January 5, 2016 Finance Committee Meeting

January 5, 2016 Finance Committee Meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:44 pm


A joint meeting of the Finance Committee (FinCom), Board of Selectmen (BOS) and School Committee (SC) was held on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at the Municipal Center. Ms. Holmes called the meeting to order at 7:17 PM.

PRESENT: Pamela Holmes (Chairman), Brett Argall, Howard D’Amico, Michael Hutnak, Ryan Hogan (Vice Chairman), Jerome Kocur, Cynthia Shurick
ABSENT: Carol Gogolinski (Excused)
NON-VOTING: Michael Guzinski (Town Administrator), Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director)
BOARD OF SELECTMEN: Mike Hughes (Chairman), Tim Bonin, Hal Davis, David Cortese, Kevin Morse (Vice Chairman), Suzanne Kane (Administrative Assistant-Non-Voting)
SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Scott Yacino (Chair), Cortney Keegan (Business Manager-Non-Voting), Norm Yvon (Superintendent-Non-Voting), Sonya Bouchard, Julie Moulder, Sherry Zetlan

Mr. Hughes stated that there was no specific agenda for this joint meeting. He turned the meeting over to Mr. Morse.
Mr. Morse stated that his purpose in bringing these committees together is to discuss the Town’s financial picture, discuss the School Dept.’s needs and find ways to balance the budget without depleting the school’s and Town’s services. Mr. Hughes acknowledged the work of the Strategic Budget Committee.
Mr. Yacino spoke about the budget challenges faced by the School Dept. Eighty percent of the budget is salaries. Douglas’ per student spending is approximately $10,000 which is the second lowest in the State. For Special Education students in outplacements, the District is responsible for $40,000/student and beyond the $40,000, the State reimburses 70%. An increase of 1.7% in school budget does not cover the contractual increases in salaries. Mr. Yacino stated that the Douglas Teachers Union reentered negotiations with the SC, and they significantly reduced the Town’s contractual obligation. Office and administrative personnel followed suit.
Mr. Yacino spoke about the challenges facing teachers and staff and programs that have been/will be lost, including music and athletics. Mr. Yacino explained how the band program may be gone in 2-3 years due to lack of instruction and participation in the lower grades. Mr. Yacino spoke about the School Choice Account, from which all the school’s utilities are paid. Mr. Morse warned that if more services decrease, more students will opt-out.
Ms. Zetlan and Ms. Bouchard stated that they have started the budget process for FY17. Many new teachers have been cut. The teachers that remain have larger salaries because they have been in the district longer. Mr. Yacino stated that many of the school administrators have multiple responsibilities. The District is at the minimum percentage for administrative cost/student, once cost/student is averaged. In response to Mr. Morse’s question, Mr. Yvon stated that staffing is the last resource to be looked at when making cuts.
Mr. Morse would like the community to approach with ideas. He warned that a 2.5% override is not a solution. Ms. Holmes cautioned everyone to be realistic with budgeting: be realistic with salaries and benefits. Mr. Morse stated that the collective bargaining strategy needs to be kept, at maximum, at a 2.5% increase on salary structure. A unified message from these three committees needs to be sent.
Mr. Guzinski gave a history of the savings in health insurance that was negotiated three years ago. Health insurance will be reviewed again this year.
Mr. Hogan asked if override ballots could be for specific items to let people decide how money should be used. Mr. Hughes stated that the problem then is “fixed” for only one year.
Mr. Yacino spoke about the pros and cons of closing schools. Most of the savings would be utilities. Regarding regionalizing districts, the only town that responded to an inquiry was Uxbridge. Ms. Holmes suggested that each town specialize in a teaching topic.
Johna Peloquin, 10 Fairbanks Court, asked if the towns have any bargaining power with Blackstone Valley Regional Technical Vocational High School (BVT). Mr. Guzinski stated that there was a meeting of Town Administrators from the regional towns several years ago with the administrative team of BVT. Concern regarding acceptance policies was discussed at that meeting, however there was not a willingness to change the policy at that time. A discussion was held. Mr. Morse does not feel that focusing on BVT at this time would help Douglas’ budget. It was agreed that the Town’s assessment for post-secondary education is unconscionable, even though it is not illegal.
Charging parents for school transportation was discussed. The reasoning behind the lack of sidewalks at the high school was discussed.
A woman suggested that the primary school be used for students with severe special needs. The idea was favorably received. A discussion was held. Ms. Bouchard stated that the idea can be brought back to the SC and Nealy Urquhart’s input sought.
Mr. Davis proposed that the Town hire a full-time grant writer/development person.
Mr. Argall feels that many of the issues discussed tonight stem from the State regulations and polies. He would like Sen. Fattman and Rep. McKenna at these quarterly meetings.
Mr. Yacino stated the action items that have emerged from this meeting: the SC will continue the dialog with Uxbridge regarding regionalizing, the Superintendent will look into how much will be saved by vacating a school building, and turning a building into a special services facility.
It was decided to have the next joint meeting of these three committees on March 15, 2016.
Jim Saviano, 124 Wallis Street asked to know the criteria needed to evaluate whether or not to have a Prop. 2.5% override. He feels educating the public should start now to help assure a passage. Mr. Morse stated that the criteria would be a fixed dollar amount and a plan. He has been asking for true budgetary needs for years. Mr. Saviano suggested working backwards from a deadline date. Mr. Hughes stated that there is not enough time to be ready for the May Town Meeting. A discussion was held. Ms. Holmes suggested that Mr. Saviano talk to the public and take up a petition to bring to the BOS.
A woman in the audience would like to know, in a short amount of time, what ideas are being thought about for the FY16-FY17 budget. She feels that information needs to get out to the public so that they know that the issues are being worked on. She offered to come to workshops to work on solutions. Mr. Yacino explained how the SC is laying out a budget based on the required budget growth and a guess about revenues. He stated that the problem is that the financial means of the district are outpacing the ability of the State and Town to cover. A finalized budget is needed by April. Ms. Bouchard explained that budget workshops will begin in mid-January/February once the Superintendent’s budget is approved.

Ms. Holmes made a motion at 9:30 PM to adjourn. Mr. Hogan 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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