At the Orono School Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, the board and its members provided an update from the Facilities and Finance Committee.
The members of that committee - Sarah Borchers, Todd Madson and Mike Bash - updated the rest of the board and the public on what is coming up in regards to upgrading the district’s facilities.
The main focus was Orono Middle School’s HVAC system and its entrance, as well as a new WiFi system for the entire district.
Borchers noted that the middle school is 24 years old and its HVAC system needs to be replaced as well as some other items in the building.
“We are trying to be very judicious in figuring out when we need to replace things,” Borchers said. “There are things you need to replace and we need to plan for that. If we are going to be replacing things we want to do that in a way that we have some economies of scale with other projects that we know are on the very near term horizon.”
“We know on the horizon we have to deal with the HVAC which is a sizable expense,” Madson said. “On top of that, we are taking into careful consideration some of the other expenses that we know are in the near future, and now this a good time to do it or to be thinking about it. We have some opportunity to keep the consistency of our spend in the community so we are not having to increase our taxes and have kind of a roller coaster ride for our community. We are being very thoughtful, intentional and strategic about how we want to go about doing those things.”
Bash indicated to the board that more details about the facility needs and upgrades will be coming in March and then they can provide more details about the projects that are in the works.
“We need to order some of that HVAC equipment today for the summer of 2024 and actually get it here in time,” Bash said.
While the board discussed the future of the facilities, they did take action on upgrading the WiFi system throughout the whole district.
The board unanimously approved for the district to enter into contract negotiations with CDW-G to upgrade the districts wireless system.
Sean Beaverson, the Technology Coordinator for Orono Public Schools, told the board with that approval he hopes to have the contract finalized by early March, with the earliest date to begin work as April 1, with most of the work being done during the summer months with hopes of finishing the project in August.
“Yay, tech levy. This is what the tech levy is doing, it is letting us, comprehensively in all the buildings, fix the WiFi,” Bash said. “Thank you to our voters for approving that. This is going to be one of the very visible results of that tech levy.”
In other board news, the Orono School District and its custodial staff have agreed to a contract.
That contract was approved by the school board at its Monday, Feb. 13 meeting and the agreement covers the period from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.
According to the board packet for that meeting, the total package cost of the settlement is 3.21 percent for the one-year contract. The basic salary schedule increased by 2.3 percent. Insurance and other benefit contributions were increased in proportion to the wage increase and other actual cost increases. These are reflected in the overall settlement package increase of 3.21 percent.
The contract provides an incentive to the staff for work attendance. Employees who minimize sick leave to 2.5 workdays or less will be provided with the opportunity to convert 1/6 of their remaining yearly sick leave to salary. Full-time year-round employees accrue 12 sick leave days per year. Both the union and Board Negotiations Committee agreed to those calculations.
The contract is for only one year, which is unusual for school boards and unions, which usually negotiates contracts for two years. According to packet, the custodial union asserted a disadvantage for the group due to misalignment with other bargaining groups’ negotiation cycles. The parties agreed that the subsequent contract will again cover a two-year period.
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