BOS - March 3, 2004 Workshop

BOS - March 3, 2004 Workshop

Postby Suzanne Kane » Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:22 pm

Agenda for Joint Meeting
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Douglas Municipal Center
7:00 pm

Board of Selectmen
School Committee
Finance Committee
Town Accountant

Call to Order -- Respective Boards

Welcome – Shirley Mosczynski, Chairman, Board of Selectmen

I. Overview of Financial Picture for FY ’05 – Rich Mathieu
II. School Committee Budget FY ’05 – Sandra Raines, Chairman
III. Finance Committee Input – Pam Holmes, Chairman
IV. Discussion
V. Adjournment
Board of Selectmen
Meeting Minutes
Joint Budget Workshop
March 3, 2004
Approved March 23, 2004

1. Call to order:

Madame Chairman Shirley Mosczynski called the meeting to order at 7:04 pm. In attendance: Paula Brouillette, Rich Preston, Ron Forget, and Edward Therrien. Administrative Assistant Suzanne Kane was not present but took minutes off taped meeting.

Finance Committee Chair Pamela Holmes called her Board to order. In Attendance: William Krauss, Gary Bolen, Joel Smith, Jerome Kocur, and Thomas Navaroli.

School Committee Chair Sandra Raines called her Board to order: In attendance: Shirley Downs, Ann Brunson, Leslie Breault, Thomas Navaroli, and School Superintendent Connie Verge.

Other staff and citizens: Capital Improvement Chair Mitch Cohen, and T&G Reporter Steve Foskett, and other citizens.

Handed out at meeting from Rich Mathieu: FY05 Available Revenues, updated 2-3-04; Draft Budget, dated February 3, 2004, and Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services FY05 Local Aid Proposals. Handed out at meeting from School Committee: FY05 Budget Request – 2-4-04; FY05 Budget Draft, dated March 3, 2004.

1. Overview of Financial Picture for FY05 – Rich Mathieu:
Rich Mathieu stated that because the Schools request is different, the numbers will change. Sandra Raines emphasized that this is a draft and the numbers will be different again. Rich Mathieu stated that based on the Governors House 1 budget which level funded Chapter 70 monies; a 341,000 increase, a 0% COLA for Town Employees, and with the Schools new numbers, he is sure the deficit will not be 2.5 million. There is more work that needs to be done. Rich Mathieu stated there are several ways to bring the budget into balance; cuts, increase revenues or a combination of both. Pam Holmes stated the School has seen the revenue numbers before and asked that if they don’t understand them they should ask questions of the Town Accountant.

2. School Committee Budget FY05 – Sandra Raines, Chairman:
Sandra Raines presented their FY05 budget with a new bottom line of $9,211,045. She again stated that it is a draft and they are still working on it. One of the things they are looking at is having an open meeting to discuss fees. She stated the costs for operating the new High School were very high due to the bad winter, estimates were not enough. Rich Mathieu stated he made an observation that the additional Chapter 70 already figured in and choice out figured in, the Schools true request is $9,721,360. Connie Verge explained they are using ’04, not ’05 Choice Out. Rich Mathieu stated the actual discussion will be the usage of that money. Rich Mathieu explained to the Board that Connie Verge is asking that the savings be appropriated to the School. Connie Verge confirmed this, saying there have been many conversations. Rich Mathieu needs to check with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to check if they can do that. Shirley Mosczynski asked Rich Mathieu to elaborate. Rich Mathieu explained that choice out has changed, he is not sure if it is finalized, they took that money as a Cherry Sheet assessment tax receipt last year, in the end the money is in a fund balance. Since that money was not spent, it is in the fund balance and they need to find out if and how it can be used. William Kraus asked the School Committee to share what else has been done to make a big savings other than building a new school. Connie Verge listed AP classes, a number of students moved out of Douglas but continue to go to school here, web courses, and football will be offered. Pam Holmes stated she is interested in knowing the choice out and why. Sandra Rains stated they have that information they will share. Rich Mathieu stated that if the choice out savings was used the deficit would be 1.6 million. Sandra Raines stated she feels the School Committee is portrayed as always taking more and more; she would like credit for bringing kids back. She also stated they are aware of Warrant dates and will have their bottom line ready for that. Shirley Downs asked when the deadline is. Pam Holmes stated that by bylaw, the budget request to Fin Com is due 90 days prior to Town Meeting which was in February; they are looking for a final budget. Pam Holmes stated that because they are still working on it, it does not give the Finance Committee enough time to present a recommendation to the Town. Connie Verge stated the problem is that they were not given enough information. They are doing their best to reduce the demand on the Town. She stated that if they gave a high number in February and they have a means to reduce that number, her assumption is that they will not hold them to that number ever. Pam Holmes stated that is not the intent, the school is a department in the community like all departments in Town, granted the school takes 50 – 60% of the budget, the need to get an early budget is compounded, it puts everything on hold to make decisions. Pam Holmes asked what process the school can put into play to follow Bylaw, or change the Bylaw. Tom Navaroli stated that understanding the timing, the difficulty is the numbers they get from the State are always changing; changing the Bylaws could be adequate because the State keeps delaying putting the numbers out. He stated the Bylaws were good when they were first made; but not necessarily now. Shirley Mosczynski stated she has asked State Representative Paul Kujawski to give them a guide as to when the numbers are released and they were told possibly June. If that is true, they will possibly have to hold off Town Meeting. Pam Holmes stated that having two Town Meetings is costly; she stated State Legislature needs to be changed. William Krauss asked if the School Committee has plans to increase revenues. Connie Verge stated they plan to hold a public meeting to charge activity fees. She stated there is going to be pain, but there is profit with pain. She stated no idea is stupid. Ann Brunson explained they are expanding day care to other Towns. Tom Navaroli stated they are offering evening course at the new High School. Pam Holmes stated that with the discrepancies between revenues and expenditures, one large line item is transportation; she hopes they look at temporary transportation fees for students going over mandated transportation use. Connie Verge stated she is sure that will come up. Pam Holmes stated that Douglas lost 500,000 in State aid, they can’t sustain that. Ron Forget stated the longer the State delays the longer they have to sit and try to delay the budget. He stated they need to let the State know they are in trouble if they don’t fund education. Shirley Mosczynski stated they get mandated things even on the Municipal side with no funding, she stated they need to put pressure on the State. She stated the 4 Towns are getting together with the State representatives to let them know. Gary Bolen stated his concern; he doesn’t feel transportation fees will remain temporary; they likely turn into permanent fees. He feels that it should be looked at; it’s still another burden on the tax payer. Sandra Raines stated that in terms of fees, she is not sure it should be just fees for people in school; they should look at a Town wide way to assist the Schools. Connie Verge stated she feels it’s miraculous that they are budgeting as they are, since their staffing is inadequate. They have had a year for all departments to figure a way to bring in revenues. Everyone needs to be proactive and creative. They are two years behind what their projections were - 2 million behind what they thought they needed to open the School. She feels if the School Committee was able to bring additional revenues in they would say, “Put it in the General Fund – save it for a rainy day”. They all need to think the same way. She feels that they have to cut or find additional revenues on their own. Shirley Mosczynski assured Connie Verge that they are working toward Economic Development. She stated things are being worked on, but they take time. Shirley Mosczynski asked how many new staff the School needed to open. Connie Verge stated she thought 22. Rich Mathieu stated he thought the number was cut down to 11; Connie Verge will look it up. William Krauss stated he is pro-education. He stated the Town has implemented user fees for things; people who do not have kids in the system do not feel they should share in the cost of the School, he feels user fees are important. Sandra Raines stated a Community is only as good as its School and a School is only as good as it’s Community. She stated the School has been able to contribute lots and lots of money so they haven’t burdened the Community more. Ron Forget stated there are user fees for Water/Sewer but the rest of the tax payers are paying for the plant. Ron Forget stated that when people complain about the high cost of education they don’t realize society has changed. He said talking about this change, give him a child that has had breakfast, comes from a stable household, doesn’t need counseling, and that he doesn’t have to baby-sit from 6am to 6pm and he could cut that budget in half; that’s the way society is today. Ron Forget stated it’s very sad we have to do that. Ron Forget stated he feels the legislator and State should be paying a big part because they don’t want to change the rules of society. Shirley Mosczynski responded, except that the State money is everyone’s money, we pay that money to the State, it’s our money. She stated they need to emphasize how and where it is spent. Mitch Cohen asked what the personnel increase will be for FY05. Sandra Raines reported 10 new positions; Connie Verge asked for 20. Rich Mathieu stated that nothing has been added into Schedule 19. Tom Navaroli stated there are services in Town that we all have to pay for that we don’t use, or hope not to use, like Fire. William Krauss agreed adding he doesn’t want to pay for specialized things. Edward Therrien stated what it all comes down to is our children are our future. Pam Holmes asked about the format of the Schools budget, what are the numbers relative to; they usually get last years budget and actual to compare it to. This helps them to see that their needs have gone up, every department does it. Ron Forget asked Pam Holmes where she goes with that. He gave an example that in 2003 they put in for new books, you can compare that to next year, how do you rationalize that out, that’s the Schools prerogative. Pam Holmes stated it is not presented that way at Annual Town Meeting, the Finance Committee can not say anything about the requests, and they are simply looking at it, its comparative analysis. It’s how you look at a budget and how you present it. Jerome Kocur concurred, its something the Finance Committee looks at. Ron Forget stated that at Town Meeting they can’t tell the School Committee they have to deduct things. He stated he knows its information, but he doesn’t feel it stays that way. Pam Holmes stated it is the Finance Committees role to support the budget in the Town’s ability; they need to understand the budget in order to support it. Sandra Rains asked how they have done it in the past. Pam Holmes stated they hadn’t gotten the information the past couple of years, she will look in her files, she stated its standard operating procedure. Gary Bolen stated looking at himself as a tax payer, he would like to see the detail; every tax payer has a right to know. Ron Forget stated he agrees and disagrees. He stated that the School wants 2 – 2.5 million, that’s not the final figure. Ron Forget stated that when a large figure comes out it’s a red flag to the tax payers. It’s not a red flag to them, they understand the budget, and the tax payers don’t. They end up cursing the School. Gary Bolen stated he feels that’s a good thing, get the people riled up then maybe they’ll get involved. Shirley Mosczynski stated there is nothing any of them can control, all the can say is it is a prelim, a working budget. That is why it is important to sit and talk about it. Sandra Raines feels that when the press covers meetings, misinformation gets out; it’s a spin on something that is not accurate. Connie Verge stated that $8,653,102 is not what they are spending on the School this year; it’s what the Town is contributing towards the school. She stated it looks like a 2 million increase when it’s not. Rich Mathieu stated it IS a 2 million increase inside the general fund, inside the tax levy that impacts tax payers. He stated he thinks everyone realizes it’s not a 2 million dollar operating increase. Pam Holmes asked if the transportation number is staying the same. Connie Verge stated its $583,123. Rich Mathieu reported he asked Regina Cardone for information, he will be able to answer question once he gets that information. Mitch Cohen read from the Town Bylaws stating how much detail should be provided in budgets. Ann Brunson stated there is no debate about that, they will provide the information. Paula Brouillette asked the School Committee if they have a Capital Plan for maintenance on the School buildings. She noted a request this year for a new boiler in the Elementary School; these are usually one time charges which they would like to fund from Capital. She stated it’s a topic for discussion at a later date. Connie Verge stated the School Committee has not yet approved the 5 year plan; it’s in draft form, once it is done she is sure it will go to Capital. Paula Brouillette asked how they are looking to fund it. Connie Verge stated they will have to hear from Capital. Paula Brouillette stated a lot more work needs to be done and she looks forward to their input. She stated she is not sure how they have funded it in the past, but assumes it’s come out of their operating budget. Connie Verge stated there is nothing in the operating budget. Paula Brouillette noted that is worse; it means they are not maintaining their buildings. She stated the whole point for her bringing it up is that they need to have discussions, need to start addressing it but first they need information from the people in the building. Paula Brouillette asked what Warrant Article the School plans to have. Sandra Raines stated Medicaid. Tom Navaroli added the $150,000 choice out savings after Rich Mathieu checks with DOR. Gary Bolen stated his concerns about staffing; has the School looked at eliminating duplicate tasking, look from the top down to streamline the departments since they are looking at administrative staffing. He stated the other departments on the municipal side are trimmed to the bone and level funded back to FY03. Shirley Downs stated they have and will continue to. Sandra Raines stated they looked at data from other schools; Douglas operates at bare bones now. She stated they have always looked at what they can get their existing staff to do so additional dollars can be spent on the children. Connie Verge referred to a memo from the State House, dated February 25, 2004 covering proposed School Building Assistance (SBA) program reforms and the introduction of House Bill 4484, an Act to Accelerate School Building Assistance Payments. Pam Holmes recommended that the Board of Selectmen and even the Finance Committee send a letter to our representative to support construction reform. Pam Holmes asked what the breakdown of the 750,000 School Committee contributions is. Sandra Raines stated revolvers, choice in, Medicaid. Shirley Downs reported 240,000 – Choice In, 100,000 - Savings in Choice Out, 50,000 – Medicaid, 100,000 - Circuit Breaker, 200,000 - Day Care, and 60,000 - Food Services, they will get the information for her.

3. Finance Committee Input – Pam Holmes, Chairman:
Pam Holmes stated she had nothing prepared, she feels it is more important to have a discussion and this has been very satisfactory. She is looking forward to the final number. She stated they are 1.6 million over what the Town can afford which is double last year. Ann Brunson commented on the 1.6 million, stating the School would not have been able to absorb all of that or they wouldn’t have meet net school spending. The 1.6 couldn’t come off. Pam Holmes stated she hadn’t calculated net school spending and asked if they had that number. Leslie Breault stated net school spending is 9,757,006. Paula Brouillette stated net school spending is that figure minus 1.6 million for local contributions. Rich Mathieu stated he has established a base line of where we would like to be, the School has established what is needed, they have a discrepancy and they need to cut on both sides. Tom Navaroli stated that he looked at past Town Meetings in terms of excess revenues from the past 10 years. He sees a trend; estimates have been conservative based on what was actually used on an average of 125,000 to 1.5 million. Rich Mathieu stated that’s a good trend; we use the excess revenues; they become free cash or one time revenues the following year. Tom Navaroli stated it’s an un-necessary burden on departments to do their budgets. Pam Holmes agrees, stating they got into trouble in 1984 1994 when excise motor vehicle revenues did not come in as figured. She stated things outside of the Towns control have been volatile, one thing being School Choice, it kept going up and they had to cover it. That is why the trend was established. Rich Mathieu stated that when they are talking about that he needs to look at both excess revenues and expenses that did not match the projection. William Krauss asked Tom Navaroli what he would suggest. Tom Navaroli suggested refining the way to forecast revenues, match the revenues with the expenditures, don’t ask the departments to cut to the bone and then find there is free cash. Bring them in line with each other. William Krauss asked if Tom Navaroli noticed any sources of revenues that were low. Tom Navaroli answered no, stating he would like to look at that but he’s not sure the information is available. Rich Mathieu stated he will give Tom Navaroli the information he is looking for. Gary Bolen stated they need to have discussions like this more often. It’s very beneficial. Shirley Mosczynski thanked every one for coming; she agrees that the meeting was very beneficial. Pam Holmes asked the School Committee for a date when they could get a final budget. Sandra Raines stated by the end of March, they are meeting weekly now. Ann Brunson offered to send updates weekly or every time there is a change. Pam Holmes stated they didn’t need to do that. Paula Brouillette stated the Board of Selectmen still owes the School Committee the Schedule 19 numbers. Shirley Mosczynski asked if they should meet again. Consensus of all Boards to meet Wednesday, April 7th at 7:00 pm at the Intermediate Elementary School. Pam Holmes asked for final figures first so they could be reviewed prior to the meeting. Ron Forget stated that if 1.5 million can’t be cut from Net School spending, they will have to bang their heads because cuts will have to be made on the Municipal side. He stated they need to be thinking about what they are going to do. Shirley Mosczynski stated they have some hard things to look at, a new library needs to be built, they have to do something with the Old Elementary School, etc.

4. Adjournment:
Ron Forget made a motion to adjourn at around 9:00 pm. Rich Preston seconded the motion. All – aye.

Respectfully submitted;

Suzanne Kane
Administrative Assistant
Suzanne Kane
Posts: 618
Joined: Wed May 25, 2005 2:01 pm

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