March 15, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

March 15, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Tue May 10, 2016 5:08 pm


A joint meeting of the Finance Committee (Fin Com), Board of Selectmen (BOS) and School Committee (SC) was held on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at the Municipal Center. Ms. Holmes called the meeting to order at 7:08 PM.

FINANCE COMMITTEE: Pam Holmes (Chair), Brett Argall, Howard D’Amico, Carol Gogolinski, Ryan Hogan, Cindy Shurick
BOARD OF SELECTMEN: Mike Hughes (Chairman), Tim Bonin, David Cortese, Hal Davis, Kevin Morse, Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Suzanne Kane (Administrative Assistant)
SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Scott Yacino (Chair), Sonya Bouchard, Sherry Zetlan
OTHER STAFF AND CITIZENS: Rep. Joe McKenna, Mark Reil (Sen. Fattman’s Office), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director), Norman Yvon (School Superintendent), Kevin Maines (Principal, Douglas High School), Cortney Keegan (School Business Manager), Mitch Cohen, Phil Smith, John Furno, Johna Peloquin, Jillian Carneiro, Ron Forget, and many residents and school faculty.

Mr. Guzinski presented the anticipated increase in revenues, for a total increase in revenues for FY17 of $665,361. He proposed using $500,000 in Free Cash towards the budget. The total net increase in the change in fixed costs expenses for FY17 is $175,956. For the past 10 years, they have used a 70/30 allocation in change of revenues for the School Dept. (70%-$123,169) and all other Town departments (30%-$52,787). Mr. Guzinski does not see any major changes in these numbers unless there is a change in State Aid.
Rep. McKenna stated that the House will release its budget on April 13, 2016. He does not have any new numbers to report. He believes the House and Senate will fund Chapter 70 significantly more than was in the Governor’s budget. Mr. Reil said that Sen. Fattman has expressed to the Chairwoman of the Senate Ways & Means, his priorities of increasing Chapter 70 funds, increasing unrestricted local aid, and increasing PILOT funds. Rep. McKenna does not know where additional funding would come from.
Ms. Holmes is concerned that Lottery Aid was created in 1971 to be used to support cities and town and in 2010 that was changed. She would like to see the State keep its promise. Rep. McKenna spoke about the Rainy Day Fund. Mr. Yacino urged that the time to use those funds is now.
If the lifting of the charter cap is not successful, Rep. McKenna does not know where the $25 million for that project would be reallocated.
Mr. Yvon described in detail the dire state of the Douglas Public Schools. He described that they are starting to lose what makes them great. There is nothing left to cut, and they cannot move forward. The people in the community feel they are being let down by the State.
Mr. Yacino feels that the State forces the people of Douglas to subsidize those that go to Wallum Lake at the expense of the school district and public services. He feels that the State, as the largest landowner in Town, should be keeping pace with the people that live here.
Mr. Yacino and Mr. Yvon spoke about the special needs of some students. The Chapter 70 formula provides a 3.5% Special Education requirement, which has not kept pace with the changing landscape. Rep. McKenna stated that the Chapter 70 study committee recommended correcting the assumptions to more accurately represent the percentages of Special Education students and insurance and health care costs.
Rep. McKenna stated that he and Sen. Fattman were able to secure a surcharge for every car entering Wallum Lake from out-of-state to go into an account for Douglas and a verbal commitment from the State to drastically increase out-of-state entrance fees.
Mr. Morse feels that the Town made some poor financial decisions that contributed to the financial situation. Ms. Holmes disagreed. She talked about the fact that Douglas has no excess levy capacity.
Jillian Carneiro, 72 Riedell Road asked to know, as a community, what they need to be doing to make change happen.
Mr. Yacino spoke about how the school building project had no effect on the financial situation that the Town is now in.
Mr. D’Amico saw in a local paper that Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT) was awarded money from the State. He asked what the Town can do to help Rep. McKenna and Sen. Fattman to help Douglas get some grant money as well. Mr. Davis stated that there will be an article at Town Meeting to hire a part-time person to find additional grants and economic development. Rep. McKenna stated that he has staff that could help that person. Mr. Yvon stated that Douglas rarely qualifies for grants.
Ms. Lovett asked Rep. McKenna for help removing the BVT assessment for post-secondary students, help with Special Education costs, and increasing the revenue for state-owned land. Her concerns are: if class sizes go up, school choice goes down and assessments go up. Inequities between BVT and vocational schools and local public schools were discussed. Mr. Reil stated that Sen. Fattman is well aware of these issues.
Johna Peloquin, 10 Fairbanks Court has issues with BVT. She asked what they need to do to get all of the 13 towns together as a unified force. She spoke to how crowded the classrooms in the elementary school are. Mr. Reil stated that it takes a majority of the towns to address the issues at BVT. Mr. D’Amico stated that Douglas has an elected representative on the BVT School Committee and those committee meetings are posted on the Douglas website. Mr. Davis asked that the Douglas representative come to a BOS meeting.
Phil Smith, 135 Franklin Street asked to know Rep. McKenna’s and Mark’s stand on eliminating the cap on charter schools. Mr. Reil said that Sen. Fattman is still formulating his opinion. Rep. McKenna stated that he would vote “Yes”. He stated that there are no charter schools in the towns he represents. Mr. Smith feels Rep. McKenna needs to represent his constituents. Mr. Yvon is disheartened that he does not hear Governor Baker speak about public schools when he speaks about supporting education. Mr. Davis does not feel that funding of charter schools should take away funds that could be available for public schools.
A young woman in the audience, who is currently a junior at the high school, would like to know if she is going to have athletics and AP classes and if she will be able to advance her education. Mr. Yacino stated that the administration will present a budget tomorrow night based on what the Town allocates to the School Department. Mr. Yvon stated that the amount of money that the school would be putting into athletics is equivalent to two positions.
Ms. Carneiro is frustrated by leaving meetings without any instruction or change. She feels the community should go to the State House.
A woman in the audience asked why a Proposition 2.5 override is not being asked for. She feels the BOS are doing the community a disservice by not putting an override on the ballot. Mr. Morse stated that the BOS cannot know what the community wishes unless they are told. Mr. Guzinski stated that a plan for an override, how much and for how long, needs to be ready for a vote by the BOS by next Tuesday.
Debby Saviano, 128 Wallis Street asked if anyone has surveyed the community. She hears support for an override. Mr. Hughes stated that there is not enough time to do that.
Ms. Bouchard spoke in favor of a vote for an override.
Mr. Maines said that seven teachers have been cut at the high school in two years. Athletics, band and drama would have been cut if not for the boosters. He spoke to the excellence of the education in Douglas, and he spoke about how the cuts have negatively impacted the high school. He thinks another seven teachers may need to be cut for FY17. The situation is grave and dangerous.
Mr. Hughes asked the School Committee to present an amount for an override at the next meeting. Rep. McKenna cautioned that an override vote has to have a focused goal with a specific target dollar figure.
Rep. McKenna distributed his and Sen. Fattman’s contact information and asked to public to not vote to legalize marijuana.
Mr. Guzinski stated that he will work with the School Administration to pull together a Proposition 2.5 override proposal for discussion at their next meeting.

Mr. Hogan made a motion at 8:39 PM to adjourn. Mr. D’Amico seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
Posts: 601
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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