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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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...


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.


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...


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.


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.


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.”


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.