Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ed Cafasso's Letter

Hello Everyone!

I apologize for falling slightly behind in my monthly updates… The first eight weeks of the year have flown by! Here’s a brief update on recent school issues in Franklin…

Fiscal Year 2010 Budget: Intensive work is underway in an effort to figure out the best financial plan for the Franklin schools given the difficult financial climate we are all facing.

Costs continue to outpace revenues and, in the current economy, revenues are shrinking. The big drivers of school cost increases in the coming fiscal year are teacher salary hikes and step changes; healthcare prices, special education, and transportation. Normally, given the budget cuts the schools sustained in the current fiscal year, one would hope for at least a level-service budget in the new fiscal year that begins July 1, a budget that meets cost increases and preserves current personnel and programs. Instead, the net effect of declining state and local revenues means that the Franklin schools will be fortunate to secure a level-funded FY10 budget. “Level funded” means operating the schools with the same amount of money as the previous year, despite increasing costs.

Under a level-funded scenario, cuts imposed last July will be not be reversed. To balance the FY10 budget, the schools will need to trim nearly $3 million in costs – the equivalent of 60 classrooms positions. Given that 45 professional teaching positions were eliminated at the start of this school year (and 14 were cut the year prior), School Committee members, administrators, principals and staff are working together to explore and discuss every possible option in an effort to avert another dramatic teaching cutback and even larger class sizes.

Everything is on the table. In recent weeks, for example, all 51 of our non-union school personnel – administrators and secretaries – decided to freeze their salaries and give up any increases in FY10. It remains to be seen whether unionized school workers will adopt a similar approach. Also unclear are the details of how the Franklin schools might benefit from the Obama administration’s stimulus package. Keep in mind, however, that the stimulus money is not recurring revenue – once it is spent, the personnel or programs it supports will be without funding.

I urge everyone to stay close to the budget process this year by paying attention to School Committee, Town Council and Finance Committee meetings; and by seeking a frank discussion of these issues with your principals and your school PCCs. As a reminder of the budget cuts your schools have sustained in the past six years, I encourage you to visit this web link:

School Calendar: As Oak Street and Horace Mann parents may have heard, the state Education Commissioner has refused to grant a waiver from the 180-day requirement for the single day that classes were cancelled when the facility closed due to a September water pipe break. The result is that an additional day of school will be tacked onto the end of the academic year for Oak Street and Horace Mann students.

As of this afternoon, classes in Franklin are scheduled to end Friday, June 19, which means that the extra day of school for Oak Street and Horace Mann students would fall on Monday, June 22. But another major snowstorm is being forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Additional cancellations will push the school calendar further into the week of June 21.

Franklin High School: There has been no news on the district’s application for funding assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. A professional inspectional team from the MSBA toured the building in mid-December as part of Franklin’s application for state funding assistance. We hope to have an indication from state officials soon about the likelihood of state support for the renovation of the school or the construction of a new building. You can expect school and town officials to move quickly once we are able to secure some clarity from the MSBA.

The next meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 10th.

These e-mails are provided as a constituent service. I try to distribute at least one e-mail update each month during the school year, as issues warrant. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. If you are receiving duplicate e-mails or if you no longer wish to receive these e-mails, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list. If you know of someone you would like to add to the list, please send along their e-mail address.

Thank you!

Ed Cafasso, Member

Franklin School Committee

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