This blog post is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.

In attendance was Supt. – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Asst. Supt. – Dr. Katie Novak, Director Business/Finance – Frank Antonelli, Jeff Kubick, Jennifer McKenzie, Angela Donahue and Marlena Gilbert.

  • District Vision – The final draft of our District Vision was a true collaboration of SC Members and Administration. It represents all the finest skills and quality creative mindset that came together to create this vision.  The District Vision will be up on the website http://www.gdrsd.org shortly.   VOTE TAKEN UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED
  • District Budget Calendar -VOTE TAKEN UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED {CLICK HERE FOR FY18 BUDGET CALENDAR}
  • HS Water Filtration System – The water filtration system was replaced and is working well. However the MADEP issued Groton-Dunstable a conditional permit due to recent testing still showed elevated Total iron levels in raw water and the recent drought shows capacity limitations of existing well.  Per MADEP, the School District ”must complete a full evaluation of the water quality and treatment system, and submit a corrective action plan (CAP) to MADEP for review and approval within 120 days of issuance of this activation approval” (which is December 31, 2016). The evaluation shall include an analysis of all options for meeting water supply needs, including but not limited to: drilling a new well for either irrigation or potable use, receiving potable water supply from a nearby public water system, optimizing treatment of existing supply, or a combination of the above… The CAP shall include an implementation schedule for the selected option with all upgrades to be completed by August 15, 2017. This expense is not optional and probably will cost several hundred thousand dollars to install an additional well. This is something taxpayers should consider when voting on article #4 at Fall Town Meeting.   CLICK HERE FOR THE MADEP NOTIFICATION
  • MASS/MASC Delegate – VOTE TAKEN UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED Marlena Gilbert is the Groton-Dunstable School Committee Delegate and Angela Donahue is the Alternative Delegate at the upcoming Annual MASC Business Meeting in November.
  • Interim Superintendent Search –  An anticipated timeline for the process of hiring an Interim Superintendent has been established and the job posting was placed on September 23, 2016.
    • Job Posting: https://www.schoolspring.com/job.cfm?jid=2715830
    • The timeline is slated as follows
      • October 7, 2016 Deadline for submitting applications
      • October 13, 2016 Semi-finalists selected
      • October 19, 2016 Semi-finalist interviews
      • October 25, 2016 Finalist(s) interviewed at SC meeting (vote taken)
      • January 1, 2017 Start date
  • School Committee Goals – The SC have a long list of priorities that all must be accomplished within this school year. The Chair & Supt. will group them together as smart goals that are to be accompanied with a calendar that would include check in dates as well as deadlines to accomplish the goals.  This will be brought forth to the entire committee to discuss and vote on at an up coming meeting.
  • SEPAC EVENTS – There are two events coming up that are free to the community and touch upon most recent concerns within our district and community as a whole.  A full list is available via the link provided:  https://gdsepac.wordpress.com/calendar/lecture-series/

October 5, 2016   6:00 PM – 8:00 PM @ GDRSD High School Library (sponsored by PBIS Department & SEPAC)                                     
Effective Strategies for Students with Anxiety Related Behaviors 

Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA – Author of the best seller The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students

November 16, 2016 6:00 PM –8:00 PM @ GDRSD Middle School Auditorium (sponsored by GDEF)                                                                                                                           

An Evening with Susan Senator

Susan Senator, Author – Join Susan Senator,  an author, blogger, journalist, and public speaker living in Brookline, Massachusetts. She has three sons, the oldest of whom is in his twenties and has severe autism. Nat was diagnosed with autism at age three, back in 1992, what she calls The Autism Stone Age. Susan has written three books in relation to her journey with autism: Making Peace with Autism, The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide, and Autism Adulthood.  Join us as she discusses her most recent book, Autism Adulthood.  The talk will be followed by book signings.

Meeting adjourned at 8:45pm

This blog post is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.

All BOS members are present for this evenings meeting.

  • The community had Free Cash questions, the BOS has some answers.  The BOS requested the Town Manager to gather some information on certified Free Cash in comparable towns.  According to the information gathered by the town manager for comparable towns, Groton has an average of 1.1 million dollars and our comparable towns have 1.7 million dollars (notably Littleton is an exception as they are scaling back due to increased revenue growth). However Groton has a higher Stabilization Fund balance than comparable towns between our Capital Stabilization & Stabilization Funds. CLICK HERE FOR FREE CASH & STABILIZATION FUND COMPS
  • Feasibility Oversight Committee has asked the BOS to respectfully not take a position on the article for the design of a new Senior Center tonight as they will be meeting to discuss the warrant at an upcoming meeting and circle back to the BOS with an update on how they would like to proceed, respectfully acknowledging that the BOS would vote to allow the warrant at Fall Town Meeting as the governing body.  Such discussions could include but are not limited to rescinding the warrant, alter the warrant to be for design only, use it as a place marker to discuss the plan at the senior center at town meeting and perhaps come back with the warrant at Spring Town Meeting.

Several members of the Municipal Building Committee pointed out that the Feasibility Study that includes the evaluation on Prescott is not correct as it does not include the phase I sprinkler repairs that were approved at Spring Town Meeting as well as additional repairs that are presented in phase II.  In addition the expectation for estimated costs for the two top choices for the Senior Center were expected and are not included in the Feasibility Study. PRESCOTT REPORT

  • Complete Streets Committee – the BOS ratified the appointment of Ellen Baxendale, John Llorda and Kristen Von Campe to the Complete Streets Committee.
  • Historic Districts Commission – BOS ratified the appointment of Elaine Chamberlain, Greg Apremru and George Wheatley.
  • Agricultural Commission – BOS ratified the appointment of Jessica MacGregor and Sally Smith.
  • One Day Beer & Wine License’s were approved for all three requests.
    • First Parish Church, Liverpool Night Concert, October 1, 2016
    • First Parish Church, Russell Watts & Joe Foster Concert, November 5, 2016
    • Salt & Light, Live Music Event, September 24, 2016 – providing they are TIPS trained (Training for Intervention ProcedureS)
  • BOS took positions on articles on the 2016 Fall Town Meeting Warrant. 
    • Outstanding Bill: $291 – unanimously supported
    • Budget Amendments:  $44,250  (police salaries, insurance and bonding, municipal building expense & Country Club expense) – unanimously supported
    • Stabilization Fund $425,000 amended down to $400,000 – unanimously supported
    • Vehicle for Police Chief per contract – support 4/1
    • Senior Center Design: $300,000 – Deferred to TM
    • Funding for Town Operational Audit $45,000 – support 4/1
    • Funding for District Operational Audit – cost is to be with completion of RFP process, so this will remain on the warrant and recommendation. Deferred to TM
    • New Boiler at Florence Roche School $80,000 – Deferred to TM until an estimate for a possible repair is obtained as an alternative to replacing the boiler.
    • Install Scale at Transfer Station $15,000 – unanimously supported
    • Install Automatic Door Openers At Town Hall – $5000 unanimously approved
  • Town Hall Hours – Discussion pertaining to changing Town Hall hours back to Monday – Friday, 8am to 4pm to save money on holiday pay. Eliminating Monday evening hours would save costs in holiday pay because employees get paid 11 hours holiday pay versus 8.  No formal vote was taken however the general consensus was that 3/2 BOS Members prefer to wait on making any hour changes until the Municipal Operational Audit is completed by an outside source.

 

What is E & D {Excess & Deficiency Funds}?  E&D as defined by the Department of Revenue (DOR) is “free cash” resulting from the calculation of remaining unrestricted funds from operations of the prior fiscal year based on the balance sheet as of June 30th.

The Groton Annual Town Reports (which include the school budgets) did not specify the actual amount at the end of each year that was contributed into our E&D fund, alternatively they documented the certified balance of the E&D fund.  However our current administration identified the total certified E&D Fund as well as identified the amount contributed into E&D at year end.

Certified Balance of E&D (not yearly contributions)
2010    $965,114
2011    $1,391,096
2012    $1,349,249
2013    $615,615
2014    $374,263  (noted contribution was $236,439)
2015    $808,000 (noted contribution was $433,737)
Notably, per Melanson Heath & Co our E&D for our school district should be approximately 3.5-4% of our budget. The current certified balance is only $808,000.  As documented in the 2015 annual report a healthy amount would be approximately $1.400,000 so we are approximately $600,000 below our healthy mark.  

What is “Free Cash”?  Free Cash is also known as a Budgetary Fund Balance. It is the remaining, unrestricted funds from operations of the previous fiscal year including unexpended free cash from the previous year, actual receipts in excess of revenue estimates shown on the tax recapitulation sheet, and unspent amounts in budget line-items. Unpaid property taxes and certain deficits reduce the amount that can be certified as free cash. Free Cash can off set tax rates or fund just about anything voted upon at town meeting, notably it is not advisable to use Free Cash towards operation expenses.

Per our Annual Groton Town reports from the town website from 2010 to 2015 we have had an average of $1,100,000 in certified “Free Cash” over the last 6 years. 

2016    $1,219,000 
2015    $1,009,092
2014    $1,181,587
2013    $1,316,576
2012    $1,136,576
2011    $1,145,957

2010    $818,654

Groton has approximately 7650 registered voters in Groton MA but yet only approximately 250 registered voters attended Fall & Spring Town Meetings where they voted on what to do with this “Free Cash”.
Voters had the opportunity to off set their tax rates, make purchases or do many other things with “Free Cash” by voting at Town Meeting. 
Approximately 97% of our voters did NOT participate. 

This blog is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend. 

All SC members were present at this evenings meeting.

GD Sustainability Committee members were appointed. It is made up of 12 Committee Members, 2 Associate Members and 3 Ex Offico Members.  Ex Offico members and Associate members do not have voting rights but will aid in research and offer their area of expertise to the committee.

  • Associate Members – David Pitkin & Sara Clinton
  • Members – Stephanie Cronin, Angela Donahue, Scott Whitefied, Rodney Hersh, Laura Temple, Jennifer Duane, Donna Fosberry, Luke Smith, Jack Petropelous, Bud Robertson, Lorraine Leonard and Tracey Hutton.
  • Ex Officio – Supt. Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Busines & Finance Director Frank Antonelli and State Representative Sheila Harrington.
  • GD @ Play Liaison Report – Peter Cronin
    • They have largely through permitting process and expect completion by late September/Early October.
    • They have acknowledged the concern of crumb rubber fill and is committed to investigating alternatives.
    • They are expected to come before the SC late October/Early November to ask permission to move forward with construction phase of the project.
    • They are committed to raising all funds privately including the cost to replace the carpet of the field in the future.
    • Expect to provide a cost analysis on expense or savings pertaining to maintaining the field as well as how it would affect the costs outlined in the Capital Plan for fields.
    • Expect to have a public hearing prior to SC voting to allow the project to move forward so that the community can ask questions and state any concerns.
    • They are committed to providing a Dual Surface field and are working on a communication plan that will start to take off this Fall.
  • Regional Agreement is expected to be voted on at Spring Town Meeting because Dunstable does not have a Fall Town Meeting.
  • Betsy Sawyer Day is September 21, 2016 and there will be a ceremony and dinner/cocktail celebration.  You can obtain additional information and tickets to the event at http://www.pagesforpeace.org/
  • Vision Statement is nearing completion and will be fine tuned by a small group assigned to the task and will be brought forth to the SC for approval.  That small group includes Peter Cronin, Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez and adm/teachers selected by our Supt.
  • Superintendent Interim Search Committee will be composed of three staff members and three SC members.  Jennifer McKenzie, Jeff Kubick and Marlena Gilbert are the SC on this committee. The use of the MASC will be utilized in this work.
  • Liaison & Subcommittee Reports
    • BOS Dunstable – Dunstable had spent $5000 on a consultant to provide them with information on the pros/cons of deregionalizing. The BOS did not take a formal position on this matter and is leaving it up to the community to decide what direction if any to take.  The report can be seen here: TMS Consulting Report
    • Budget and Finance – will meet 1st Tuesday of each month at Prescott.  Starting in October however we may have one meeting prior to that which will be posted to the SC calendar and is a public meeting.
    • Policy – will meet at 5:30pm on the first Tuesday of each month prior to the regular scheduled SC meeting. Recommendations are welcome so please email your SC members on this subcommittee.  Stephanie Cronin, Angela Donahue and Alison Manugian.
    • Personnel & Negotiations will be meeting tentatively on September 26, 2016 and this will be an executive session.  This meeting will be posted.

All BOS members are present this evening.

Municipal Audit Committee:  There was discussion of establishing a committee that would review proposals, select a vendor and work with the vendor through the audit and recommend implementation of resulting report recommendations.  There is discussion if there should be a committee formed to accomplish this work or if it was something the BOS or the current Sustainable Budget Study Committee could accomplish.  The overall consensus was for the BOS to be the board that is responsible for reviewing all RFP submittals and deciding on what consultant is awarded the project.

Continuation of Public Hearing regarding Powder House. The application to request the discontinuation of Powder House Road was withdrawn and the BOS acknowledged that withdrawal by unanimous vote.  

PROPOSED WARRANT ARTICLES

PLEASE NOTE THAT USING FREE CASH DOES NOT INCREASE OUR TAX RATE, HOWEVER IF FREE CASH IS NOT UTILIZED FOR WARRANT ARTICLES IT CAN BE UTILIZED TO OFFSET OUR TAX RATE.  

OFF SETTING THE TAX RATE MEANS DECREASING YOUR TAX RATE AND LOWER TAX BILLS.  

FALL TOWN MEETING IS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO VOTE ON HOW YOUR TAX MONEY IS SPENT OR USED.  WE HAVE A CERTIFIED $1.219,000 IN FREE CASH FROM the GROTON 2016 BUDGET. 

  • Capital Stabilization Fund – $425,000
    • The financial management goal is to achieve and maintain a balance in the Capital Stabilization Fun equal to 1.5% of the total annual budget. This amount exceeds that goal by approximately $35,000.00, notably.
  • Design Funding for a New Senior Center – $300,000
    • The 2016 Spring Town Meeting approved funding to hirer a consultant to conduct a feasibility study to determine the long-term need of the Groton Senior Center. The recommendation was to invest in a new Senior Center to address the long-term needs. The cost to design a new Senior Center would cost $300,000 and the anticipated construction cost to renovate the current Senior Center or construct a new Center at the site is approximately $6 million dollars. The town would need to borrow money – approximately $365,000 per year for 25 years. FY18 will be the final year of the debt payment on two projects and once paid off this debt is removed from the levy and tax decrease is provided to the residents and taxpayers.  Town Manager suggests this project is funded through a debt exclusion which will replace these two projects.
  • Municipal Building Expenses – $13,500
    • Town Meeting approved the creation for the new custodian position, however it was made contingent of an override that failed.  The work was done by private contractors through a variety of funds and this fund request would restore money needed to keep the private contractor in the budget for FY17. 
  • Country Club Expense – $7,766
    • In May, 2016 the annual fire alarm system reveled several issues and the recommendation was to replace it.
  • Board of Assessors – $5,000
    • The town is required to complete a full revaluation of all real and personal property eery three years. We were required to do that this year and an outside consultant is hired to assist in the evaluation of commercial and industrial property. Due to an error in calculating the fiscal Yer 2017 board of Assessors Expense budget this article will pay for the amount that was inadvertently left out of the budget.
  • Police Salaries – $7,984
    • This article meets the salary requirement of the new contract for the Police Chief for the first year of the new contract.
  • Insurance and Bonding – $10,000
    • Workers Compensation and Property and Casualty Ins is set in December and voted at the Spring Town Meeting. in April and final rates are not known until June. The article allows the town to pay for the insurance premium costs.
  • Purchase New Vehicle for Police Chief – $50,000
    • This is to replace new fully equipped vehicle for the Chief of Police. This vehicle will replace an older cruiser that will be removed from Free Cash and not affect the Tax Rate.
  • Install Automatic Door Owners at Town Hall – $10,000
    • The Commission on accessibility are recommending that the Town install automatic door openers on both doors because the doors are heavy and difficult for people to open especially for individuals with walkers, wheel chairs and strollers.
  • Funding for Town Operations Audit – $45,000
    • The Sustainable Budget Study Committee recommended an independent top to bottom audit. The funds will come from Free Cash and not affect the Tax Rate.
  • Funding for GDRSD External Operations Review – TBD
    • GDRSD has established an RFP for a district audit and this article is a place holder as the RFP Selection Committee has not yet chosen a consultant for the audit therefore the cost for this audit has not been identified until September 27th.  The School E&D is below recommended levels and if this was to be funded in the FY17 school budget that would result in something else being omitted since it was not included in the approved FY17 School Budget. This would be funded through Free Cash and not affect the Tax Rate.
  • New Boiler at Florence Roche School – $80,000
    • The gas-fired steam boiler made in 1988 needs to be replaced this Fall as it continues to leak and it is doubtful that it will operate throughout the Winter months. Should this be approved the boiler will be replaced by November 4, 2016 and this is a town owned building.  This funding will come from Free Cash and not affect the tax rate.
  • Install Scale at Transfer Station – $15,000
    • This is intended to purchase a used scale from a local business that is closing down. It is a truck scale that will weigh up to 100K pounds. With the scale the DPW will be able to charge appropriately and be guaranteed not to shorted any revenue.

BOS Meetings rescheduled to a new start time of 7pm.