March 26, 2018 Finance Committee meeting

March 26, 2018 Finance Committee meeting

Postby Mary Wright » Sat Jun 30, 2018 5:23 pm

FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING
MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

A meeting of the Finance Committee (FC) was held on Monday, March 26, 2018 in the Municipal Center. Mr. Hogan called the meeting to order at 7:07 PM.

ATTENDANCE:
PRESENT: Ryan Hogan (Chair), Eric Chamberland, Howard D’Amico (Vice Chair) Carol Gogolinski, Pamela Holmes, Michael Hutnak, Leigh Lahousse, Cynthia Shurick
SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Kevin Maines (Interim Superintendent), Cortney Keegan (Business and Operations Manager), Brett Argall, Sherry Zetlan (Chair)
ABSENT:
NON-VOTING: Jeanne Lovett (Finance Director)

1. FISCAL 2019 DEPARTMENTAL BUDGET REVIEWS
-Douglas School Department
Mr. Maines, Ms. Keegan, Ms. Zetlan and Mr. Argall joined the meeting. Mr. Maines presented packets which included MCAS results, 2015-2016 and 5-year AP data, 5-year SAT data, numbers of Douglas students going on to higher education, per pupil expenditures, student enrollment information, and a PowerPoint about how Douglas is staying competitive with neighboring schools.
The school budget that was presented to the Town is a level-service budget, inclusive of additional positions that were reinstated or new and were financed from the school revolving funds. Mr. Maines described those positions. He then spoke about the staffing/programming goals at each school. Mr. Maines spoke about the security needs at the schools, such as securing doors, security cameras, key cards, and walkie-talkies.
Mr. Maines has presented the AP and SAT statistics to the student body. Mr. Maines spoke about the eighth grade’s annual Step-Up Day in June. Ms. Holmes suggested mailing a booklet home to the parents to promote Douglas High School (DHS). Mr. Maines stated that a portfolio is sent home with students; he agreed to mail them to parents.
Over three hundred surveys were recently mailed out to homes whose students opted out of Douglas. To date, only 60-70 have been returned and none so far have indicated that a user fee was the primary reason for leaving. In 2012-13, 110 students choiced in, 40 students choiced out, 64 attended private schools, 72 attended Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT) and 0 attended Norfolk Agricultural: 2014-15, 135 students choiced in, 39 students choiced out, 76 attended private schools, 79 attended BVT and 1 attended Norfolk Agricultural: 2017-18, 110 students choiced in, 116 students choiced out, 123 attended private schools, 110 attended BVT and 8 attended Norfolk Agricultural. On top of this, there is a decreasing demographic, and Douglas is still seeing an increase in students leaving.
Mr. Argall presented the Douglas School Budget and Perspective. Douglas’ rank in per pupil expenditures is the seventh lowest in the State for the last ten years; $3,300 lower than the State average, and $1,600 lower per pupil than the average of the surrounding districts. In FY17 the school’s budget was roughly 2.1% above required net school spending. The average for the surrounding towns is 16.3% and the State average is 25.1%. The average Douglas teacher salary from FY12-16 is below State and surrounding town averages. Mr. Argall warned that without adequate funding, Douglas schools will continue to see a negative trend in enrollments.
Mr. D’Amico stated that he appreciated receiving this information.
Ms. Keegan presented the FY17 Actuals from the DESE website. She stated that the positions that were added in the fall were funded from School Choice. She described how Circuit Breaker works. She also explained how Extraordinary Relief works and that you can never predict if or how much you will receive.
Mr. Maines stated that he is working with neighboring schools regarding offering specialized courses to keep students in their district.
The FY19 preliminary proposed level service budget was $13,323,523, which has to be reduced by $643,670 to meet the Town’s appropriation.
The school’s public budget hearing is April 4, 2018.
-Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT)
Superintendent of BVT, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Assistant Superintendent Principal Anthony Steele and John Lavin, Douglas’ representative on the BVT Regional School Committee (BVTRSC) joined the meeting. Dr. Fitzpatrick shared placement information, the increased Douglas participation assessment, and debt impact. Dr. Fitzpatrick asked that the FC and the public recognize that BVT is a Douglas school. He stated that the average per pupil tuition cost for a vocational education in Massachusetts is roughly $16,500 plus transportation, and Douglas’ per pupil cost is considerably less than that at $10,408/student.
Dr. Fitzpatrick presented the BFT budget, which is a 4.74% increase over last year. The budget includes three new positions. BVT is subsidized 40% by the State. Dr. Fitzpatrick presented the revenues. Ms. Holmes asked for detail of the Excess and Deficiency fund expenditures, amounts and types of expenditures, for FY17. Dr. Fitzpatrick agreed. He also agreed to provide a copy of the contract in order for the FC to look at the chart for steps and levels. The COLA increase is 2.25%, includes steps and levels, and the current change in health benefits is roughly 72%.
The debt will be coming off in a little over six years.
Dr. Fitzpatrick provided information on post-secondary placements over the past five years, 70% of BVT graduates pursue four year colleges, 15% pursue two year colleges, and 4% enter apprenticeship programs. BVT has not invested in elaborate survey studies 4-6 years post-graduation. They are trying to build their own database through alumni data collection.
Discussions were held including demographics, tempering the overall enrollment, a comparison of BVT against other vocational schools, BVT’s AP scores, Douglas’ increasing BVT enrollment, the admission process, admission criteria, and the admissions policy.
Mr. D’Amico asked if Dr. Fitzpatrick takes into consideration the financial health of the school budgets of the 13 member districts when doing the BVT budget. Dr. Fitzpatrick answered that BVT’s budget must include expenses that other districts have covered under their town’s municipal budget.
BVT’s admission policy and Douglas’ increasing enrollment, from 66 in 2012 to 112 in 2018 was discussed. The posted admission policy speaks to admissions proportionate to the member town’s population. Dr. Fitzpatrick replied that the BVTRSC makes decisions relative to the budget to be compliant with State standards, etc. The posted admission policy is a State approved admissions process and the original way the school identified goals relative to building a vocational technical school. Dr. Fitzpatrick replied that the interest to attend BVT is strong and Douglas does an excellent job preparing their students to compete for admission. A discussion was held involving Douglas’ ability to forecast BVT enrollment.
Sherry Zetlan of 7 Hilltop Drive asked if BVT was granted a $4 million grant for expansion and Dr. Fitzpatrick replied that they have applied for the grant for facility improvements.
Ms. Zetlan asked about student testing and ranking after the exploratory period. It was Ms. Zetlan’s opinion that most of the students are not able to their first choice for a trade, however Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that he has observed that 90% of the students agree with the trade for which they are ranked.
Ms. Zetlan asked how much of BVT’s budget is sent to out of district Special Education placements and how much of that budget is being spent on Special Education Transportation. Dr. Fitzpatrick replied that they have no out of district Special Education placements. They have roughly 14% special needs students and take care of all Special Ed needs in house.
Library Director Justin Snook stated that the library remaining open is contingent on the passing of a Proposition 2.5 override. His annual budget of $214,000 is entirely subsumed by the BVT additional assessment. He asked if there were other means for BVT to raise the money. Dr. Fitzpatrick suggested Mr. Snook reach out to BVT’s vocational technical coordinators to see if they can assist the library.
Leslie Breault of 20 Depot Street asked to know what Dr. Fitzpatrick has looked at in asking for such a large increase. She asked to know what BVT’s user fee is for extra-curricular activities and how Dr. Fitzpatrick justifies asking Douglas to make sacrifices. Dr. Fitzpatrick stated that every student is expected to perform services and use alternative ways of labor to raise money. He presented a list of student fees.
Ms. Holmes requested to receive the BVT budget prior to BVT presenting at the FC. Mr. Lavin replied that he has done so the prior four years, however this year he had a family emergency.
Kelli Grady of 55 Southeast Main Street stated that her freshman in college is doing very well due to the education he received in Douglas. Her junior is doing well at DHS. She received the BVT letter at home today. She has an eighth grader and she is considering sending him to BVT due to the uncertainty of the DHS staffing, class sizes, and programming due to the dire financial situation. Seeing data on Douglas students’ AP scores and placement records does encourage her to keep her son in Douglas. Ms. Lovett reiterated the Town’s commitment to work with the schools and all departments to save as much as possible and still balance the budget.
Ms. Gogolinski stressed that all the surrounding towns are looking at cutting and will be experiencing more and more uncertainty.

2. REVIEW OF EXPENDITURE VOUCHERS
Mr. Hutnak made a motion to approve $535.30 for printing of the Town Meeting flyer. Mr. Chamberland seconded the motion. Vote: Unanimous.

3. APPROVE MEETING MINUTES:
There were no minutes.

4. OLD/NEWBUSINESS
New Business: There was no old business.
Old Business: The public budget hearing is April 10, 2018.

5. ADJOURNMENT
Mr. D’Amico made a motion at 10:20 PM to adjourn the Finance Committee meeting. Mr. Hutnak seconded the motion. Vote: All-Aye.

Respectfully submitted,


Mary Wright
Recording Secretary
Mary Wright
 
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