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

In attendance was Frank Antonelli – Director of Business & Finance, Supt. – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Asst. Supt. – Dr. Katie Novak, SC Members – Jeff Kubick, Stephanie Cronin, Marlena Gilbert, Angela Donahue, Peter Cronin and Alison Manugian.

  • District Data Overview     {CLICK HERE FOR DISTRICT DATA PRESENTATION}
    • The information provides the community with a clear overview of the return of their investment and outlines the strategic manner that tax dollars are being spent to increase student achievement in our district.
    • There was growth in the areas where resources were provided.
    • There was no growth in the areas where resources were withheld due to lack of funding.
    • The MS is the only school that is still remains a level II school.
  • Public Hearing – GD At Play    {GD @ PLAY PRESENTATION}
    • Donation dollars will be utilized for the project – NO TAX DOLLARS.
    • Permanently lined for all sports with equal use time.
    • Using a 3rd Generation Surface Technology that will include Sand/TPE infill, shock pad and carpet materials that have been vetted independently by environmental, safety and health organizations.
    • Natural fields would have time to be rested and repaired.
    • Significantly decrease in the proposed 2 million dollars expense outlined in the Capital Plan for our fields. (note SC to approve the Capital Plan by Spring Town Meetings)
    • One carpet replacement is built into the project plan allowing over two decades of play without replacement costs.
    • This will decrease the line item budget for the HS fields by approximately $5500 not counting the savings in not needing to water the field.

During the meeting there were some concerns about safety and costs.  GD @ Play did a great job in answering all questions.  The SC asks that anyone that would like to express support, concern or has questions to email your SC Members prior to December 13th.  A vote to allow the project to move forward will be taken at that meeting.  There is a community comment period at 7pm if anyone wants to attend to make a comment as well. 

Contact info for all SC Members can be found at this link:  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/

  • Five Year District Strategy  {CLICK HERE FOR DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN}
    • The district strategy plan is three years in the making and is the results of the collective work of hundreds of staff members, community members and governing board members.
    • Inherent in this plan is the assumption that budgets will be requested, approved, and subsequently adopted to ensure adequate funding for professional development, staffing, and curriculum supplies and materials. If this is not the case, then it is reasonable to assume that the outcomes can not be fully realized.
    • The concept of sustainability is interwoven into the history of the district and current fiscal considerations.
    • The plan includes an objective and initiative that aims at finding fiscal efficiencies and exploring new sources of revenue to better meet the needs of our students.
    • The plan will meet the needs of on-grade level, above grade level, and below grade level students, using research based practices and materials.
  • Superintendent Screening Committee Composition Approved by SC

 3 school-level administrators
 2 central office administrators
 3 school committee members
 3 parents
 1 non teaching staff member
 2 teachers
 2 municipal representatives (one from each town)
 2 community-at-large(non-parent) members
 1 student

  • Field Trips – Four field trips were approved by the SC.
    • Girls Basketball
    • Ice Hockey
    • Boys Basketball
    • Cheerleading – approved with the stipulation that the Supt. will review the full itinerary and provide final approval as that information was not available for SC review and the deadline for booking falls prior to the next SC meeting.
  • The Groton Chamber Choir was chosen out of 800 choirs (including adult choirs) to go to Italy to perform at St. Anthony’s.  The district received a letter from Washington DC stating concerns of the separation between Church & State due to the location of the performance.
    • This is a third-party field trip that takes place during a vacation week – no school is missed.
    • The Supt. authorizes all third-party trip as it is not in the SC purview.
    • The district attorney is reviewing the letter and will report back to the Supt.this week.
    • The Supt. will let the Chamber Choir know if any changes need to be made to the itinerary in order for the district to be in compliant with the law.
    • The Supt. is checking with the attorney to inquire about the release of the letter the district received.

As a Groton resident, I am so proud of these kids.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our kids and we should show our support by working within the law to allow them this awesome opportunity.  Awesome!!!  Just Awesome!!!!

  • Votes – Transfers, SC minutes, Warrant Articles and other various house keeping items were also approved at the meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 11:15pm

Here I am a taxpayer and mom sipping my morning coffee reading our local newspaper which prompted me to reflecting back on our previous year budget cycle.

Last year was a stressful and intense budgetary year for both Groton and Dunstable residents.  

  • We had a failed override in both Dunstable & Groton that did not allow the entire Needs Assessment to be funded. Most folks that I spoke with including some elected officials felt it was too much of an ask  “to big of a bite at the apple”. We had a couple of Groton BOS members suggest a phase in approach that would call for a 60% in first year, 20% in the next two following years.
  • We had an override pass in Dunstable and fail in Groton which did not allow the decreased portion of the Needs Assessment which was approximately 35% to be funded.
  • The district managed to reallocate one time funds for tier two support for Budget FY17. This avoided a District Wide Meeting and allowed the district to take a step towards funding the needs identified in the Needs Assessment. Notably, the SC agreed that these positions would be included in the FY18 budget. 

 

Moving onto to the local paper and my coffee.  

It is getting really difficult to decipher between actual news and opinion. It was a shame to see such a personal jab both at SC and the Superintendent for their effort to offer voters the opportunity to review a budget that would fund a smaller portion of the district’s so-called “Needs” in a fiscally responsible manner. In blue I quoted the “non bias news paper” {shaking my head in disgust} as they “respectfully” describe the last two years of work from our Superintendent’s which we now identify as the Needs Assessment.  

I personally believe that the guidance provided by the SC was a fiscally conservative approach that will allow our district to continue to take the steps towards meeting the needs of our students.  We can not afford to go backwards and we can not afford to neglect one school over another.

The District does NOT have a $2,000,000 Capital Fund or an average of 1.2 million dollars in Certified Free Cash every year.  

The District DOES have students with needs that are not being met {per DESE}, an Emergency & Deficiency Fund that is approximately $600,00 below recommended levels and capital expenses that may require the use of Free Cash in the Spring for things….  gee I don’t know avoiding a debt exclusion for a HS well!  

As a tax payer I want my taxes to pay for what I value and my priorities begin with our Schools, Police, Fire and DPW.

The town budgets are now being created and your elected officials need to hear from you.  Do not wait until our Spring Town Meetings, let your voice be heard now!

Contact your SC members & BOS members and let them know how you want your dollars spent.

SC –  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/

BOS  – http://www.townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/BoardofSelectmen.aspx

Engage Groton & Dunstable!

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

The Groton Fin Com, Groton-Dunstable School Committee and the Dunstable Advisory (Fin Com) came together to share an overview of the both municipal budgets as well as the district budget so that there is a better understanding of the needs of both towns as well as the district. This was the first of many joint meetings that will be scheduled as this meeting was not meant to find solutions. This meeting was more of an informative meeting.  You can see a copy of all the slide presentations at the Dunstable website/Advisory Page and also can be seen by clicking here:  BUDGET PRESENTATIONS 

The SC presented first which included the budget guidance provided to the Superintendent.  

  • Level service budget that includes the added tier two support from FY17 and the PD that was being funded through one time funding sources.
  • Scheduled FY18 Tech Plan ($55,000) expense – PGE 63. {CLICK HERE FOR FULL TECH PLAN}
  • 1/5 of the Needs Assessment ($500,000) should be budgeted of the total remaining $2.5 million dollars of the Needs Assessment  – {CLICK HERE FOR NEEDS ASSESSMENT CROSSWALK}
    • The SC understand that taxpayers did not want to fund the Needs Assessment in one large sum.  The SC is taking a more conservative approach than the three-year phase in approach suggestions made by community members as well as select BOS Members.
    • It is important to note that any efficiency and revenues found through the external operational audit review would be utilized to decrease future assessments for the remaining Needs Assessment ($2,000,000), Tech Plan and Capital Plan expenses.
    • Our schools have made some progress in closing the gap but additional funding is needed to move us forward. This progress will be shared with the community at an upcoming SC Meeting. 

NOTE:  There was some concern voiced that the SC did not include any capital plan items in the FY18 Budget Guidance for the Superintendent. This was debated by the SC in great length and there were various reasons why the SC did not include the scheduled Capital Plan expenses that called for approximately $800,000 in additional funding for FY18.  They included but were not limited to… 

  1. We have an external operational audit review that includes building utilization which is expected to be complete by April 2017. 
  2. We have an expensive capital expense at the HS. The cost of a new well must be funded by August 2017 per the MASSDEP and could cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars.  
  3. The SC did request that any items listed in FY17 or FY18 that would be considered an emergency be brought front and center. These items discussed at our B&F Subcommittee were the Boutwell Boiler and Swallow Boiler. There were discussions pertaining to various funding mechanisms for those boilers including but not limited to Free Cash, CPC money or debt exclusion as the district E&D money is below healthy levels. 
  4. The Capital Plan will be reviewed and approved prior to Spring Town Meeting, in which the SC has discussed requesting that Dunstable approves the district to establish a Capital Fund.

The Groton Fin Com followed the SC with their presentation which broke down what the expected revenues are for the town and what is the maximum growth if evenly split between the District and the Town.  This growth (NOT assessment) is 2.4%.  This would equate to an approximate assessment to the town from the district of 3.5% when taking into account the flat school funding.  

  • This would NOT allow the scheduled FY18 Tech Plan or the 1/5 of the Needs Assessment to be funded in FY18 unless the district was to reallocate funds from another department which could result in an adjustments in class sizes, class offerings and or services.   

The Dunstable Advisory Fin Com was the final presentation and they broke down the expected revenues as well as the expected expenses and district assessment for FY18. 

My take away from the meeting was that it was a great start in forging a collaborative budgetary process between our two towns and between both towns and our district.  I believe it would be beneficial for our boards to establish monthly meetings starting in September through May.