St. Cyr's suggestion, and instructed Holt to touch base with the selectmen's office.

Handbooks reviewed

The board devoted the bulk of Monday night's meeting to a page-by-page review of the 2009-10 Student/Parent and Athletic handbooks.

Discussion surrounding the Student/Parent handbook centered on how best to determine a student's academic eligibility for fall sports (an issue the board has re-visited several times over the past few months).

The board ultimately agreed to a policy stating that students who fail a class during the fourth quarter and who wish to play on a sports team the following fall will be placed on academic probation for the first two weeks of the new school year.

During that probationary period, students will be permitted to attend practices, and will be allowed to sit with their team in street clothes during home games, but may not play or attend away games until they attain a minimum grade of 70 in all classes.

During its discussion of the Athletic handbook, the board agreed to allow fifth grade students to participate in track and field and cross country.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board received a discipline report from Assistant Principal Steve Ross; voted to dispose of several pieces of broken or out-dated equipment, including 32 computers that were deemed obsolete; reviewed several policies dealing with field trip guidelines, use of school facilities, volunteer background checks, and admission of resident pupils; accepted the resignation of para-educator Diana Petschauer; and approved a pair of position changes and several stipend positions.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10, at 6 p.m. in the middle school library.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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