March 14, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

March 14, 2016 Finance Committee meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Mon Nov 07, 2016 6:39 pm

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

A meeting of the Finance Committee (Fin Com) was held on Monday, March 14, 2016 at the Municipal Center. Ms. Holmes called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

PRESENT: Pamela Holmes (Chairman), Brett Argall, Howard D’Amico, Carol Gogolinski, Ryan Hogan (Vice Chairman), Michael Hutnak, Jerome Kocur, Cynthia Shurick
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director-Absent)

7:01 PM Douglas Public Schools
Superintendent Norm Yvon and Business Manager Cortney Keegan joined the meeting. Mr. Yvon stated that the Superintendent’s Initial Recommended Budget of $14,602,482 was reviewed by the School Committee on January 20, 2016. That initial budget indicates what is needed and includes some positions, supplies and materials that were lost in FY16. The School Dept. is working diligently to remove approximately $2 million from that budget to meet the estimated allocation from the Town ($12.5 million), and they are about halfway there. They are trying to save as many teaching positions as possible. Enrollment has been consistently dropping over the last 10 years.
Mr. Yvon stated that the initial budget ($14.6 million) was created to provide what is needed to keep the schools functioning, plus restoring some positions and materials. $700,000 in needed positions was not put in that budget. The first pass to try to get to $12.5 million took out anything that was not in FY16, including 4.4 FTE positions that had been added in. Mr. Yvon will be asking the School Committee next week to commit some funds from School Choice to cover some General Fund expenses. There is still $1 million difference unaddressed, and therefore reducing staff would be the next step. At the high school, the music program is 100% covered by the user fees and athletics is currently partially funded in the General Fund budget. Middle school sports are 100% supported by user fees.
$12.4 million was the allocation for the schools from the Town last year. $13.5 million would be the budget needed to level fund FY17. Salaries and Special Education costs are the main drivers of that increase. Special Education costs increased $700,000 from FY16 to FY17. Out-of-District Tuition is the largest portion of those costs. Ms. Keegan explained how the Circuit Breaker Fund works.
Discussions were held regarding Special Education costs, union contract negotiations, Common Core, annual testing, School Choice Tuition-In, preschool, transportation, enrollment, the 1:1 program and the cost of digital textbooks, music and athletics.
Mr. Yvon and the School Dept. are very concerned about the continuing increase in class sizes, the increasing inability to meet the needs of all students, and an increase in behavioral issues.
Mr. Hutnak asked about increasing class sizes for general high school classes in order to accustom students to large lectures that they may have in college as opposed to increasing the class sizes at the elementary grades. Mr. Yvon stated that that option is being explored.
Mr. Yvon stated that they have been exploring regionalizing the school district, however they have had very little positive response from surrounding towns. The School Committee is also looking into a Superintendent Administrative Union and consolidating central office positions.
Mr. Yvon and Ms. Keegan agreed to return to the Fin Com with a finalized budget after the School Committee’s April 6, 2016 budget hearing. The Fin Com budget public hearing is April 11, 2016.
Ms. Holmes and Mr. Guzinski will come up with a date for the School Dept. to come back before the Fin Com.
8:10 PM Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT)
Ms. Holmes stated that they do not yet have the BVT budget, therefore the BVT budget presentation was rescheduled for March 28, 2016.
Mr. Guzinski spoke to Town Counsel regarding the post-secondary program. He does not yet have a final opinion from them.
Mr. D’Amico asked that Dr. Fitzpatrick, Superintendent of BVT, be asked provide a college placement analysis. He would also like to know how many of the representatives on the BVT Regional School Committee are BVT graduates. The Douglas representative is a BVT graduate. Mr. Hutnak asked to see the number applications received/town vs. students accepted to BVT/town. Ms. Gogolinski would like to know how many BVT graduates are actually working in their trade five years out of the program. Ms. Holmes would like to see a review of BVT’s stabilization funds and a list of where the LPN program participants are coming from.

Approval of the February 29, 2016 Finance Committee meeting minutes was deferred to the next meeting.

Mr. Guzinski stated that the Conservation Fund balance is $17,232.89 and the Wetland Fund balance is $65,864.39. This money comes from retaining a percentage of filing fees. Ms. Gogolinski suggested that the salary for the Conservation Agent be paid from these funds. Mr. Guzinski agreed that the idea is worthy of review. He will ask the Finance Director to review these accounts, and he will ask the Chair of the Conservation Commission to come to a meeting, perhaps on April 11, 2016.
Mr. Guzinski stated that he will have a complete draft budget available for March 28, 2016.
The agenda for tomorrow’s joint meeting with the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the School Committee was reviewed. Ms. Holmes would like to ask the legislative representatives present at the meeting tomorrow about how the surcharge added to the entrance fee at Douglas State Forest will impact Douglas. Mr. Guzinski has requested a meeting with Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) officials.
Mr. Guzinski is moving forward with the consultant, Mike Daley, regarding PILOT. Mr. Daley has been in contact with the principal assessor. Currently, it is felt that the valuation of the state-owned property is based on how it was zoned when it was purchased.
Mr. Guzinski stated that the anticipated increase from FY16-FY17 in Total Net Change in Revenue is $665,361. The Fixed Cost Expenses increased by $489,000, which is driven mostly by the increase in school transportation, mostly Special Education Transportation, and the increase in health insurance. Mr. Guzinski spoke about the process the Town recently went through to obtain the Harvard Pilgrim high-deductible plan for a 5.5% increase in health insurance costs in lieu of a 16.5% increase with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The BOS will be voting on this policy and plan tomorrow night. $300,000 is saved in FY17 by changing health insurance plans. This leaves a total net revenue increase of $175,956. Using a 70/30 split with the School Dept., that leaves $123,169 for the schools and $52,787 for all other municipal departments.
Mr. Guzinski continued to review the draft budget. Moving $500,000 from Free Cash to the operating budget, leaving $50,000 in Free Cash for capital items, is being considered. The Capital Improvement Committee has $1.7 million in capital requests for FY17. The BOS is looking at a possible debt exclusion for the ATM and ballot for a rescue pumper and catch basin cleaner.
Fire Chief Kent Vinson will present at the next Fin Com meeting. Ms. Holmes would like to know how much water is needed to put out a fire and how a rescue pumper will help.
Mr. Hogan asked, if the Economic Development position makes the warrant, to have a BOS member talk to the Fin Com about it. Ms. Gogolinski attended a meeting of the Economic Development Commission (EDC). She said that they did not remember that the Fin Com did not want the new position to be a hired position. Mr. Guzinski said that they are aware that the Fin Com decided to not recommend an employee, but a consultant.
It was decided to schedule a meeting April 4, 2016.

Ms. Gogolinski made a motion at 8:57 PM to adjourn. Ms. Shurick seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
Posts: 594
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:56 pm

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