Thursday, January 31, 2008

Franklin MBTA Commuters

Real-time alerts ease sting for commuters facing delays

By John Dyer, Globe Correspondent

On weekday mornings, environmental lawyer Michael Ernst rides the commuter train from Westborough to South Station in Boston. The train, he said, is often late. But usually, one of his fellow stranded passengers will help him cope.

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Yes, from the T itself... hard to believe but true, they do publish T-Alerts and they have been pretty accurate, much more so that the stupid message board.

You can sign up for T Alerts here.

Creative Commute is a new service just expanding into Boston having already been developed and serving the NY/NJ commuter in the post 911 days. I wrote about Clever Commute in December.

You can sign up for Clever Commute here.

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There are two other blogs about commuting via the trains into Boston:

The Franklin Line

Charlie on the Commuter Rail

In the News - Dan Sullivan

Sharing his experiences ‘one day at a time’

By Heather McCarron/Staff writer

For many years, Dan Sullivan struggled with alcoholism that started with experimental drinking as a youth and escalated into more serious drinking as a young man.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where in Franklin? Answer #28


Where in Franklin? Answer #28, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Look what I found, finally!

I knew I had a better photo of the Ginley Funeral Home but couldn't locate it at the time I was announcing the answer.

Better late than never!

Where in Franklin? #29


Where in Franklin? #29, originally uploaded by shersteve.


Where will you see this bell tower?

The guidelines for playing "Where in Franklin?" can be found here.

Have fun. Thanks for playing!

Where in Franklin? Answer #28


Where in Franklin? Answer #28, originally uploaded by shersteve.


The answer to picture 28 is the Ginley Funeral Home. Congratulations to Ken who again has named the location correctly.

Stay tuned for the next photo to play "Where in Franklin?"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In the news

Teen charged with videotaping girls without their knowledge

By Michelle Laczkoski/Daily News staff

MILFORD - A 17-year-old Franklin High School senior, who police say secretly videotaped two girls in his bedroom, is facing charges for the unlawful recordings.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Boston Globe gets to the brick report

One-room school gets thumbs-up

By Rachel Lebeaux, Globe Correspondent

Now that Franklin's Brick School Task Force has issued a contentious final report - with a divided opinion as to whether to keep the 175-year-old, one-room, brick schoolhouse open - a decision on its disposition rests with the School Committee.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where in Franklin? #28


Where in Franklin? #28, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Can you identify the location for this entrance that dates back to the 1890's?

The guidelines for playing "Where in Franklin?" can be found here.

Have fun!
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Updated 1/29/08

Hint: while I don't have another photo clue, I can reveal that this is a corner building, downtown.

Tax increases hit homeowners hard


Franklin parent Donna Martel said it was a choice between higher property taxes or even higher fees for high school sports, school clubs and non-mandated busing.

"It was still going to be cheaper," she said of the override. "It worked out."

and

For senior citizen Marion Melo, that means she can no longer buy whatever groceries she wishes and must shop at Bellingham's cheaper Market Basket, rather than at Franklin's more expensive Stop & Shop or Shaw's.

"I'm making a list," she said. "I have to cut back."

Come from the article in today's Milford Daily News:

Tax increases hit homeowners hard

By By Michael Morton & John Hilliard, Daily News staff

When Mendon resident Russ Gregoire opened his third-quarter property tax bill earlier this month, he knew there would be a substantial increase from two overrides passed by town voters. Mendon grabbed the highest ranking in the Milford area thanks to two votes to go beyond the limits of Proposition 2-1/2. In Westborough, the average tax bill jumped nearly 8 percent this year - higher than many nearby MetroWest towns.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yes, Salem is close to Franklin

Salem delays layoffs to seek state aid

Salem is delaying the layoffs of about 60 school employees to seek emergency aid from the Legislature.

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State bailout for Salem schools near


SALEM - Layoffs in this city's financially troubled public schools were postponed yesterday, hours before they were to go into effect, as state and local officials put the final touches on emergency legislation to allow Salem to borrow up to $1 million.

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No, not geographically. The fiscal problem they are in the middle of as reported in the two Boston Globe articles (above), we were very close to.

City officials have publicly said that the shortfall was caused in part by a former school business manager who used money from this year's school budget to pay off old bills. This week, at the request of the School Committee, Salem police began investigating Bruce Guy, who is also a former city finance director, to examine whether municipal finance laws were broken. Guy has not responded to the Globe's repeated requests for an interview.
What happened there is what did occur here. One prime difference is in the amount of money. The total deficit (at a point in time) in Franklin was $1.5 million. The actual shortfall was $894,000 which was covered by our stabilization fund. Fortunately, that amount was available. Salem was looking for $4.7 million.

Just imagine what would happen to our schools if we were forced to make the cuts they were about to make.

Paying attention to the Franklin's school and town business is a serious matter! Stay informed!

Nutting quietly got new 3 year deal last year

Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting confirmed this week that he has been working under a new, three-year contract.

The contract was negotiated with the council and signed shortly before the town's Nov. 6 election, Nutting said, with the terms retroactively taking effect a few months before in July.

Under Nutting's new deal, he gets a 2 1/2 percent raise this year, with subsequent raises up to the council as part of their annual review. Nutting received a $119,978 salary and a $5,983 car allowance in 2006, according to the town's most recent annual report.

Michael Morton reports the remainder of the details in his article in the Milford Daily News

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In the news - street play, teacher citizenship, betting on a budget



Game over for street play?

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - Under a strict reading of a bylaw revision proposed at last night's council meeting, children playing baseball or having a snowball fight on town streets and sidewalks could get a disappointing message: game over.

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Teacher feted for getting U.S. citizenship

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - When French teacher Mireille Malouf walked into the auditorium at Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School yesterday, she thought she had come for an assembly with a broad patriotic theme.

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Local towns would get more state aid

By Matt Kakley/Daily News correspondent

The town of Milford would receive a 10 percent increase in local aid and Franklin would receive an additional 7 percent under Gov. Deval Patrick's budget proposal.

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Patrick's budget plan would rely on casino revenue

By Lindsey Parietti/Daily News staff

BOSTON - Gov. Deval Patrick released a $28 billion budget proposal yesterday, banking on casino licensing fees to fund local aid and challenging his critics in the Legislature to come up with their own solutions to the state's fiscal challenges.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dean College gets $1 Million


(CSRwire) FRANKLIN, MA – January 23, 2008 - Accenture Chairman & CEO William D. Green has donated a gift worth $1 million to Dean College, where he received an associates degree in 1974. The gift is the largest from a living donor in the college's history.

"When Bill Green and his family made the decision to give this inspiring gift to the college, they were making a bold statement about the value of a Dean education," said Dean President Paula M. Rooney. "Bill has always been an inspiration to our students, our staff, and quite clearly to the business world. He always seems to have Dean students on his mind and works diligently as a trustee and an alumnus to continue to make Dean a place where students succeed. He created such excitement and energy when he addressed our students in October - urging them to find their passion and confidence and telling them that they will go farther than they can imagine. This gift will help the College expand the mentoring and support that Bill calls the 'primary ingredient of Dean's special sauce.'"

Green, known as a leader who seeks to "educate, energize and inspire" the more than 175,000 Accenture professionals around the globe, has credited this ability and his success in large part to his start at Dean College.
Read the remainder of this good news for Dean College here

Visit the Dean College web site here.

Inflation and operating costs have far outpaced state spending on education

Inflation and operating costs have far outpaced state spending on education, putting intense financial pressure on a broad spectrum of school districts across the state, according to a preliminary report released yesterday.

The report, by the Massachusetts Department of Education, found that while healthcare, salaries, and special education program costs have escalated sharply, state funding has remained stagnant since 2003. As a result, cities and towns have had to shoulder a greater portion of the burden, raising property taxes and instituting fees for once-standard services, such as bus transportation and athletics, in order to make ends meet.

The increased costs also mean that school districts are spending a smaller percentage of their budgets on student instruction and salaries for teachers, guidance counselors, and other employees who have direct contact with students, according to the report. On average, districts spent just 51 percent of their budgets on instruction, a decrease of 6 percentage points since 2002.


Read the full article in today's Boston Globe

Town Council Agenda 1/23/08

The agenda for the Town Council meeting today is available here.

Donation policy - first reading

Targeted donations under review

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - The School Committee took the first step last night toward restricting what donations it will accept, potentially cutting off a future funding source for running the Red Brick School.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

School Committee Meeting Agenda

The School Committee is meeting Tuesday evening at 7:00 PM.

The agenda for the meeting can be found here (doc).

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Hat Lady - Susan Johnson

Hats off to having fun

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - The Hat Lady has a confession: There was a time when she didn't like hats, even ones with flying pigs on them.

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The article includes a YouTube video clip of Susan and some of her many hats.

Dam, another expense to consider

Earthen dam poses risk to development

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - A dam at the DelCarte conservation area is at risk of collapsing, according to a report released last week, a development that could threaten downstream homes.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Franklin Commuter Update

No Amtrak strike!

The worries about the Amtrak strike disrupting the commute into Boston can relax now, Amtrak has a reached deal. The new Associated Press article with the details can be found here.


Now, the MBTA/MBCR need to concentrate on running on schedule.

Where in Franklin? Answer #27


Where in Franklin? Answer #27, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Ken Norman correctly identified the location of the odd looking devices in photo #27 as the vacuum cleaners at the East Central Street Car Wash located between McDonald's and the Town Municipal Building.

Thanks for playing "Where in Franklin?", Ken!

Stay tuned for the next photo.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Closing Comments (audio)

The Town Council makes the round for Councilors to make closing comments. Whalen, Vallee, Zollo, McGann, Doak, and Feeley speak.

Time: 4 minutes, 35 seconds



MP3 File

Old & New Business (audio)

The Town Council makes the rounds on Old and New Business.

Time: 2 minutes, 57 seconds



MP3 File

Exemptions, Snow budget, Fire station (audio)

A resolution is passed to allow three police officers to also work part time for the School Dept as coaches at FHS. The snow budget is almost used up. The new Fire Station is ahead of schedule and could open early but there is currently not a budget for it. An update will come in a month or so as the options are explored.

Time: 3 minutes, 54 seconds



MP3 File

Four Corners RFP Discussion (audio)

Jeff Nutting previews the proposed changes to the RFP for the Four Corners Building so that it will generate some offers. This item will be back on the agenda for the 1/23/08 meeting.

Time: 8 minutes, 39 seconds

Nutting, Pfeffer, McGann, Feeley, Doak, Bartlett, and Zollo speak



MP3 File

Tax & Title Discussion (audio)

In the continuation of the Town Council meeting (after the Forensic Report and discussion), Administrator Jeff Nutting lead a discussion on Tax Title properties and what the town will do with them.

Time: 4 minutes, 13 seconds

Feeley, Pfeffer, Whalen



MP3 File

Industry: Air & Vacuum Technologies (AVT)

Recent news item found that reveals:

Schneeberger adds New England rep to linear motion control product distribution channel

Schneeberger, a provider of linear motion control technology, has added Air & Vacuum Technologies (AVT) in Franklin, MA, to its North American product distribution network. AVT is a distributor of pneumatic, electrical and mechanical automation products.

  • AVT will offer Schneeberger's motion control solutions to air and vacuum technology manufacturers and users in the New England region.
  • Motion control solutions include: linear bearings and recirculating units, linear slides, tables and stages, linear guideways with integrated measurements, linear and rotary modules and precision ball screws.
  • AVT will support the product offering with installation, project management and electronic documentation services.

For more info on AVT you can visit their web site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Recommendations: Q&A 9 (audio)

Frank Falvey speaks for the second time and not as long as he would like. The meeting breaks for two minutes.

Time: 1 minute, 15 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 8 (audio)

Susan Gagner, Town Comptroller, raises the issue that one of the recommendations can not be implemented the way the accounting system is currently enabled. Council Chairperson Feeley clarifies a historical question.

Time: 3 minutes, 12 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 7 (audio)

Councilor Bartlett has a recommendation of her own.

Time: 1 minute, 35 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 6 (audio)

School Committee member Ed Cafasso makes his statement.

Time: 2 minutes, 51 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 5 (audio)

Councilor Doak asks a couple of questions.

Time: 4 minutes, 43 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 4 (audio)

Councilor McGann asks a couple of questions.

Time: 4 minutes, 33 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 3 (audio)

School Committee Chairperson Jeff Roy makes his summarizing comments.

Time: 5 minutes, 13 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 2 (audio)

Councilor Zollo asks a couple of questions.

Time: 4 minutes, 19 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Q&A 1 (audio)

Councilors Whalen and Pfeffer ask questions after the recommendations are completed. Mr Sullivan responds.

Time: 4 minutes, 32 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendations: Final Set (audio)

Mr Sullivan concludes his recommendations with the director of finance should participate in School Committee meetings, explains the town's role in the School's budget, and recommends limiting ledger entries to those within the Comptroller's office.

Time: 6 minutes, 22 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendation: Concerns over 2008 Budget (audio)

Mr Sullivan continues his recommendations with concerns over the state of the 2008 budget. He feels there is some concern with further potential deficits amongst the accounts, particularly in health care.

Time: 4 minutes, 32 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendation: School Comm approves transfers

Mr Sullivan continues with the recommendations discussing that the School Committee needs to approve significant transfers from one cost center to another.

Time: 3 minutes, 9 seconds



MP3 File

Recommendation: Hire the right skill set (audio)

Mr Sullivan starts with his recommendations: the first one details how to obtain and the importance of getting the right skill set for the finance position.

Time: 3 minutes, 57 seconds



MP3 File

In the News - Dean moves in

Dean students move into new downtown building
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - After picking up the keys to a student suite yesterday, Dean College sophomore Adam Olean bounded up the stairs of downtown's newest building, fumbled with his lock for a second and then rushed inside.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Boston Globe gets to the Audit Report

The director of financial services for the Franklin school system has been fired following an audit that indicated she made several accounting errors in the 2007 fiscal year budget, underreported a deficit, and ordered illegal transfers of employee payroll accounts.

Delores McCoy, who worked for the town for seven years, was dismissed by Assistant Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski on Jan. 2. She had been on leave since Oct. 22, three days after Franklin's comptroller, Susan Gagner, noticed a discrepancy in the records and brought it to the attention of town officials.


Read the full school financial audit story in today's edition.

Children of the World - Doll Workshop

The new ArtBeat store at 9 Summer St is holding a Doll Workshop on Jan 21 & 22 from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Create a doll or stuff animal complete with clothing from Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia or the Americas. A coupon for this event was passed out to school children today. With the coupon, $5 of the $15 charge would go to a designated school. Each of the six Franklin elementary schools are listed to choose from.

Have some fun this weekend and help raise money for your school!



PS - ArtBeat has a blog. Infrequently posted to but with good info.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where in Franklin? #27


Where in Franklin? #27, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Here is the next photo in the "Where in Franklin?" series.

The guidelines for playing can be found here.

Have fun!

Where in Franklin? Answer #26


Where in Franklin? Answer #26, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Susan correctly identified the spires shown in photos 1 and 2 as belonging to St Mary's Church.

Thank you Susan!

Stay tuned for the next opportunity to play "Where in Franklin?"

In the News - students on the air, consolidation of services

Franklin students hitting the airwaves

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - Featured by an independent Los Angeles radio station this month, the students running the high school's Sound in the Hall Records are now hallway kings and queens.

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Franklin may consolidate some school, town services

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - With focus shifting to other issues now that a budget inquiry is over, Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting has revived a proposal to consolidate some school and municipal services.

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Gov Patrick announces help for education

Patrick announces $368M in education proposals

By S.H. Bagley

SOMERVILLE - Gov. Deval Patrick announced today in Somerville that his budget would increase education aid funds by $368 million for fiscal 2009.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Franklin: Circle of Friends Coffeehouse



The stage was ready for Jud Caswell and Richard Shindell to preform last Saturday night at the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse here in Franklin.

Located at the First Universalist Church on Chestnut St, this is a gem of a coffeehouse with a great schedule, a reasonable price, and home cooked deserts to compliment the evening.

I have been several times each season and plan on returning a few more times this season. Check out the schedule here to see if something interests you.

How's your mailbox?

Mailboxes take a beating in winter storms

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - Before the latest storm, Pond Street resident Cindy Martinez had already lost half a dozen mailboxes to town snowplows over the course of three winters.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Mr Sullivan - Part 7 (audio)

Mr Sullivan continues to answer questions from Councilors McGann and Mason, Jeff Nutting chimes in with an answer. Frank Falvey tries to speak the first time.

Time: 4 minutes, 18 seconds



MP3 File

Mr Sullivan - Part 6 (audio)

Mr Sullivan answers questions from Councilors Bartlett, Whalen, Zollo and School Committee member Ed Cafasso.

Time: 7 minutes, 58 seconds



MP3 File

Mr Sullivan - Part 5 (audio)

Mr Sullivan continues his presentation with the section on covering the deficit. Questions from Councilors McGann and Doak are answered during this section.

Time: 7 minutes, 37 seconds



MP3 File

in the news - State report on schools, drive through at 4 Corners

Franklin schools get good review from state
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff
FRANKLIN - In the midst of scrutiny from a budget inquiry, the School Committee received an unrelated state report this week describing the town's school system as "very high performing" and well-managed.

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Franklin re-considers drive-through ban on Four Corners School
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff
Unable to secure any bids to turn the abandoned Four Corners School into a retail site, the town is reconsidering its ban on a drive-through window for the property.

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One sure thing: uneven tax burden
By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff
It's rare to feel like joking about taxes, so Marlborough resident Tom Lane couldn't resist the temptation after calculating that his new property-tax bill will be a mere $31 more than he paid last year.

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Compare your town's property taxes
Property taxes skyrocketed over the last decade in Massachusetts. The Globe's Matt Carroll created this chart to compare town by town increases. In the suburbs west of Boston, you can see that property tax increases this year vary widely, according...

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Getting a break on property taxes....
When municipal officials are looking for tax money, or weighing a Prop 2 1/2 override, talk often turns to the tax exempt property in their town: colleges, social services agencies.. even golf courses. Sometimes these places pay what are known...

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gov Patrick, Salem, and Franklin's situation

Governor Patrick, cutbacks and the saga in Salem

As the city of Salem roils over layout notices, and other towns struggle with tight budgets, Gov. Deval Patrick told municipal leaders Friday that he feels their pain. Patrick said he understands that they are experiencing tight fiscal times.

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Click through to read the details in this Override Central story in the Boston Globe.

Franklin is not that far away from Salem in this case. Financial mismanagement created their shortfall. The Forensic Report was presented Wednesday night to the joint Town Council and School Committee, as I re-read the report and listen to the presentation again, I am not convinced that we are out of the woods on this episode.
"The deficits in 2006 and 2007 raise concerns over the School Department's level of spending in fiscal 2008. There will be more Circuit Breaker available in 2008 than in 2007, as there is no carry over deficit to be applied to the 2008 expected receipts. However, there was a deficit in Special Education Tuitions even with the full Circuit Breaker receipts for both fiscal 2006 and 2007.
In addition, certain other accounts have been in deficit during both fiscal 2006 and 2007. We have prepared the three-year budget analysis, and provided a copy to the interim Director of Financial Operations. That analysis will assist in identification of potential budget shortfalls. However, the schedule is prepared based upon the inclusion of negative revenue items, which needs to be taken into consideration in evaluating the 2008 budget."
From the Forensic Report, page 10. Bold for my emphasis.

Mr Sullivan - Part 4 (audio)

Mr Sullivan discusses the accounting for the Medicaid reimbursement which even after the transfer of some expenses to other accounts still has a deficit. He summarizes the total deficit as

Attrition impact - $200,000
Medicaid double posting - $300,000
Athletics revenue deficit - $150,000
Insurance deficit - $195,000
Tuition deficit - $671,898
Total - $1,516,898

Appropriation surplus - ($662,296)

Final deficit - $854,602


This section includes questions and comments with Bartlett, Feeley, Nutting, and Susan Gagner - Town Comptroller.

Time: 6 minutes, 15 seconds



MP3 File

Mr Sullivan - Part 3 (audio)

Mr Sullivan reviews the details of accounting for attrition. Attrition is expected. School departments can take advantage of it. Franklin had used anticipated savings in attrition to help prepare the budget up until Fiscal 2008.

This portion includes Q&A with Councilors Whalen, Feeley, McGann, Pfeffer, Doak, and School Committee Chairperson Jeff Roy.

Time: 9 minutes, 36 seconds



MP3 File

Friday, January 11, 2008

Joint Town Council/School Committee Meeting Summary - 1/9/08

The opening remarks by the Attorney (audio) Mary Joann Reedy

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 1 (audio) (initial deficit and circuit breaker accounting)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 2 (audio) (using negative line items)

First set of questions for Mr Sullivan (audio)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 3 (audio) (accounting for attrition)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 4 (audio) (Medicaid reimbursement)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 5 (audio) (covering the deficit)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 6 (audio) (more questions on the deficit)

Mr John J Sullivan, CPA explains the findings - part 7 (audio) (last questions on deficit, Falvey tries to speak for the first time)

Mr John J Sullivan gets to the recommendation section of the report, first: hire the right skill set (audio)

Mr John J Sullivan gets to the recommendation section of the report, second: School Committee approves budget transfers (audio)

Mr John J Sullivan gets to the recommendation section of the report, third: Concerns over 2008 budget (audio)

Mr John J Sullivan gets to the recommendation section of the report, final: multiple items (audio)

After the recommendations there is a series of Q&A sessions

Q&A 1 - Whalen, Pfeffer (audio)
Q&A 2 - Zollo (audio)
Q&A 3 - Jeff Roy (audio)
Q&A 4 - McGann (audio)
Q&A 5 - Doak (audio)
Q&A 6 - Cafasso (audio)
Q&A 7 - Bartlett (audio)
Q&A 8 - Gagner, Feeley (audio)
Q&A 9 - Frank Falvey (audio)

meeting took a break for 2 minutes, the School Committee left, the meeting resumed with the normal Town Council agenda

Tax & Title properties (audio)

Four Corners RFP (audio)

Three items: Exemption for police to be FHS coaches, snow budget almost expended, Fire station will be ready early but doesn't have budget to do so (audio)

Old & New Business (audio)

Councilor closing comments (audio)

The full audit report is available on the Franklin Schools page (left menu item) or via this link (PDF). Note, the PDF file is quite large, it may be slow opening depending upon your connection.


This completes the recordings for the meeting 1/9/2008

In the News - Molasses, twin violins, financial fiasco

Franklin Library looks to get town On the Same Page

By Michael Morton/Staff writer

At first, library staff worried that an initiative to get all residents to read the same book on a sugarcane product would prove slower than molasses.

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Music in double time

By Heather McCarron/Staff writer

Sasha and Sally Gorski share a lot in common, not the least of which is a passion for music. And every day, they get double the pleasure out of pursuing it.

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Franklin financial fiasco prompts more criticism

By By Michael Morton, DAILY NEWS STAFF

FRANKLIN - With the inquiry into a $580,000 budget gap over, school officials say they are moving forward by instituting new oversight controls and seeking a finance director to replace the recently fired Delores McCoy.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Set of Questions (audio)

Mr Sullivan pauses to answer several questions from Councilors Doak, Bartlett, Zollo, Pfeffer, and Feeley.

Time: 8 minutes, 33 seconds



MP3 File

Mr Sullivan: Explains the problem - Part 2 (audio)

Mr Sullivan continues his detailed explanation of the findings covering the negative line items in the budget up to the June 2007 report without a cover letter.

Time: 8 minutes, 25 seconds



MP3 File

Mr Sullivan Explains the problem: Part 1 (audio)

John J Sullivan, CPA explains the audit findings in great detail. This section covers the initial Fiscal 2006 deficit, the circuit breakers, and starts to review the negative line accounting.

Time: 10 minutes, 39 seconds



MP3 File

Opening Remarks by Attorney (audio)

The opening remarks by Mary Joann Reedy, Attorney highlighting the findings of the forensic audit.

Time: 3 minutes, 34 seconds




MP3 File


Updated 1/19/08 with attorney's name obtained from the full copy of the Forensic Report

Details on the Forensic Report

The school finance director, recently fired for improper budgeting, did not hold the state certification required for her job, a town councilor indicated last night while discussing the results of an inquiry.

Referring to former Finance Director Delores McCoy, Councilor Joseph McGann asked whether the town had erred by not employing someone in the post with Department of Education certification.

He was told by auditor John Sullivan of Melanson Heath & Co. that the qualification is required unless the state grants a waiver. The DOE does not appear to have done so in this case.


Read more in Michael Morton's write up in the Milford Daily News

School Finance Director let go, basketball hoop falls

School finance director fired after budget mishap

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

Finance Director Delores McCoy has been fired as a result of an investigation into school finances, according to a letter released ahead of tonight's Town Council meeting.

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Basketball goal crashes down

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - A recently repaired basketball goal at the high school unexpectedly swung down from its raised position near the field house's ceiling yesterday, crashing into the bleachers before a game but missing spectators.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Joint Town Council - School Committee - Part 2


TC_SC_80109b, originally uploaded by shersteve.

The second picture of the joint Town Council and School Committee to hear the Forensic Report.

Joint Town Council - School Commitee


TC_SC_80109a, originally uploaded by shersteve.

All hands (well almost) were on deck for the joint Town Council and School Committee meeting to hear the Forensic Investigation Report.

This is one picture of the group.
There is a second picture available.

The report audio will be available here this week.
The report will also be available on the town web site soon.

Attention Franklin Train Commuters

Amtrak strike would rock T

By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff

The threat of a national Amtrak strike later this month is prompting Boston-area transit officials to prepare for potential chaos on commuter rail lines that would trickle down to subways, buses, and highways.

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In part from the article, we read:

A strike would virtually shut down South Station, forcing rail passengers to transfer onto subway lines at the Back Bay, Braintree, and Forest Hills stations. The MBTA would also have to shut down the Providence/Stoughton Line in all likelihood, forcing about 17,000 additional daily commuters to drive into town or to take alternate rail lines. North Station schedules would not be altered, but riders might see picket lines.

"There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. A strike that would shut down service in and out of South Station would severely hamper, perhaps even overwhelm, the subway system," said Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA.

The private company that runs commuter rail under a contract with the MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., has been discussing contingency plans with the T and making recommendations that include running fewer commuter trains, virtually eliminating off-peak runs. The commuter service, which carries 72,000 riders in and out of Boston daily, is already drawing ire from passengers fed up with increasingly late trains.


No strike, a deal has been reached. Details here.

In the newspapers - Brick, Local Aid

Report: Majority of task force supports brick school

By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

FRANKLIN - The Brick School Task Force discussed its final report with the School Committee last night, with three members writing in the summary that their colleagues hadn't remained objective and had created a biased document.

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Local aid plan on the rocks

A plan by cities and towns to get a larger slice of the state budget appears dead, according to State House News Service. That could put more pressure on municipalities to cut spending or ask voters for a Prop 2...

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

School Committee Meeting 1/8/08

The Brick Task Force presents their report (photo)

Brick report intro (audio)
Brick report presentation (audio)


As additional sections of the audio from the meeting are prepared, they will be posted here.

Brick Task Force Presentation (audio)

The presentation by the Brick Task Force lead by Sue Rohrbach.

Time: 9 minutes, 1 second



MP3 File

Brick Task Force Report Intro (audio)

Franklin School Commitee Chairman Jeffrey Roy with introductory remarks before the task force made their presentation.

Time: 3 minutes, 33 seconds



MP3 File

Brick Task Force Presentation


BrickTaskForce_80108, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Members of the Brick Task Force made their presentation to the School Committee meeting Tuesday, January 8th.

Their report can be found here.

Audio files from the presentation and question answer period will be made available here during the week.

Per Chairman Jeffrey Roy before the presentation was received: The School Committee would not be taking a vote or action on the report tonight. Any decision on the Brick classroom will be "resolved in due course during the budget process".

Level service, school job cuts in the news around the state

Level-service budgets may no longer be practical

By Aaron Wasserman/Daily News staff

MEDWAY - As they start preparing for the next fiscal year, town officials said yesterday the level-service budgets they have used the past few years are hurting municipal services.

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Welcome to Lawrence's budget woes

More than 40 city workers were laid off last month to close a budget deficit. Then the outgoing City Council failed to approve new tax rates and declined to raise the water rates before leaving office. Now the city assessor...

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Job cuts announced for Salem's schools

By Erin Ailworth, Globe Staff

The equivalent of about 80 full-time Salem Public School jobs need to be cut as a result of a $4.7 million deficit caused by underbudgeting and a former business manager's practice of paying old bills out of the current year's budget, Superintendent William J. Cameron Jr. said last night.

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Help is needed for the 4th of July

Yes, the call for help is going out. The long time volunteer effort from Deborah Pellegri and Charles Oteri has come to an end. They are both stepping aside from their leadership roles in coordinating the 4th of July celebration for Franklin.

For more than two decades, Pellegri has served as either the chairwoman or a co-chairwoman of the town's Fourth of July celebration, begun in 1982 to provide a family venue for the holiday to keep the community's children safe. Last year, the six-day event included fireworks, a parade and daily entertainment, and was touted in Family Circle magazine when Franklin was named one of the top 10 places in the country to raise children.

But during a November thank-you party for volunteers, Pellegri announced she would no longer be organizing the event, sponsored the past three years by the town's Lions Club. Oteri, a fellow Lions officer, followed suit, leaving the celebration without leadership or a sponsor.

"We're ready to retire," Pellegri said, agreeing with Oteri that it was time for new blood.

"Fresh ideas," Oteri added.

To that end, Pellegri and Oteri plan to hold an information session Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall for members from other clubs willing to take over their duties.

Read the full article by Michael Morton in the Milford daily News.

If you can step forward as a volunteer, consider attending the information session on January 17th.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Educational Quality Accountability results coming 1/22/08

From the Franklin School Committee blog:

In April and May 2007, the Massachusetts Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA) conducted an independent examination of the Franklin Public Schools for the period of 2004–2006. The EQA analyzed Franklin students’ performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests and identified how students in general and in subgroups were performing. The EQA examined critical factors that affected student performance in six major areas: leadership, governance, and communication; curriculum and instruction; assessment and evaluation; human resource management and professional development; access, participation, and student academic support; and financial and asset management.

On Tuesday, January 22, 2008, the audit report will be presented to the School Committee.

and:

The state report finds that, on average, three-fourths of all students in Franklin attained proficiency on the 2006 MCAS tests, much more than that statewide. More than four-fifths of Franklin students attained proficiency in English language arts (ELA), more than two-thirds of Franklin students attained proficiency in math, and nearly two-thirds of Franklin students attained proficiency in science and technology/engineering (STE). Ninety-seven percent of the Class of 2006 attained a Competency Determination.

The report also pointed to shortfalls in school funding, which was “insufficient” to fully fund costs associated with increased enrollment, additional special-education teachers, contractual salary increases, and utilities. But the report praised Franklin for passing a $2.7 million property tax increase last spring, which “solidified the community’s commitment to the school district and the educational needs of the children in Franklin.”

And:

The EQA was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in July of 2000, to provide independent and objective programmatic and financial audits of the 350-plus school districts which serve the cities and towns of Massachusetts. The agency is the accountability component of the Education Reform Act of 1993, and was envisioned in that legislation. The complete standards can be read by clicking here.

The full 28 page EQA report on Franklin can be read by clicking here.

Mark your calendar for the Jan 22nd meeting!


Holliston tackles teenage substance abuse

Ellen Freedman, coordinator of Holliston's Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative, says she is encouraged by parents' response to last month's presentation of a survey that showed they underestimate marijuana use and binge drinking among local teenagers.

Rather than responding with denial, she said, parents have said they want to work together to curb the behavior.

Freedman said they applied the survey results to their own situation. "I don't think there was quite as much denial as 'This information is going to help me talk to my kids.' "

The Boston Globe reports that Holliston is tackling the recent survey results on teenage substance abuse. Franklin's School Committee received a similar report recently. The School Department has not completely spread the information in this report. Please be aware that information sessions will be held via PCC and other channels in the near future. The police chief is also reported to come to the School Committee to provide the "town impact" side of the information.

Within Franklin, while "the budget, budget, budget" is very important, the reason the budget is important is that much of the money is used for educational purposes, like this!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Where in Franklin? #26 Picture 2


Maybe the first picture did not reveal enough detail to help you figure out where the topped spire brick was located.

Maybe this second chance will help you!

Brick Report - scheduled for Tuesday

The Brick School Task Force will present its report to the School Committee on Tuesday, January 8, 2008. The group, which has been working diligently since July, has produced a four inch thick binder full of information and data on the school and issues presented by the charge.
Read the remainder of the post on the School Committee blog.

The task force report is available here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Task force wants Brick to stay open

A task force mulling the fate of the Red Brick School recommended last night to keep the historic building open, with supporters gaining the majority but failing to convince other members.

Red Brick Task Force members Francis Molla, Paula Sandham, Joseph Kapples and Town Clerk Deborah Pellegri all voted in favor of the school. But Paula Scafati recommended that it be closed because of her continued concern over future funding and accessibility for the physically disabled, while Kevin Walsh, Carole Geer and Lisa Oxford abstained from voting.

"I came in here with an open mind, contrary to what people think, what I've heard around town," Scafati said.

Walsh said he abstained from the vote because the Brick School Association, a nonprofit group that has promised money for future school operations, declined to provide financial information he asked for. Geer and Oxford, meanwhile, did not offer an explanation but might do so before the task force goes before the School Committee Tuesday.

4-1 with three abstentions.

Read the full Michael Morton article in the Milford Daily News here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Out of Africa, and on a mission

Gabriel Dut Bethou doesn't take his education for granted, nor the knowledge that he'll have enough to eat when he wakes up each morning.

Bethou, 23, is one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," a name given to the thousands of youths who were displaced or orphaned in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which broke out in 1983 and lasted until January 2005.

Thanks to the United Nations and the International Rescue Committee, Bethou was able to come to America in June 2001. He now works in Dean College's information technology department, and is enrolled in a program that allows students to attend classes at Dean for credit toward a four-year degree at Suffolk University.

Read more of Gabriel's story here in this Boston Globe article.

If you would like to contribute to his fund raising efforts to bring his family out of Sudan, you can visit Out of Sudan.

We're not alone

Across the Commonwealth, cities and towns are considering laying off staff, cutting services, and preparing to make cuts to school sports programs as they struggle to close multimillion-dollar budget deficits in the coming fiscal year. Some municipalities are once again considering property tax overrides, even though voters in a majority of towns have rejected tax increases over the last two years.

And it could get worse, officials say, if a state budget deficit projected at more than $1 billion in fiscal 2009 gives communities even fewer dollars to pay for the services that people have come to expect.

"The writing on the wall, to me, is that we shouldn't be looking to the state for any additional aid, so it's a little sobering," said Tom Koch, who will be sworn in as Quincy's mayor next Monday. "It's a challenge to run local government without hitting the citizenry for increases in taxes, and that's always going to be a challenge, whether it's Quincy or Weymouth or Boston or wherever you go."

The remainder of the Boston Globe article continues here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Where in Franklin? #26


Where in Franklin? #26, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Where would you see this?

Guidelines for playing "Where in Franklin?" can be found here.

Enjoy!

Where in Franklin? Answer #25


Where in Franklin? Answer #25, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Ken Norman hinted that this building would be quite busy today as the children returned to school from their winter break.

The answer to picture #25 is the Davis Thayer Elementary School. The original doorway pictured was partially re-done when the modular rooms were added on.

There are a number of these modular rooms added to existing schools. They will need to be replaced. A line item for their replacement was put on the Town Council meeting capital requirements outlook as discussed in the 12/19/07 meeting.

If you missed the meeting (and the re-broadcast via local cable) you can still listen to the meeting at this link here. The meeting is broken up into sections so you can get to listen to the part you want to.

Tough choices this year

"I think that it'd be optimistic to get a level-funded budget," Nutting said of Franklin's finances. "In other words, I anticipate the town will have to make some very difficult choices about where cuts will be made."

Read the Milford Daily News article about local town leaders and what 2008 will bring here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year



Thank you for coming here to read and continue the conversation.

Wishing you and yours all the best this year!