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

The SC and Dunstable Advisory Board and Dunstable BOS had a joint meeting to discuss the Dunstable FY18 budget update.  Before the meeting, Marlena Gilbert informed the Dunstable Advisory Chair and a member of the Dunstable BOS of some questions for the discussions.  Dunstable Advisory Chair was responsive and welcomed all questions. 

  • Dunstable Budget Summary Update – In a typical year, Dunstable allocates 60% of its new money (2.5% previous base plus Net Growth to GDRSD, for FY18 they also allocated the money remaining from last year’s override). None of the funds from the approved override were assessed by the GDRSD because the override in Groton failed, which means that NONE of the funds from the override were able to be given to the schools last year.
    • Total override amount – $474,874
    • Total taxed to Dunstable residents of override – $324,561
    • Total voted on at Dunstable Town Meeting for municipal budget – $287,466
    • The full override amount of $474,874 was able to be taxed, however, the remaining funds would have been placed in Free Cash so they could be utilized for one-time expenses for both the school and municipal. Although Dunstable’s Free Cash level was below recommended levels per the DOR and their accountant, it was explained both the DOR and their accountant recommending not taxing the remainder of $151,350 and putting in Free Cash per budgetary principals. I disagree with this recommendation as it solidly does not subscribe to the need to increase Free Cash or their Stabilization Funds and further increased the already difficult financial situation that currently exists in Dunstable. I also believe that where the override was for both municipal and schools, the SC should have been included in this discussion but was not.    
    • Dunstable Personnel Compensation – At the last Dunstable TM the town voted to adopt a bylaw that required the Personnel Board to establish a pay scale grid to be presented to the BOS.  This pay scale was reviewed and ratified by the BOS as it was to adequately compensate employees to what is offered in comparable towns.  There seemed to be discussion as to the process in which this was presented, recommended that it can be funded & approved. The total cost of this was approximate $100,000 per year.
    • Dunstable Financial Status – There was a discussion about the recently passed override was expected to provide Dunstable with a year of bereavement from financial difficulties and that there was a likely possibility of Dunstable requiring an override shortly to maintain municipal and school services. They will know more after completing a 3-5 year budgetary projections for their town.  From my personal perspective, Dunstable is in financial difficulty because they simply do not have any commercial revenue base and they do not receive enough residential revenue. They have been doing their best to keep taxes at a reasonable rate for their residents. They are at a point where they have limited Free Cash, limited Stabilization funds and not enough revenue rejuvenate these resources or to pay current bills. From my perspective, Dunstable would benefit from an operations override to reset their financial status to the point that would allow them to implement better budget strategies that they can acquire from a Municipal Town Manager.  
    • GDRSD Assessment – Dunstable’s school assessment of the school budget currently exceeds the amount they budgeted for the schools by $41,220.
      • Marlena Gilbert suggested that if her understanding is correct and Dunstable will need an override to just cover level services in FY19, perhaps the SC can discuss reducing the assessment and utilizing the school Excess Deficiency Fund to supplement our FY18 budget with the understanding that both towns will need to budget for the expense in FY19. There was some push back from a Dunstable Advisory Member because he did not feel that it was appropriate to budget for FY18 banking on an override in FY19. Marlena Gilbert’s response – the override seems inevitable and if the taxpayers say no then it is no, but at least they are presented with a budget that accommodates the municipal and school needs.  Ultimately it is up to the taxpayers of Groton & Dunstable to decide what does or does not get funded.
      • SC Budget & Finance Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday morning and Dunstable Advisory & BOS are invited to attend as we discuss various budget scenarios for our school district that includes the three priorities included in the current school budget.

Dunstable Advisory will be working on budgetary projections for Dunstable. TheTown of Groton and the GDRSD already has 3-5 year budgetary projections and will further discuss moving forward to better serve both municipalities and our schools.  Stay tuned.

We are pleased to report on the activities of the Groton-Dunstable Superintendent Search Screening Committee.

During the months of February and March, the Screening Committee met on several occasions to review applications and to interview candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools.  Applicants represented a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.  We thank all those who expressed an interest in becoming our next school district leader.

The Screening Committee reviewed all of the applications and subsequently selected a number of candidates who were invited to meet with the Screening Committee for a preliminary interview.  We enjoyed our conversations with each of the candidates.   Following the preliminary interviews and after much discussion and consideration, the Screening Committee, during its meeting on March 23, 2017, voted to recommend three candidates for further consideration by the Groton-Dunstable School Committee.

The three candidates, listed in alphabetical order, are:

Marie Altieri, currently Deputy Superintendent, Acton – Boxborough Public Schools

Marie Altieri Resume

Dr. Laura Chesson, currently Assistant Superintendent, Arlington Public Schools

Dr. Laura Chesson Resume

Dr. Jodi Fortuna, currently Superintendent, Hudson Public Schools

Dr. Jodi Fortuna Resume

On behalf of the School Committee and the Towns of Groton-Dunstable, I would like to thank the members of the Screening Committee for the many hours they devoted to reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and deliberating during the preliminary selection process.  The conversations were lively, insightful and courteous.  It was a pleasure to work with this group of truly dedicated school community members.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Marlena Gilbert

Superintendent Screen Committee Chair

Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee Member

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

Policy 5:30-7pm – In attendance was Interim Supt. Bill Ryan and SC Members Stephanie Cronin, Marlena Gilbert and Angela Donahue

  • The Policy Subcommittee discussed various policies that are under review to make sure they are in compliance with MA State Legislature as well as in line with recommendations with the Massachusetts Associations School Committees.  You can see a list of policies that were discussed here:  Policy’s For Review 3.22.17
    • The Wellness Policy is under consideration by administration and recommendations will be brought forth to the Policy Subcommittee for review.  The policy includes a Wellness Committee as well as Wellness Program Coordinators that will be established in collaboration with administration.

SC Meeting 7pm – In attendance was Interim Supt. Bill Ryan, Asst. Supt. Dr. Katie Novak and SC Members, Stephanie Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Angela Donahue, Marlena Gilbert, Peter Cronin and Jeff Kubick.

  • French Discontinued – A notification will be sent to all parents to inform them that due to declining enrollment, next year will be the last year that French will be offered at the GDRHS.  This decision is not purely a financial one; it is also curricular. French has the lowest enrollment of the three languages offered by the District and given class sizes and enrollment trends, we can not continue & has been discontinued. Student’s interest did not support funding this program for future years.,
    • French enrollment down 25% from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017 from 69 to 52 students
    • Spanish enrollment down 7% from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017 from 321 to 300 students
    • Latin enrollment down 9% from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017 from 222 to 201 students
      • Incoming 8th-grade students who are currently taking French I will be enrolled in a Spanish bridge course in grade 8.
      • Incoming 9th graders will not have the opportunity to study French in HS. They can enroll in Spanish or Latin.
      • Current HS students will have the opportunity to take French II and French III in Fall 2017 to meet graduation requirements.
      • French courses will not be offered during the 2018-2019 school year.
      • The administration will continue to look at our world language offerings and will strive to seek additional experiences for students to become global citizens in the future.
  • NESDEC Enrollment Projections – Bill Ryan shared the enrollment projections with the SC. Our District enrollment is no longer decreasing at the levels it once was. However, projections indicate that we will experience a further decline in enrollment at more gradual pace.  The projections also show an increase of enrollment in future years; this will have to be watched carefully so the District can plan for our future years to come.  NESDEC 2016-17 Enrollment Projections
  • Athletic Accounts & Department Update – Mr. McCaffrey presented an update on the Athletic Department which can be seen here: Athletic Department Update
  • District Ed Needs/Needs Assessment 2.0 – Dr. Katie Novak provided an outline of the current needs of our district. She explained that the Needs Assessment is a living document and will change each year as our needs change.  Some positions are no longer needed (approximately) 10 from the initial Needs Assessment and a few that were added.  You can see the updated list of needs and priorities on the GDRSD website: http://gdrsd.org/departments/superintendent/
  • Priorities 1-3 were included in the FY18 budget by the SC; the remainder were left for administration to try to include through reorganization and reallocation where possible.
    .5 Reading specialist, SU PRIORITY 1
    2.0 Library Media Specialists at Elementary Level PRIORITY 2
    1.0 Adjustment Counselor PRIORITY 3
    1.0 Business clerk PRIORITY 4
    1.0 Learning Support Specialist at HS PRIORITY 5
    1.0 Math Specialist, FR/SU PRIORITY 6

    I shared an essay that was written by my son.  It provided the SC with a student’s perspective of how the lack of key positions can have repercussions on a student’s learning.  His teacher and I required him to write a new “Argument Essay” with the topic of plagiarism after he unknowingly plagiarized in his original essay.  I knew librarians were necessary, unfortunately until this week I had no idea how we have failed our kids by cutting valuable resources. 

 

Enjoying my coffee this morning and read the Groton Herald article titled – School Committee Increased Budget Against Advice of Superintendent, Selectman & Dunstable Town Accountant.

I wanted to clarify some additional facts that both Groton & Dunstable taxpayers should be aware of.
  • The Needs Assessment, now being referred to as “Needs Assessment 2.0” is a living document, meaning our school enrollment changes, our school demographic changes and there will be new state mandates periodically.  All these factors change the current needs of our district, we will have resources that are still needed, some needs may have been filled, and some may no longer be needed.
  • After Groton failed to pass the two overrides the School Committee came to a consensus to fund the needs of our schools over the course of five years. This was as far back as our meetings in July 2016.  This should not be surprised to anyone; our override failed, however, the needs of our schools did not disappear. It should not be a surprise that the School Committee was looking to include additional funding to be used towards the Needs Assessment in our FY18 budget or the next several future budget cycles.  
  • The School Committee’s original budget guidance requested capital items to be outside the operation budget, however, through collaboration they voted to include them as that was the majority of feedback received from both towns and through conversations between the Interim Superintendent, Town Manager, and Town Advisor. This was a preference mainly out of concerned that if these items were taken out of the School Budget, it might be perceived that they are optional versus necessary capital items and therefore not pass at Town Meeting through warrant articles.
  • The budget guidance approved by the School Committee for the Superintendent included a list of priorities that equated to approximately $500,000 of the Needs Assessment for FY18.  Again, it should be no surprise that the School Committee was looking to fund some if not all of these priorities.
  • The Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan NEVER said he could fund all six priority through reorganization, reallocation or additional savings.  He was very clear at the Budget & Finance Meeting when he expressed that he is confident he could fund some of them but would not guarantee all of them when I asked him that question and had never suggested otherwise.  If this were the case, he would have simply included them in the budget because he is a straight shooter and doesn’t commit to anything he is not sure he can do.
  • The School Committee included the first 3 of the six priority items in our FY18 budget, leaving the remaining three items for the Interim Supt. To try to cover through reorganization, reallocation, and additional savings.
  • Dunstable passed an override allowed them to raise their levy by approximately $475,000, however, chose to only collect approximately $324,562 of that money therefore not capturing roughly $150,438 of the revenue from their taxpayers in FY17.
  • Dunstable has not yet clarified exactly what amount of money was slated for the schools and what was for municipal in the override. Everyone that I have spoken with has stated that it was a complete joint override which leads me to believe that the total was to be allocated – 50% schools/50% municipal which would equate to $237,500 for each.
  • The schools did NOT receive $237,500 of this money in FY17 because the District was not able to assess Dunstable due to the failed override in Groton. Using $237,500 as a figure slated for the schools less the $150,438 of revenue they chose not to collect, I calculate that there is approximate $87,062 slated for the schools that been spent or currently in Free Cash.
  • The school budget is a zero based budget therefore including the capital items by way of collaboration does not artificially increase our budget for future budget cycles.  That is not true and a simple misconception that stems from not being familiar with how the school budget is formulated.  As I mentioned at the meeting, the School Committee does not expect to automatically include the $375,000 in next year’s budget, but the town should also know that the School Committee is committed to funding the needs of our schools over the next five years. Not forecasting for that in our Town’s future budgets isn’t proper budgeting.
  • Per the MA Department of Revenue – Dunstable has $284,617 in Certified Free Cash, $324,066 Stabilization Fund, $37,423 in their Overlay Reserve and have revenues expected to be $11,066,176 in FY17 which includes a Net Growth of 84,475. {CLICK HERE FOR REPORT}

website: https://dlsgateway.dor.state.ma.us/DLSReports/DLSReportViewer.aspx?ReportName=At_A_Glance&ReportTitle=At%20A%20Glance

Over the next couple of weeks, the SC will be meeting with Dunstable in an effort to understand financial restraints, various funding mechanisms and both municipal and school needs.  As reported in the Groton Herald the School Budget can not go up. However, there is a possibility that the School Committee be asked to reduce or restructure the budget at our joint meetings.

Please email your elected officials and tell them how you want your money spent and what are your priorities.
Groton-Dunstable School Committee:  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/

With both Dunstable & Groton Town Meetings coming this April and May there is much talk about Free Cash, DOR Income Per Capita, Net State Aid, Stabilization Funds, Excess Levy Capacity/Limits and much more.   It is enough to make you dizzy and very confused.

We will soon have warrant articles and budgets presented to us at our Town Meetings that may request taxpayer approval for various capital expenses, transfer money between funds, offset the tax rates or to raise and appropriate through the use of different funding mechanisms.

In an effort, to help prepare taxpayers for our Town Meetings and to help understand the different financing mechanisms available to taxpayers in both Dunstable and Groton I want to share a website with my readers.

This site is the Division of Local Services; it provides information reported to the government from both towns.

https://dlsgateway.dor.state.ma.us/reports/rdPage.aspx?rdReport=Dashboard.TrendAnalysis

If you have questions about your town’s revenues, funding sources, average single family tax bill, income per capita…  you can look up your town and see what was reported to the DOR and even download spreadsheets and charts.

For example…  do you know what a Stabilization Fund is? Does your town have one and what expenses can be paid for with this funding source?

Dunstable Stabilization Fund and  Groton Stabilization Fund


What is levy capacity?  If your town passed an override that provided funding for municipal and school expenses; when & how was that money collected and spent?  What was the appropriation to the schools and municipal from the override? 

Dunstable Excess Levy Capacity and Groton Excess Levy Capacity

Is Free Cash “free,” where does it come from and does my town have any?  

Dunstable Free Cash and Groton Free Cash

I found this site be informative and very helpful in guiding me to understand the spending habits of my town, resources in my town, the terminology referenced at my Town Meeting and most importantly what is really being asked of me through warrant articles and how many different ways there are to fund various expenses that are proposed both in and outside an annual budget.  

“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” ~ John F. Kennedy 

 

 

 

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

In attendance was Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan, Business & Finance Director – Frank Antonelli, Business Manager – Michael Knight and all of our SC members.

  • FY18 Needs Assessment Update – Our Needs Assessment is being reviewed annually as it is a living document in a sense that student’s needs change, enrollment changes and new mandates are rolled out. Our School Community should know that they can expect new needs to be added and needs to be deleted as they are filled and or if they are identified as being no longer needed. Some years we will require additional funding and other years we may be able to accommodate funding for these needs through reorganization and reallocation of funding. The “Needs Assessment 2.0” was the work of our entire administration and staff, just as the original 2015 Needs Assessment. It is a testament to the fact that our district is being run by individuals that are being methodical and strategic when identifying what our district needs and where we need to put our resources to obtain results in a financially responsible manner.  You can see in on our website – http://gdrsd.org/departments/superintendent/
  • Needs Assessment Budget Priorities for FY18 – The SC is committed to spreading out the Needs Assessment over the course of five years and in doing so had requested through budget guidance a list of needs by priority for approximately $500,000.  These needs are expected to be funded through reorganization, reallocation of funds and additional funding when necessary.  This year the following six items were identified as priorities for FY18.
    • As requested in the budget guidance the Supt. Provided approximately $500k in budget priorities of the current needs in our district beyond the level service budget.
      1. 0.2 FTE increase to Reading Tutor position at SU $13,193 – Currently, the reading tutor is an hourly position which means that that person does not attend staff meetings, professional development days, or before or after school meetings. By making this position a reading specialist position, the person would be expected to attend meetings and training. They would be able to consult more with the classroom teachers. This will help with carrying over the reading intervention instruction into the classrooms.
      2. 1.5 FTE Library Media Specialists at Elementary Level $38,370 – This will allow us to offer enhanced schedules and two periods library/media each week. We will cut 1.0 computer para at each school for savings land to minimize net cost of the district.
      3. 1.0 Adjustment Counselor $65,970/Note this position was not included in the 2015 Needs Assesment – Last year we added an elementary adjustment counselor to provide direct instruction to elementary level students to address the increasing amounts of students who have social and emotional needs. We also have an adjustment counselor at the MS and HS. Due to the increasing number of student who needs more specialized social-emotional support, we are in need of an additional position.
      4. 1 FTE Busines Clerk $62,870 – This would allow the assistant business manager position to support HR functions and increase efficiency and function in the central office. This would also allow the assistant superintendent to devote more time to curriculum, assessment and professional development.
      5. 1.0 FTE Learning Support Specialist $65,970 – We added this position halfway through the year with grant funds to support general education students who fo varied reasons need additional support (e.g. returning from an extended medical absence).
      6. 1.0 Math Specialist FR/SU $65,970 – This position would provide direct services to students who have enrichment or acceleration support needs (Tier II needs). The intent is to help close the achievement gap and support those students who are accelerated far beyond grade level. Our math curriculum and expectations are very difficult for some students, and they need the support. Also, students are qualifying for special education for math. We don’t’ have the early intervention for them that we have for reading.
  • District Capital Plan Update – The individuals that worked on the Capital Budget Plan will be meeting and providing an updated Capital Plan the first week of April, and the SC has scheduled a Workshop to review the plan and is expected to approve the plan before Spring Town Meetings.
    • Both the BOS Member and Marlena Gilbert made reference that the Flo Ro renovations/rebuild should be separated from the plan as it needs to be captured as an expense but should be identified as a larger project that will require a debt exclusion. There was a reference as to making it an appendix to the capital plan.
  • FY18 District Budget – The SC approved the District Budget tonight.
    • Total budget approved $39,515,831
    • Total Assessment to Dunstable – $5,970,238 – Notably this is $134,698 above revenue capacity and funding this amount would require the use of Free Cash or reallocation.  The SC welcomes discussions with Dunstable elected officials and the Advisory Board to discuss the assessment and to work with them as one community.  I feel that it is my job to put forth a budget that best serves our students and to let taxpayers chose to fund the budget. I was advised by the Dunstable Advisory Chair to establish a budget that meets the needs of the students as that is my job and they will do their best to figure out how to fund it. I believe in collaboration, and I welcome all dialogue with Dunstable Taxpayers and elected officials to discuss the assessment to Dunstable before Town Meeting as we are one School Community.  
    • Total Assessment to Groton – $20,245,272 – Notably this is $5,187 below the amount that was earmarked by the Groton Town Manager.  A BOS member expressed that he was happy with the Supt. Budget (which didn’t include priority 1-3 of the Needs Assessment 2.0). He disagrees with the boards decision to utilize available funds in Groton towards the Needs Assessment and for including capital items in the budget. He     said our decision to include one time costs was “….going to be remembered by fin com and groton and the board of selectmen and i’ve already had this discussion with the town manager so we may want to pull out the money that you are spending on capital and technology from what we set aside next year. He expressed that the SC should have removed the Capital items from our school budget and funded them through warrant articles Marlena Gilbert responded by explaining, “there should not be any carry-over budgets. Budgets should be set from zero each year. I expect that the municipal and the school budget work from that same premise.  No one should expect any amount of funds to be available from year to year. Budgets should be based on what we need each year; there will be years some are a bit higher than others. However, the budgets should fit the needs, and the needs should be justified and kept within projections.  If our taxpayers want to fund the one-time capital funds through a warrant article, I welcome that, I prefer it that way provided they understand they are not being removed from our budget because they are optional… because they are NOT. Capital items were included in our budget through collaboration with Interim Supt. Bill Ryan, Town Manager, Town Advisor, Fin Com, Advisory board and town leadership. Interesting enough, many SC members expressed their preference to take them out of the budget. I appreciate feedback and constructive criticism but I do not understand nor appreciate being threatened when not conforming to a budgeting strategy ideal and or for tapping into additional funds that have been earmarked for our schools by the Town Manager to work towards fulfilling our commitment to funding the Needs Assessment over five years. To insinuate that our SC would be penalized in future budget cycles for our choices is not acceptable to me. Since the very first day I was elected I have continually reached out to various Groton Fin Com Members, Groton BOS, and the Groton Town Manager; the dialogue has always been constructive and supportive overall. This is unexpected and disappointing to me. 

 

I ask taxpayers to email your elected officials, and once again please tell us how you want your money spent so we can better serve you.

Groton BOS:  http://townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/BoardofSelectmen.aspx

Dunstable BOS & Advisory (Finance Committee): http://www.dunstable-ma.gov/Pages/DunstableMA_WebDocs/Directory

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

 

 

 

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

In attendance this morning was Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan, Director of Business & Finance – Frank Antonelli, Business Manager – Michael Knight,  Christine Muir – Dunstable Advisory and School Committee Members – Alison Manugian, Marlena Gilbert, and Angela Donahue.

  • Programmatic District Review – Abrahams Group has signed their contract to perform the Finance and Operations evaluation of our district.  The building utilization may be able to complete before the district is required to provide a 60 days notice to renew or terminate the lease at Prescott.
  • GD @ Play – The construction is slated to be done in the Summer and complete by Fall. The Business & Finance Department has reiterated that the funding will be obtained before construction or the project would be postponed. They will also have proper insurance coverage during the construction.
  • Needs Assessment – The Needs Assessment is being reviewed annually as it is a living document in a sense that student’s needs change, enrollment changes and new mandates are rolled out. Our School Community should know that they can expect new needs to be added and needs to be deleted as they are filled and or if they are identified as being no longer needed.  Some years we will require additional funding and other years we may be able to accommodate funding for these needs through reorganization and reallocation of funding. The “Needs Assessment 2.0” was the work of our entire administration and staff, just as the original 2015 Needs Assessment. It is a testament to the fact that our district is being run by individuals that are being methodical and strategic when identifng what our district needs and where we need to put our resources to obtain results in a financially responsible manner.  
  • FY18 Budget – The Interim Supt. will present two budgets to the SC tomorrow night, in addition to providing the SC with a list of priorities up to $500,000 of needs from the updated Needs Assessment. The Interim Supt. was optimistic that many of the items outlined in these priorities might be met through reorganization, possible revenue increases in state funding, decisions on the location of Central Office and other variables that would not require the budget to be increased by $500,000.  At this meeting, Marlena Gilbert asked if Groton was to utilize up to our levy which would be the $95k not proposed in the Interim Supt. Budget would Dunstable be able to match it without triggering an override in their town; this is not the budget guidance set forth by the SC, however, it is a concern for many Dunstable & Groton SC members.  Dunstable Advisory Chair – Christine Muir clarified that Dunstable has not completed the budget process, however at this time after taxing residents up to the approved levy there is roughly a 170K deficit, and if Groton increased the assessment by $95K, then Dunstable would then have roughly $192K deficit.  This deficit could be funded through Free Cash or through restructuring the budget and Dunstable would not require an override.
    • There was the consensus of the three SC Members that the decision should be given to the taxpayers. Groton has funds that can be utilized for the needs in our district and believe taxpayers should be given the right to decide to fund them at Town Meeting.  Should they choose not to fund them, the SC could always decrease the budget.

It is important to note that Dunstable passed the override last year in part for the schools. However, they chose not to raise their taxes to the approved levy by $150k because the District was not able to assess them for that funding. If they had chosen to raise their taxes, they would have an additional $150k in revenue from FY17 that would have been able to be used towards expenses. However, hindsight is always 20/20; It was impossible to forecast an enrollment change that would result in an increase of assessment of $160K to Dunstable in our FY18 District Budget.  Perhaps taxing to the levy in Dunstable could have put them in a better position to deal with the current enrollment change in addition to capital expenses and the current needs of the district in our FY18 budget but that enrollment increase in Dunstable was an unscheduled game changer. There is no right or wrong decision here; there an explanation of factors that play a role in the current budgetary process that needs to be understood by taxpayers.   

In attendance – Interim Supt. Bill Ryan, Asst. Supt. Dr. Katie Novak, Business & Finance Director Frank Antonelli, Asst. Business & Finance Michael Knight and all SC members.

  • FY18 Budget Hearing – The budget can be reviewed on the district website: http://gdrsd.org/departments/business/
    • School Committee voted to include all capital items within their budget. I firmly believe that all capital items should be paid with one-time funds such as Free cash or Capital Funds. However, I voted to include them in the budget because… 
      1. I do not feel confident in the fact that differential in what is requested this year and what is earmarked for the schools (2.4%) for this budget cycle will be set aside for the schools to be used for next year.  
      2. I believe that taxpayers may preceive items taken out of the school budget and being placed on warrant articles makes them “optional” and they are items that we need to fund to maintain the quality of our building and grounds. 
      3. RFP will not reveal enough savings for our district to fund our capital expenses, technology expenses, and miscellaneous items remaining on the Needs Assessment. It is just not mathematically possible.  
      4. I have my eye on large district capital expenses. The repair or rebuild of Flo Ro is going to be substantial and is the sole expense of Groton. We should be preparing our town for that expense. Having a safe, clean, functional schools for our students should take precedence over special interest projects.      
    • There was also discussion pertaining to our District still having some room on the Groton assessment to chip away at additional needs, however, it would affect Dunstable’s assessment as well.  Dunstable is already consuming the expense of the enrollment change so taking on more may be a challenge.  The consensus was “not to leave money on the table” – that money would be roughly $95,000 towards additional needs in our district. If that were to be included in the FY18 budget, Dunstable would have to come up with an additional $22,000 (roughly) on top of the Supt. Draft budget.  As a Groton Representative, I believe we should use all funds earmarked for our schools for our existing needs, and Dunstable should have the ability to choose to fund their portion of the assessment.  Let the elected officials see how they can fund it and let the voters vote is what I say. 
    • Dr. Katie Novak explained the Needs Assessment is a living document, some needs have changed, some needs addressed, and she will update that for the SC and present a list of items up to $500,000 that would be priority items for the SC next meeting.
    • The SC may wish to include more of the needs as the approved budget guidance set forth from the October 25, 2016, meeting. {Budget Guidance}  & {Approved SC Minutes – Budget Guidance}
  • Revised Regional Agreement – SC unanimously approved the revised regional agreement that includes the recommendations from DESE.  {FINAL SC APPROVED AGREEMENT}
  • Policy Adoption – SC unanimously approved and added some MASC recommended policies. {Policy Changes & Adoptions}
  • FY17-18 School Calendar – SC approved the upcoming school calendar.  I am very excited to share it as Dr. Katie Novak did an awesome job in decreasing our substitution costs, increasing PD and structuring it in a manageable manner for families.  {GDRSD-School-Calendar-APPROVED-2017-2018}
  • Swallow Union Lease – SC voted to approve administration to sign a lease of the Swallow Union Building in Dunstable.  There is a stipulation in the lease that if the building is no longer needed for educational purposes, it would be returned to the town.
  • Superintendent Screening Committee – Committee will be interviewing candidates this Thursday and Friday. The committee is expected to deliberate on Friday evening and voted on what candidates will be presented to the SC on March 8, 2017.  We anticipate a “Day in our District” for all finalists the week of March 15th with the anticipation of having Asst. Supt. Dr. Katie Novak visits the candidate districts the week of the 8th.