SC Meeting 1/24/18

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

In attendance for tonight’s meeting was Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight, Superintendent – Dr. Laura Chesson, SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Angela Donahue, Peter Cronin, Jeff Kubick, Brian LeBlanc and Jennifer McKenzie.

  • GDEA Feedback Custodial Outsourcing – The GDEA wrote a letter sharing their support for the custodians in a request for the SC to reconsider outsourcing the custodial services and outlined the value received from our custodial staff.  All SC members expressed their appreciation in the feedback and informed the GDEA that the RFP was voted on to acquire additional information to allow for an educated decision process.  In addition to the recommendation from Administration, each individual SC Member will conduct their own research through various ways including but not limited to speaking with other SC Members in other districts to collect feedback as to what service & financial impact was experienced through outsourcing. We are in the infant stages and nothing has been finalized and won’t be until the SC votes to award a vendor with a contract. The Custodial Union representative was present and expressed concerned about being uninformed of the process, where he was not on the agenda to discuss the topic the SC did not respond.  It should be noted that the Custodial Union representative nor did any custodial employee contact the chair (me) to request to be put on the agenda to discuss the process. 
  • MARS Dunstable/Groton Town Financial Report – The SC approved the cost of these reports ($500 each town) in an effort to educate ourselves by familiarizing ourselves with past financial practices and current financial restraints of our member towns so we can better understand how to move forward in a collaborative manner and understand the municipal perspectives.  I have touched upon some of the facts that I found interesting (don’t mind my personal notes taken during our meeting) but would strongly suggest that the community and peer board leaders watch the video of the meeting for the summary provided by MARS and read the entire reports.  Notably, the MARS consultants that provided the service are former Municipal & DESE auditors so their perspective is a unique balance that we have not had until now.  

 

  • Enrollment has dropped in MS and HS but we are now seeing an increase at our Elementary school level.
  • Due to the change in Chapter 70 foundation formula passed in FY07, our state required MLC (minimum local contributions) have increased 14% from FY10 to FY17.  This has proven to be detrimental to many MA towns.

  • Groton has a substantial amount of room between levy limit and ceiling, this is a good thing.
  • Groton’s excess levy capacity (ie the money we could have collected but did not) was substantial in select years where our schools were making cuts to staff and services. Notably, our FY19 proposed budget does tax to our levy limit. 

  • (this is the same for both towns) Enrollment has dropped in MS and HS but we are now seeing an increase at our Elementary school level.
  • Due to the change in Chapter 70 foundation formula passed in FY07, our state required MLC (minimum local contributions) have increased 17% from FY10 to FY17.  This has proven to be detrimental to many MA towns.

  • Dunstable’s levy ceiling dropped yearly from FY20 through FY14 but has started to recover in FY15. It remains lower than it was in FY10. McKenzie (Dunstable SC repres) asked MARS if they could comment on why Dunstable’s home values being a similar market to Groton has not rebounded in the same way as Groton or other surrounding towns?  MARS referred McKenzie to her town Assessors office for additional answers. The Board of Assessors in each city and town in the state is required by Massachusetts law to list and value all real and personal property. Valuation is subject to ad valorem taxation on an assessment roll each year, which means that all property should be taxed “according to value.” In Massachusetts, assessed values are based on “full and fair cash value,” or 100% of the fair market value. Assessors are required to submit these values to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for certification every three years. In the years between certification, assessors must also maintain the values. Assessors review property sales each year to determine if changes in assessed values should be made. This is done so that the property taxpayer pays his or her fair share of the cost of local government, in proportion to the amount of money the property is worth, on a yearly basis rather than only every three years. 
  • Dunstable has also not taxed too the levy ceiling in past years.  Notably, at this time Dunstable has not released a draft budget to show if they are taxing to the levy ceiling in the proposed FY19 town budget. 

  • Athletic Fees – Director of Business & Finance provided a presentation with the info requested by the SC.
    • Click Here – Athletics Fees & Information
      • There was a consensus that the SC should adopt the Business & Finance Director’s recommendation and reduce the true family cap fee from $2200 to $1200 to fall in line with other districts. Note this was not voted on at this time.
      • SC requested prior to setting a new family cap to have additional figures showing the impact to budget if the family cap was reduced in $100 increments starting with $1200.  More discussions will take place on this topic after the info is received.
      • The track, cross country, baseball, volleyball, boys lacrosse and softball all provide the uniform top but require athletes to purchase the uniform bottoms.
      • Baseball is also required to purchase their own hats.
      • Other teams offer gear or clothing that is an option, examples include group shoe purchasing, practice jerseys, or warmups.
      • The administration plan to reiterate in contracts to coaches that all of these items are optional and are looking at a virtual athletics store where items can be purchased if they are desired that will further emphasize the optional nature of these items. Donahue and Gilbert expressed agreement in this decision as parents and students should not feel pressured to purchase items beyond uniforms. 

The meeting was concluded with a consensus to discuss the E&D/Stabilization Fund Financial Policy, 2nd reads for policies KEB/KEC at our upcoming meeting and a future workshop to be scheduled to discuss long-term financial goals that would support educating the whole child.