Monday, March 23, 2009

FM #36 - This week in Franklin, MA

This is #36 in the series of podcasts on what matters in Franklin, MA. In this session I focus on the key items from the week ending March 22, 2009.

Time: 9 minutes, 49 seconds

MP3 File

Session Notes

Music intro
My intro

This internet radio show or podcast for Franklin Matters is number 36 in the series.

After a series of special recordings, the 3-part Government and It Role in the Economy
Which was preceded by the wonderful first person narrative by Abraham Bolden as he told of his days in the Secret Service

It is time to return to the matters at hand in Franklin this week, ending March 22, 2009.

This was a roller coaster type week, with some ups and downs. Rumors of what the FY 2010 budget will look like and how the cuts will affect delivery of services we have today are on the downer side. There was a good share of ups however and we'll review those here.

From the Town Council meeting on Wednesday, the cost estimates for repairing the bandstand on the Town Common came in under what was initially forecasted. The seven bids came in between $88,000 on the high side and $48,000 on the low side. The Town will use the low bid and only need to draw on the grant from Toll Brothers to fund the repairs. No other capital dollars will be needed.

The Audit of the FY 2008 financial reports was completed in record time and with two recommendations. One, to establish better policy and procedures around the documentation created by the DPW for their abatements. The dollars were all accounted for but trying to get the appropriate supporting documentation was challenging, hence the recommendation to
correct this.

Two, a recommendation to create a capital budget. This is probably overdue. As you should be aware, Franklin does not have a capital budget. This year the capital plan had over $8 million dollars of items on it and these were the prioritized ones. Of this $8 million, about $1 million is likely to get funded from “free cash”. “Free cash” is usually generated each year from the funds that were left over at the end of the budget year. Funds that either came in higher than expected on the revenue side, or were not fully spent on the expense side. The State will certifiy the “free cash” towards the end of the calendar year (i.e. Nov/Dec) for the prior fiscal year (i.e. ending June 30th). From that time on, Franklin can use the “free cash” for anything it would like. The caution is not to use it for operations as the dollar is really a one time occurrence. Operational dollars need to be funded on a recurring or sustainable manner.

This year, a good portion of the “free cash” was used to cover the shortfall in the snow and ice removal expenses. A second amount was added to the stabilization fund to bring that total to $5 million target. The benefits of keeping the targeted amount in the stabilization fund paid off with the reduce interest expense when the Town went to the market to sell a bond. The balance of the “free cash” is targeted for use on capital. A lawn mower, and the payment on the new ladder truck were already approved. The remaining capital budget is still pending a decision by the Council. They were holding off on Jeff Nutting's advice to see what the final snow and ice amount was going to be. I would think that we can expect a decision on the remaining capital sometime in April.

So this has been all in preparation of the need for a capital budget. The Town has not had one for many years. Maybe it did at one time. While there is talk of the 20 year plan to repair the roads, there is no actual budget to do so. When the Town has been able to get state money, or via use of the water/sewer enterprise accounts to repair the water/sewer mains, then and only then has the road been repaired. This is just one example of the need for a capital budget. The technology needs of the Town would also be better served with one. It does make good financial sense to have one.

At the Downtown Partnership meeting this week, Susan Rohrbach, Renee Danho and I presented on the School Strategy Plan underway. This was previously shared with the School Committee at the January 27th meeting.

The Steering Committee is still making the rounds to the various stakeholder groups within the Franklin community to let them know we are looking at the strategic plan previously created in 2004, and validating that the core values, mission statement and vision are what we want for today. We are preparing a survey to solicit your input. It will be web based but hard copy will be available at locations throughout Town (schools, Library, Town Hall, etc.) A slide show with an audio recording is being prepared to help share the news on this effort..

While at the Downtown Partnership meeting, we heard a presentation from the DPW on proposed changes to the sign bylaw. There was good discussion on this topic. There is still an opportunity to provide feedback. There will be a presentation to the Town Council and Planning Board with formal hearing time to allow for discussion on the implications of the changes. As I hear of that schedule, I will share it here. One potential area for revision that I see is in the temporary sign section where they don't appropriately cover sandwich boards. Sandwich boards are those A frame like signs seen about town. For an example the one last week touting the bottle and can drive at FHS. These signs are technically illegal.

In case you missed it, slide shows of the bandstand, the Trivia Bee and the Harlem Wizards visit were all posted to Franklin Matters this week.

In the week ahead, the School Committee meets on Tuesday and may get a preliminary look at the budget and what it could mean to what schools will operate like next September. I would pay attention to that one.


This podcast has been a public service provided to my fellow citizens of Franklin, MA

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The musical intro and closing is from the Podsafe Music Network
Jon Schmidt - Powerful Exhilarating Piano Music

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