THE 13TH ANNUAL TRI-STATE ASBO CONFERENCE
May 18-20, 2005
The 13th Annual Tri-State ASBO conference began on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 with the “Pre-Conference Activities”. Looking at the attendance figures, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this extremely successful conference is a three day event, and has changed over the years from the two day format with a “pre-conference day” to a full three days of great workshops, great opportunities for networking, meeting new colleagues, interaction with prospective vendors, and of course, lots of camaraderie and fun!
The conference was hosted this year by Vermont and held at the Killington Grand Hotel in Killington, Vermont. Despite some ugly rumors, Killington is STILL a VERMONT LOCATION!
Our normal Wednesday schedule usually relates to the technology portion of our “job descriptions” and includes all day sessions in such areas as can enhance our knowledge and facility with technology. This year three sessions, which were all very well attended, were set up with three very competent “expert” instructors. Connie Hyslop, President of Hyslop Associates, returned to our conference and gave some hands-on instruction in Microsoft Access. With her many years of teaching computers, she was able to give a great introduction to Access, from opening database objects to setting up tables to using report wizard to view necessary information.
Rick Hutchins also presented for the second year. His topic on EXCEL is always a heavily attended workshop, and he did not disappoint as he gave some wonderful shortcuts and tips to business managers. He is a full time instructor and Director of Computing at Lebanon College. He was able to give many great tips on single and nested functions, lookups, and formatting. All the participants got great ideas which hopefully they were able to remember when they returned to their office.
Wednesday’s third session was a break from tradition as Don Fudge, a program manager for High Performance Schools, was a guest facilitator who came to speak primarily to school facilities personnel to promote the attainment of a “Building Operator’s Certificate”, and he spoke on such topics as promoting good operation and maintenance programs, the fundamentals of good building systems, and controlling energy costs through efficiency.
A gondola ride to the top of Killington Mountain was a special way to end our first day. The committee would like to thank Laidlaw Transportation for helping us make this a reality. All were able to enjoy a delicious dinner at the top, with a spectacular view of at least three states. Rusty Dewees, AKA “The Logger”, entertained the group following dinner. There was much laughter in response to his routine, albeit at times somewhat off-color, but we hope all took it in stride and we not overly offended. What a treat to ride down the gondola in mid-May in the midst of a snowstorm. The snow and cold did detract many from the bonfire, which was planned at the hotel, but the s’mores were delivered indoors and not many were left on the plate following the “stampede of business managers” who were anxious for the hot chocolate and dessert after the ride or walk down the mountain to the warmth of the hotel lobby.
The opening of the conference on Thursday morning was special with the Rutland High School Jazz Band playing during breakfast. It was a very enjoyable time of music. The opening session started with welcoming remarks from Richard Cate, the Vermont Commissioner of Education, followed by Meg Gallagher, the Superintendent of Schools for the surrounding town districts, including Killington.
With fear and trepidation, we introduced Bob Westhoven, an Internal Revenue Specialist who works for the IRS Public Employers Outreach Program. This general session was entitled “Everything you always wanted to hear from the IRS BUT were afraid to ask”. Bob was able to cover many subjects in his allotted one hour timeframe, which, of course, is never enough time, but he concentrated on supplemental pay, officials pay, the taxation of certain employee benefits (YES, clothing allowances are taxable), and pension, TSA, and Section 125 plans.
Everyone spent the remainder of the morning in break-out sessions designed to follow specific tracks. Track A was on Employee Benefits. Wendy Parker, Executive Director for Risk Services at the NH Local Government Center and Dave Davis, VP of Future Planning Associates spoke on health insurance and engaging employees to help control the costs of escalating premiums, such as wellness programs, HRAs, and Section 125 plans.
Track B was directed at the plant and facilities managers. A panel was made up of architect Greg Hemberger, NH DOE construction aid specialist Ed Murdough, and Tony Spagnulo, VP of Eckman Construction Company. The panel discussed the pros and cons of the major methods of construction delivery services.
Track C was another chance to meet, and not fear asking more questions on tax and legal issues, with BobWesthoven and the IRS. Track D was for all the numbers crunchers to share techniques and formats for successful budget creation and presentation. Three business managers (Michelle Croteau of NH, Brenda Fleming of VT, and Scott Vaitones of Maine) made up a panel of presenters and the committee thanks them for a very informative effort.
Following lunch, we continued the concurrent workshops again with Track A and Monica Toth, VALIC Senior Counsel, Retirement Services Tax, updating the group on the new 403(b) plan rules for administering the TSA, including a need for an accurate Tax Shelter Plan for every school district. Steve Blatt, a registered architect, took over on Track B and discussed in detail building surveillance issues, a very worthwhile session for business managers, as well as facilities managers.
The afternoon Track C session was facilitated by Tom Mahon, a senior consultant at Primex of NH, and the subject was the Fair Labor Standards Act, covering new overtimerules, exempts vs. non-exempts, employees vs. individual contractors, and many other management and personnel issues that business managers face daily.
The last track, Track D, for the “numbers crunchers” was led by Sheryl Pratt, from the CPA firm of Plodzik and Sanderson. The session was dedicated to such accounting topics as fund accounting, grant accounting, GASB 34, and other accounting procedures and issues as seen through an auditor’s standpoint.
The very popular Vendor Reception followed the afternoon work sessions. The conference success is, in part, due to the work and support of our vendors. As usual, the vendor hall sold out early and we must thank all the vendors who exhibited. At the same time, we apologize to all those who, due to space limitations, were unable to exhibit. The committee hopes for their continued support also and hopes to be able to have these vendors present for future conferences. The opportunity for all these vendors to meet and speak with business managers is priceless, and the food, the camaraderie, and the prizes were excellent and we thank all the participants for their attendance and all the vendors for a great effort, for great support, and for outstanding exhibits.
The evening began with our annual Thursday night banquet, a delicious sit-down dinner. State Presidents were recognized for their contribution to the state organizations by Dr. William Fellmy, our conference guest from ASBO International. We appreciate his report back to ASBO which highlighted the Tri-State conference, as other ASBO representatives have done before him, as one of the best affiliate conferences anywhere.
“Moonlight in Vermont” was the entertainment theme of the evening and the dance was a great finish to a very activity filled day. DJ Emile Gosselin was great as many old favorites were played and danced to. It was a very relaxing, fun way to enjoy the friendship and networking with colleagues and vendors.
Concurrent sessions on Friday morning followed another breakfast which highlighted the band from Woodstock High School. They performed beautifully and, as all our student entertainment does, showed us the results of our jobs and the reasons for our jobs and THAT satisfaction does enforce the purpose of this conference to all our attendees.
Elaine Dow, from the Auburn, Maine school district, made a presentation on “Running Effective Meetings”, a subject near and dear to everyone’s heart, and a subject all are eager to learn. Jude Cyr, a committee member, tried to condense a day long training session on the PACE Palette to an hour session. He was very successful in giving the attendees a great exposure to this and a fun session with a desire to learn more about colors and personalities.
When they talk about saving the best for last, that had to be the keyword of this conference, for our keynote speaker, left, as usual, until the end to send everyone home on a high note, was none other than award winning teacher, Ron Clark. Words cannot do justice to his talk about motivating young urban children from Harlem, which for many, was the first time someone showed interest in them and wanted to make them WANT to do well, get an education, and succeed out of the horrors of poverty. The speech was awe inspiring and the laughter was deafening in the room. His was a presentation that all people in all walks of life, whether parents or taxpayers, should hear, enjoy, and understand the relevance to those in New England and the importance to society.
The usual group of hearty participants went out in the afternoon for a tough golf tournament on a rather steep and hilly golf course at the top of the mountain. We haven’t heard much about the scores, but everyone returned to the 19th hole with plenty of smiles, stories, and laughter.
Was this the best conference of the 13? Every year, we the committee, struggle and strive to make a better conference than the prior years. As a founding father of this conference, I have been one who believes we will NEVER be ableto do better the following year, yet every year, a tremendous conference is presented. I can, however, confirm that our 13th conference was not unlucky. It was a great and fun conference. A big “Thank You” to the tremendous support and hard work of all my fellow committee members, without whom there is no conference. I cannot say enough thanks to you all, who are more than committee members to me. They have become my good friends. THANK YOU!
We could certainly have a conference without the backing of all our vendors, but it would not be as successful, as important to our attendees, or as efficiently and as financially attractive to our members as these conferences are. On behalf of the committee and all participants and members of associations in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, a huge and heartfelt “thank you” to all vendors from all 13 conferences from all those connected in any way with Tri- State ASBO.
We cannot end without a word of thanks to all registrants, guests, and participants of the conference. We CANNOT have a conference without the enthusiastic support of all of you from all your states. We live in a busy and crazy world of school business. Your attendance away from your busy schedule is all the thanks and appreciation this committee needs to work hard for all future conferences. It is a tough but enjoyable task, and your appreciation is what brings this committee back together again every year. Thank you for attending. The Tri-State committee continues to strive to present another worthwhile conference in 2006. See you in Portland, Maine in May and, again, thank you for planning, for attending, for presenting, and most of all, for supporting.
For the 2005 Tri-State ASBO Conference: