In attendance was Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight, Supt. Dr. Laura Chesson and SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Jen McKenzie, Brian LeBlanc, Ryan McLane, Angela Donahue, Pete Cronin and Jeff Kubick.

  • Boutwell HVAC – The initial bids for specs provided came in higher. With further review the replacement can be done with standard equipment versus custom specs.  The recommendation was to go back out to bid as the process would still allow time to get the replacement done before winter and at lower costs that present bids – SC voted to go out ot bid.
  • Email Disclosed to SC Members – Marlena Gilbert informed fellow members that after processing the town budget guidance provided to the Groton Town Manager from Groton Fin Com, she had emailed members the Groton BoS and Groton Fin Com as a taxpayer and individual SC Member with feedback and shared information with them. I wanted to clarify that I was not speaking on behalf of the entire school committee and read the email into meeting minutes out of respect to my board. The email and attachments to that email are below.
  • Programmatic Audit Review – The Supt. put together a summary of actionable items that were comprised from the recommendations of the Abrahams Group.  The SC still has two remaining sections to review at a future meeting- Information Technology and the Budget & Financial Analysis in addition to the DMG draft report due in December, 2017.  All action items will be researched by the Superintendent. All recommendations will be brought forth to the SC. The community will have the opportunity to discuss these changes at future public forums in the late Fall. Some of the actionable items may include significant changes that include but are not limited to bus fees to parents with students residing within 1.5 miles from school, shared kitchens & or outsourcing food service, moving central office to Boutwell, outsourcing and or restructuring facilities maintenance staff.   

These changes are being considered in order to decrease the growth rate of our operating budget, however, some of these changes may be considered significant cultural changes and directly impact  taxpayers. It is up to YOU the Groton & Dunstable taxpayers to provide feedback to both School and Municipal Leaders so that we all know where you want your tax dollars spent. We need to know what changes are you willing to accept, what concessions do you find acceptable for cost savings?  

School Committee Contacts:  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/

Groton BoS Contacts: http://townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/BoardofSelectmen.aspx

Groton Fin Com Contacts: http://townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/FinanceCommittee.aspx

Dunstable BoS:  select-board@dunstable-ma.gov, jvoelker@dunstable-ma.gov

Advisory Contacts: finance@dunstable-ma.gov

 

  • Custodian contract negotiations have concluded:  1-year contract with a 1.5% increase. 
  • Union SEIU 888 Cafe & Maintenance negotiations concluded: 2- years contract with a 1.5% increase each year.
  • Unit D negotiations have concluded with a tentative agreement that is awaiting ratification by both union membership and school committee. An update will be provided as negotiations progress.
  • Unit C negotiations have concluded with a tentative agreement that is awaiting ratification by both union membership and school committee. An update will be provided as negotiations progress.
  • Unit A – negotiations have not concluded. Please see statement below from the GDRSC  

Statement:

The Groton-Dunstable School Committee would like to provide the following information with respect to the current negotiations with the Groton-Dunstable Educators Association:

The Groton-Dunstable School Committee would like to provide the following information with respect to the current negotiations with the Groton-Dunstable Educators Association:

We are committed to bargaining in good faith in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial contract with our educators.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the Groton-Dunstable School Committee and the Groton-Dunstable Educators Association expired on August 31, 2017. Both parties have been meeting regularly to negotiate a new contract since February 2017.

At this time, however, the Committee believes both parties will benefit from the assistance of an impartial mediator. We view the request for mediation as a constructive part of the negotiations process that will help facilitate bringing us to a resolution for a multi-year contract as quickly as possible.

The School Committee values, respects, and appreciates our dedicated educators who positively impact Groton-Dunstable students every day and are an instrumental part of our district.

We are committed and look forward to continuing our discussions so that we may move toward a long-term contract that addresses the needs of both parties.

—The Groton-Dunstable School Committee

 

You can check back at http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/ for additional statements or information pertaining to the GDEA (teachers union) contract negotiationsion) and the school committee.

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

In attendance was Superintendent Dr. Laura Chesson, Director of Business & Finance – Michael Knight and SC Members – Marlena GIlbert, Angela Donahue, Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Brian LeBlanc and Ryan McLane.

  • FY19 Budget Priorities & Guidance to Superintendent – Budget guidance was discussed over the course of several meetings. The SC main objective is to provide an efficient budget that adequately funds our schools.  SC voted and approved guidance that included a focus on the following items.
    1. Maintain and strive to improve services to all students; all opportunities for reallocation, reorganization, and increased efficiency will be explored first, informed by audit findings by Abrahams Group and DMG.
    2. The FY19 Capital & Technology are not to be included in the District Operating Budget
    3. A separate District Capital & Technology Budget should be provided with details on the projects included in the District Capital & Technology Budget. Future District Capital Budgets projections per the plans should also be included in the budget booklet for both towns to forecast future Capital/Technology expenses. A Maintenance schedule with cost projections should be outlined in the maintenance portion of the Operations
    4. Review Athletic Fees to ensure comparability with other districts and provide budget impact for any change in current fees (include the cost of practice and game uniform).
    5. Review school supply budgets to ensure adequately funded.
    6. Provide adequate funding for maintenance staff, services, supplies to support an articulated maintenance plan to support our building and grounds.
    7. Maintain the District class size standards set below with the exceptions of chorus, band and physical Additional exceptions to this standard are allowed if appropriate justification is made to the school committee about the exception’s education efficacy.

      K-4              15 to 22 students

       

       

      5-12            15 to 25 students

       

  • Dunstable Warrant Article – The SC discussed putting forth a warrant article at Dunstable Fall Town Meeting.  The Dunstable Representatives expressed a want to concentrate on establishing a Capital Stabilization Fund versus obtaining approval for FY19 District Capital Expenses as municipal leaders are still trying to determine what revenues they will have for FY19 and if they will need an operational override or a debt exclusion to cover various municipal & school expenses this year and for years to come.  Some Groton members deferred to the Dunstable representatives as they better know their town and who they represent, others felt that it made more sense to package all the FY19 District Capital items together in May due to the limited Free Cash in Dunstable.  After discussions, there was only one motion made with the intent to better prepare for our District Capital expenses and allow Dunstable the ability to determine how they will fund their portion of the wire infrastructure with the remaining items slated in the District Capital Plan for FY19 at Spring Town Meeting. A vote to put forth a warrant article for a District Stabilization Fund, with the want to discuss this further with Dunstable leadership prior to Fall Town Meeting as Dunstable leadership may elect to develop their own municipal fund or utilize an existing fund for District Capital expenses. The approved verbiage from the original warrant article that was approved in Groton will be brought back to Dunstable.
  • GDRSC Support of COA Senior Center Design Warrant Article –  A copy of the warrant article was provided to all SC Members as well as the legal guidance that clarified that the SC would not be in violation of any ethics or campaign law by voting to support the COA Senior Center Design warrant article as this article will not be funded through a ballot question.  After each member expressing support for the warrant article, a vote was taken and the SC voted to support the COA warrant article.
  • Fall Town Meeting Presentation – The SC discussed establishing a brief presentation as to whats happening in our schools, the warrant article for wire infrastructure and a high-level view of what remaining FY19 District Capital expenses will be presented to voters at Spring Town Meeting. Marlena Gilbert, Brian LeBlanc, and Ryan McLane will prepare a draft and for SC approval.
  • School Committee Governance & Protocol Doc Revision – Approximately 1.5 years ago the SC established Governance & Protocol norms.  With new members joining the SC wanted to review the document and make any applicable changes they felt appropriate.  A workshop will be scheduled to review and finalize the document.
  • Union Contract Negotiations Update – SC entered into executive session to discuss contract negotiations. Thus far the following contracts have been approved by the SC and Union Membership.
    • Custodians – finalized
      • one-year contract
      • 1.5% increase
    • SEIU Local 888 Cafeteria & Maintenance –
      • two-year contract
      • 1.5% each year

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

This evening was the first time that all peer boards came together to discuss the long term planning to fund both municipal and school needs.  In attendance were the Groton BoS, Groton Fin Com, Dunstable BoS, Dunstable Advisor, School Committee, Dunstable Town Administrator and Superintendent.

The SC Chair opened the meeting by presenting the evening’s goal which was to have collaborative, respectful and productive discussions that would move forward towards a planned, predictable, sustainable approach to budgeting.

The School Committee and Administration prepared a presentation to walk us through the agenda items and keep us on track.  Below are some of the highlights as well as a link to the full presentation.

  • Resources/Revenues Discussions – Groton and Dunstable are two unique towns with much in common.
    • Dunstable BoS Chair expressed concern that Dunstable does not have the same resources as Groton.  The SC Chair pointed out that, Dunstable does, in fact, have similar resources as Groton.  When reviewing the equitability in our town’s property value, tax base, median/mean income and the inequality of the tax rate the problem is not a resource problem it is a revenue problem.  A point of reference was made that if the inequality of the tax rate did not exist, Dunstable would have approximately $800,000 in additional revenues which would allow them to better prepare for both municipal and school expenses. 

 

  • Review Current Financial  Projections
    • Dunstable – Dunstable Advisory Chair shared with boards that they are working on a 3-5 year budget projections and is not prepared to share numbers at this time, however, is forecasting a deficit.
    • GDRSD – Operation Budget Growth

  • Groton – Groton Fincom Member shared with the boards that the TM provides a 5-year budget projection each year and the Sustainable Budget Study Committee shows a deficit if our town (municipal & schools combined) expenses grow beyond 4.8%.  I just don’t agree with this philosophy, how can we say that we have projected deficits year after year when we are certifying on average 1.2 million dollars religiously each year and this year we have 2.3 million dollars certified in Free Cash per the DLS website. I hoping that we can explore better forecasting procedures to allow more funding for operating expenses so we are not unnecessarily considering overrides while having millions of dollars being certified in Free Cash each year. 

Historic Certified Free Cash

    

Sustainability Budget Study Committee – Page 7 of Final Report with appendices

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

This posting includes the agenda items of the B&F meeting at 5:30 pm and the regular school committee meeting at 7 pm.   In attendance for the B&F meeting was Supt. Laura Chesson, Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight, Asst. Supt. Katie Novak, SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Angela Donahue, Jennifer McKenzie and Jeff Kubick.  All SC Members joined the meeting at 7 pm for our SC meeting.

  • 8th Grade Washington DC Trip – SC approved a one-day extension for this annual trip. Due to the transportation restrictions of the number of hours, a bus driver can drive in a day and how rushed the current trip has been it was in the best interest of the students to extend the trip an additional day.  A sample itinerary can be seen here:   DC Trip Itinerary
  • Boutwell HVAC – The bids for the HVAC (heating and cooling) came back approximately $6000 higher than anticipated. This was slated to be done before this winter. The options are going back out to bid which will delay the project and may not provide a lower bid, or utilize a portion of the District contingency funds to cover the difference.  If the HVAC was to fail prior to being replaced and heat was needed, temporary heaters can be provided but would be more costly than the difference in the bid.  Subcommittee consensus was not to gamble with it and get the work done.
  • Subcommittee/Liason Updates
    • BoS Liason Update – The SC was updated as to an agenda item being on the BoS agenda for their 9/11/17 meeting.  This agenda item would discussion the Selectmen authority relative to inclusion of GDRSD Articles on Town Meeting Warrant. The GDRSD Wire Infrastructure warrant article is being sponsored by Barry Pease for Fall Town Meeting, however, the SC Chair wishes to clarify for future town meetings.  The SC will be discussing putting forth a warrant article for the remainder of the FY19 Capital Expenses at Spring Town Meeting instead of included in them in the GDRSD Operations budget.
    • Groton COA Liason Update – SC discussed supporting the Groton COA Warrant article at Fall Town Meeting for design plans for a renovation or a rebuild/expansion of existing building. Committee asked for a copy of the warrant and to confirm from legal counsel if there are any legal restrictions in doing so.  This will be brought back on September 20, 2017, for discussion and vote.
    • Programmatic Review/Audit Update – Abrahams will provide a draft on September 15, 2017, and a meeting will be established to discuss the preliminary findings.  October 15, 2017, will be the final report presented by Abrahams to the committee.  DM Group will provide a draft mid-December with the final report December/January.
  • Enrollment Report – The superintendent will be providing monthly updates on enrollment to the SC and community.  This year we had 77 new students enroll at GD, after withdrawals, we show a net increase of 32 additional students in the district as of August 31, 2017
  • Assistant to the Director of Community Ed Position – Superintendent requested the SC to approve a new position in the district.  This position would help research, establish and organize additional offerings to students for after school programs.  SC approved this position, as it was a much-needed position in our District and the funding comes from the revenues generated from the programs.  You can see the job description here: Job Description – Assistant to the Director of Community Education
  • Friends of Prescott Lease – SC approved the lease between the GDRSD and Friends of Prescott
  • FY19 Budget Priorities & Guidance to  Superintendent – SC continues to discuss the guidance and is slated to finalize and vote at the September 20th meeting.  Guidance discussions included…
    • Reviewing recommendations & conduct feasibility studies on any recommendations provided in final reports of Programmatic Review/Audits.
    • Maintaining & improve services to all students.
    • Preserve the communities capital investments.
    • Decrease athletic fees
    • Ensure adequate funding for supplies such as hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues etc.
    • Maintain Class Sizes:  The exceptions of the class sizes set below are a chorus and physical education. Additional exceptions to this standard are allowed if appropriate justification is made to the school committee about the exception’s education efficacy.
      • K-4        15 to 22 students per class
      • 5-12      15 to 25 students per class
  • Dunstable Fall Town Meeting GDRSD Warrant Articles – Additional discussions were had for Dunstable Fall Town Meeting in regards to GDRSD Wire Infrastructure warrant article.  These discussions will continue as Dunstable peer boards continue preparing their future year’s financial projections for the SC to consider when discussing warrant articles.