Surviving the budget cuts: Ann Arbor school board preserves $5,000 in food costs for meetings
Ann Arbor school board members OK'd slashing a $70,000 discretionary food budget from the general fund Wednesday night — all except a $5,000 allowance for food for board meetings.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo
Executive sessions also occur and are scheduled for before regular meetings, which begin at 7 p.m.
"We need to step it up. Pack an apple," said board Secretary Andy Thomas, when met with protests from his fellow trustees about his suggestion to cut the board's $5,000 food budget.
"You better bring a whole lot of apples then," exclaimed Trustee Susan Baskett.
The board "works hard, works very late" and trustees come to the meetings straight from their respective jobs, said board President Deb Mexicotte. She added the food also feeds members of the administration and district staff who also are required to come straight from work and stay until midnight or later, when the board is done.
"When you talk about the public relations aspect of that " Thomas said, shaking his head, of how keeping the board's money for meals but getting rid of funds for other events and meetings will be perceived in the community. But Thomas was interrupted by Mexicotte.
"When you talk about public relations, you have to talk about being reasonable," she said, stressing that the $5,000 is pennies in the broad scheme of the budget and helps the board and central administrators function more effectively.
Baskett said the board really does not ask for much and receives only a small stipend for its service. She said trustees earn about $130 per month for attending meetings.
The food, when there is extra, also is offered to members of the audience at the meetings.
Amy Osinski, executive assistance to the BOE, said at the end of the meetings the leftover food, which is not typical, must be discarded for health and safety reasons due to the length of time the food sits out.
Thomas was outnumbered, and the board took its $5,000 food budget off the chopping block for the 2013-14 academic year. Trustee Irene Patalan was in favor of saving the board's budget, but said she would like to know more about whether there are other groups who meet under similar circumstances and perhaps work just as hard and should be able to keep their food budgets, too.
The remaining $65,000 in discretionary food costs are from all of the food-related line items combined throughout the district's departments, said AAPS Communications Director Liz Margolis. For example, Margolis said she has a food budget of $1,500, which she hardly ever uses but is part of the district's $65,000 total.
She said this money is used to provide snacks for events and meetings throughout the district in the various buildings and departments. One such event is the "Opening Day," first-day-back-for-teachers celebration that annually takes place at Pioneer High School and includes staff from around the district.
Margolis said the district asks for and receives donations for this event each year. Chartwells, Ann Arbor Public Schools' contracted food provider, is hired to supply drinks, muffins, bagels, fruit, coffee and water for the district's staff. She said although the district receives donations from vendors for this annual kickoff, the district typically has to fund between $500 and $1,000 additionally. This money comes from the communications department's $1,500 line item, Margolis said.
Chartwells also caters the Board of Education's meetings. Osinski, who orders the food, said for the regular meetings, food is ordered for 15 people at a cost of about $80 per meeting.
Coffee, soft drinks and bottled water are standard at each meeting. Regular meetings offer a plate of sandwiches; a snack, such as fruit or trail mix; and a dessert.
At executive sessions, the menu is a salad, roll, hot entree and dessert ordered for 15 at a cost of $150 per meeting. At study sessions — which generally include presentations or informational items from administration that involves other members of the district's staff — food is ordered for 25 people ($250 per meeting). The menu also is a salad, roll, hot entree and dessert, Osinski said.
Prior to the Community, Huron, Pioneer and Skyline high school graduations, there are snacks and beverages provided for the board and administration. This cost is $300, Osinski said.
The board's $5,000 budget this year also paid for coffee, cookies and punch for 150 people at two meet-and-greet events when former Clague Middle School Principal Cindy Leaman was named the new principal at Pioneer High School.
Information about how much of the $70,000 discretionary food budget was spent in the 2011-12 school year was not available Thursday.