SC Cliff Notes – February 7, 2017

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

There was a Budget & Finance Committee meeting in the morning as well as a full School Committee meeting in the evening.  These notes will summarize both meetings.

  • Groton Town Sustainability Committee Presentation – Kevin Forsmo provided a presentation of the findings from the Sustainable Budget Committee. A full version may be found on the Town Website or you can click here for immediate access:  Sustainable Budget Committee – Final Report
    • During the presentation, there was a request to clarify why the model projection utilizes the annual growth of revenues at 3.4% when our DOR receipts and school foundation budget is based on 4.77%.  As explained the 3.4% is based on an average over the course of a set number years.  The disconnect for me with the modeling is that we are using historical growth of spending, but we are not using authentic growth in revenue in the modeling therefore, we don’t seem to be capturing the fact that we have Free Cash (average 1.1 million each year for the last 6 years) being generated which could be used to decrease or eliminate a deficiency in conjunction with grant money, cutting back on salary & benefits, a reasonable increase in commercial revenue and the increase in our property values.  Don’t get me wrong without additional revenue we would have a deficiency but I think Free Cash needs to be accounted for and the modeling we have in the report doesn’t capture it or how we can use it to decrease the tax burden for Groton Taxpayers. For those that want to know where I am getting the 4.77% from it is from this website as well as from the formula of our foundation budget. 
  • Warrant Articles – The School Committee voted to request a place marker at both town meetings for some capital expenses for the district in an effort to minimize the tax burden on both communities and allow taxpayers to opt to pay for these expenses through alternative funding. Here is a preliminary list of items currently being discussed for Spring Town Meeting from our district: District FY 2018 Warrant articles
  • Preliminary FY18 School Budget – General consensus of the SC was that they appreciated the budget booklet format and are interested to see what the community thinks of it.  The projected assessment to Groton is under their levy limit, however, there is some uncertainty as to how much of the increase in levy capacity was approved in Dunstable for the schools in their last override and how the change of enrollment will affect their town budget. You can see the complete budget booklet by clicking here:
  • Policy Modifications 1st Reading – There was a list of modifications that were reviewed, the second review and vote will take place at our next regular scheduled SC meeting.  The policies were updates recommended by MASC, however one was about the approval of the use of security cameras on buses.  GD doesn’t have a policy so that will be discussed and approved shortly so Dee Bus can begin running their cameras on our school buses.
  • MSBA (Mass School Building Assistance) – School Committee voted to approve the Adm to move forward with the interest form for the renovation or rebuild of Flo Ro.  The application and approval process could last approximately 3 years so the Supt., recommended we start the process now and if approved MSBA will have the building evaluated and recommend what needs to be done with a reimbursement percentage available to the town for the work.  As this progresses I will update you as we know more.
  • School Calendar 2017-2018 – Asst. Supt., Dr. Katie Novak, brought forth a proposal to add a couple of 1/2 day PD days to allow for more PD hours, decrease the cost for substitute teachers by approximately $9000 and provide structure for parents.  A survey was taken by parents revealing that most need structure in the calendar with set days for 1/2 days and prefer Friday.  The SC consensus was that it would be best to structure PD to be scheduled on the same day of the week and be districtwide to provide parents with some scheduling stability, a preference of Friday so kids can stay focus through the entire week without interruption, the excessive 1/2 days in November needed to be eliminated and parents need to be offered some enrichment programs during PD 1/2 days for their students so teachers and students are enriched by this change.  A revised proposal will be brought to the SC for our next meeting.
  •  District External Audit Review – SC voted to award a contract to The Abrahams Group to begin this fiscal year at a price of $36,000 for sections III, Financial, and section IV, Operations.  Supt. recommending that the School Committee award section I, Staff and Course Offerings, and section II, Special Education, to The District Management Council, for the price of $80,000, to begin on or before July 1, 2017.   Since Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 71, Section 49A, permits a School Committee to contract for services at any time after the annual appropriations for the ensuing fiscal year, provided that no payment be made prior to the commencement of the ensuing fiscal year, The District Management Council will not receive a contract to proceed with the work until the District’s budget is approved by both communities.  If the District’s budget is approved at the annual town meetings, then the contract will be executed in May, and The District Management Council will be allowed to begin their work.
  • Capital Plan – Discussions were isolated to FY17 & FY18, for budgetary purposes and are included in the warrant articles above, however, will continue in March and the Capital Plan will be approved prior to Spring Town Meeting.  Discussions pertaining to the HS windows were had and although they don’t look pretty they are structurally sound and are not an emergency.  Some have been replaced already, and the maintenance department will continue to do so with the cost being funded through the maintenance budget.
  • Superintendent Screening Committee – SC voted to approve the screening committee and they will begin their work on February 10th. That work will include reviewing candidate applications, identifying which candidates are awarded an interview with the screening committee, interview the candidates and then decide which move on to the next screening that is done by our School Committee. The calendar looks something like this:
    • 2/10/17 – NESDEC explains procedures, develop questions, set interview schedule, distribute application packets
    • 2/15/17 – Review of applications, affirm interview schedule
    • 2/27/17 to 3/3/17 – Screening Committee interviews candidates
    • 3/7/17 Finalists are presented to School Committee & Community
    • 3/14/17 to 4/5/17 Site visits, School Committee interviews finalists, second verify of credentials and second agreement in principle
    • By 4/6/17 – Vote to hire a permanent superintendent.