April 26, 2016 Strategic Budget meeting

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April 26, 2016 Strategic Budget meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:31 pm


A joint meeting of the Strategic Budget Committee (StBC) and Board of Selectmen (BOS) was held on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in the High School Auditorium. Mr. Cortese called the meeting to order at 7:05 PM.

PRESENT: Dave Cortese (Chairman), Brett Argall (Vice Chairman), Paula Brouillette, Pamela Holmes, Sherry Zetlan
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director), Cortney Keegan (School Business and Operations Manager), Norm Yvon (Superintendent of Schools)
ABSENT: Jay Sartori, Michael Hughes, Hal Davis, Tim Bonin
BOARD OF SELECTMEN: David Cortese, Kevin Morse, Hal Davis, Tim Bonin

1. Public Budget Presentation
Mr. Cortese gave a brief overview of the proceedings. Ms. Brouillette gave an overview of the StBC, what has been done to date, what will be shown in the presentation, and some of the issues going forward. Mr. Argall presented the following slides: Update on FY17 Budget-Revenues, FY17 Change in Revenues, Update FY17 Budget-Expenses, Why is a Proposition 2.5 Override on the Ballot, and related charts and graphs. Mr. Guzinski continued with more detailed information including where revenues are spent and internal changes in general government and services, including cuts. Mr. Yvon spoke about the cuts that have had to be made in the School Department, including cuts in supplies, staff and activities since FY09.
Mr. Guzinski presented how the funds from an override would be spent and the impact on the average single-family tax bill. Mr. Yvon spoke about how the funds from an override would be spent in the School Dept. Both spoke about the effects on the Municipal side and school side if the override does not pass.
Mr. Morse explained that the Town is now in a situation where there is no additional funding that can be obtained without making changes in services that will be noticeable to the general population.
Ms. Holmes explained “extraordinary building maintenance.”
Johna Peloquin,10 Fairbanks Court thanked the Committee and BOS for all the work they have done.
A woman from the audience asked Mr. Yvon to talk about the teaching positions that would be lost. Mr. Yvon stated that 38.2 positions have been lost since 2009. Currently, the average class size is approximately 28 students per class, with a range of 25-20 students per class. If the override does not pass, the average class size will be 33 with a range of 26-37 students per classroom. These sizes are unprecedented for Douglas and not considered best practice. He spoke about the other effects.
The woman from the audience stated that she has heard that by allowing the override, there would be loopholes that would give the Town an opportunity to raise taxes in other forms. Mr. Guzinski replied that under State law, the override increases the tax levy base and only for year one are amounts specifically designated for a stated purpose. It is the Town’s intent to maintain the same allocation to the schools and extraordinary building maintenance going forward, however one Town Meeting cannot bind a future Town Meeting to a budgetary expense. She also asked about the impact on property values. She asked everyone in the Town to think about whether they want to spend $500 more in taxes or have their property values go down. There is a direct correlation between the vibrancy of the education and the impact on the property values.
Terry Adams, 21 Towle Court offered to distribute the informational flyers and encouraged attendees to do the same. She feels the override is a necessity and she urged everyone to vote in favor. Mr. Guzinski stated that all the information, presentations and meetings are available on the Town website.
Mr. Argall spoke about the incremental cost of Special Education and lack of growth in State funding.
Jennifer Chamberlain (address unknown) asked for more information about cuts not related to the schools. Mr. Morse replied that the BOS have not yet had detailed discussions as to what would be cut. If the override does not go through and funding needs to be found, they will look at every department, area and piece of municipal spending. They would start with nonessentials.
Ms. Chamberlain next asked about the Town Meeting warrant article about the economic development consultant. She asked, what has the BOS done to try to generate revenue? Mr. Morse replied that they hired the Worcester Business Development Commission (WBDC) to assist with identifying commercial property, and they have worked with representatives from Sen. Fattman and Rep. McKenna’s offices to help find State grants. He spoke of the infrastructure that is needed to get industry into the Town. Mr. Guzinski spoke more specifically about the work done with WBDC. He stated that even though Douglas’s population has grown 10% in the last years, the municipal operations have been reduced 5-10%.
Ms. Chamberlain feels that some voters may vote against the override because they do not agree with how much is spent on Special Education. Mr. Yvon stated that the Special Education costs are mandated.
Holly Austin, 12 Gilboa Court asked what the cap for classroom size is. Mr. Yvon stated that there is no DESE limit; however there are physical limits to the building. The maximum number of persons that can be put in a classroom is 49.
Debbie Saviano, 128 Wallis Street asked about the progress of the consultant that was working on the PILOT funds issue. Mr. Guzinski replied that the consultant is finishing up his report, which should be out this summer.

2. Adjournment
Ms. Holmes made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:16 PM. Ms. Zetlan seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
Posts: 586
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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