Budget & Finance SC Meeting Cliff Notes 1/27/17

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

In attendance was Superintendent – Bill Ryan, Director of Business & Finance – Frank Antonelli, Business Manager – Michael Knight, Dunstable Advisor Chair – Christine Muir, SC Members – Alison Manugian, Marlena Gilbert, Peter Cronin, Jeff Kubick and by remote – Jennifer McKenzie.

  • Quarterly Financials/Transfers – We are on track with budgeting and housekeeping transfers were also discussed.
  • MSBA Program – Information was provided by the Business & Finance Department as an option to obtain reimbursement for capital expenses at Flo Ro and or other capital expenses.  The deadline for submittals is April 7, 2017. The Superintendent Ryan recommends that we submit for Flo Ro because MSBA would assess the school and provide an observation on what needs to be done there and approval for the application is a lengthy process that could take a couple of years. Marlena Gilbert asked if we could submit multiple projects like the HS windows, boilers or any other capital expenses that are needing to get done.  Business & Finance Dept will confirm if we can submit multiple projects at the same time and any restrictions other than submitting one SOI per school.  You can learn more at MSBA website: http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/SOIs/2017_SOI_FAQs
  • FY18 Budget Update – There has been an enrollment change which resulted in a change of assessment between Groton & Dunstable.  Groton is down and Dunstable is up in enrollment changing the percentage for Dunstable from 22.3% to 22.88%. Although that percentage doesn’t sound like much it equates to $160K difference because we are working under the current regional agreement.  Although both towns will be voting on the revised regional agreement in May it still would need to be approved by DESE for the proposed changes to take affect which included a rolling five-year enrollment %. This means that Dunstable will see an % increase of assessment and Groton will see a decrease.  Also, State Funding came in lower than expected.
    • Supt. Bill Ryan suggested that the capital expenses that are in the budget be pulled out to decrease the assessment to both towns and allow both towns to fund capital expenses through warrant articles.
    • Alison Manugian pointed out that it is not the SC that decides how it is funded and it all should be included in the budget, and the SC could request a placeholder on the warrant.
    • Marlena Gilbert stated that she is an advocate for paying one-time expenses with one-time funds, especially since Groton has an opportunity to fund their portion of district capital expenses through a variety of ways including assessment, Free-Cash, and a municipal capital fund.  The opportunity to choose how to pay for these expenses belonged to the taxpayers and suggested we do both, so we are covered.  Warrant article for a list of items and explain they are crucial capital needs that can be funded through a warrant article or assessment. If approved by warrant article the SC can adjust the school budget on the floor.  If not we have a second mechanism to fund the capital needs.
    • The budget will be provided to the SC on February 7th, and they will have the month of February to work with Bill Ryan on how various capital items get funded and what is included in the budget.
  • Prescott Lease – There was the discussion about Central office staying at Prescott.  The unknown of construction inconvenience and the need to relocate for renovation was a concern for the majority if not all of the SC members.  Marlena Gilbert suggested that the SC consider a 1-2 year extension of the current lease as funding for major renovation as well as renovation plans would take time. It is very unlikely that the work would start for 12-24 months and by then the district will have their Building Utilization portion of the audit complete.  Discussions on this topic will continue as the SC does not have to provide a 90-day notice until May 31, 2017, to vacate or request to renew.
  • Discussions of External Audit Review – Total cost is approximate $112-$126k for the entire review. Due to other expenses, this would be funded over two budget cycles unless alternative funding was made available through a warrant article.
  • Discussions of Draft Capital Plan – The Business & Finance Department reviewed the capital plan to identify all items that should be funded in FY17 & FY18 for budget purposes as well as several year projections.  This draft plan will be discussed further with the SC. Some of the items on the list were oil tanks at the Swallow Union, Boutwell HVAC System, HS HVAC System, MS South Kitchen Equipment, Swallow Union Walkways in addition to the one-time expense of the District Programmatic Review (Audit).  There seemed to be a consensus that taxpayers should be given the opportunity to fund capital expenses and the entire audit instead of just a portion of it through warrant articles & or school assessment.  It will then be up to the taxpayers to decide what gets done through voting to approve the funding…  there will be no “kicking the can down the road.”

There will be much discussion, deliberation pertaining to capital expenses within our town and how to fund them.   If you have an opinion on that matter feel free to email your SC and BOS members.

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

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