Sunday, April 25, 2010

Letter from Ed Cafasso

Hello everyone,

I hope you had a pleasant school vacation week. The end of vacation means getting back to work, and this week the School Committee and Town Council have their work cut out for them.

Two crucial evening meetings are on the agenda that I hope you will at least follow closely if not attend in person. On Tuesday at 7 p.m., the School Committee will meet at the Municipal Building to make key decisions on the fiscal 2011 school budget.

Flat-lining local and state revenues combined with increased costs have created an estimated $1.8 million shortfall in the school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Three factors are driving the higher costs – a 36% increase in mandated special education costs; a 10% hike in health insurance costs; and, contractual salary hikes (keeping mind that school administrators and employees voluntarily accepted a pay freeze during the current fiscal year.)

In reality, our costs are higher than the $1.8 million, but we are hoping to keep the requested budget increase to the bare minimum by using more than $750,000 in one-time federal and special local funds to close the gap. The $1.8 million your schools need would ensure that we can provide your children and the community the same level of service next year as we are this year.

To get all the details, I urge you to visit the School Department’s budget page at: There you will find a complete overview of the district’s budget, the factors driving it, our academic performance, enrollment data, and individual proposed budgets for each school.

The presentation also details the many cuts and efficiency moves the School Committee and school administration have made in the last decade to try to keep costs down and to live within our means. Equally as important, the presentation shows how Franklin has fallen far below the state average for spending on all facets of education.

Tuesday night, the School Committee has two objectives: The first is to ask the Town Council to fund our proposed, level service fiscal 2011 budget, which is likely to mean that the Council will ask the community to support an override of the limits imposed by Proposition 2 ½.

The second is to discuss possible budget cuts and program reductions if the Council fails to put an override on the ballot or if one fails to win a majority from the voters. The Franklin Public Schools remain a fantastic bargain in a community that offers a nice quality of life with incredibly low property tax rates. Your schools spend well below average in every cost category, but your students consistently score well above average on every academic benchmark. It’s a record to be proud of, but it’s highly unlikely to continue unless we provide more financial support.

On Wednesday night, also at 7 p.m., the Town Council will consider our budget request and also discuss the municipal budget and the town revenue picture. Members of the Long Range Financial Planning Committee, which released a fantastic analysis of town finances last year, also will present information.

The town budget is reportedly facing a deficit of $200,000, but even that amount is artificially low since it appears many positions are being left vacant in departments like fire, public works and the library in an effort to make ends meet.

Many times over the many years of my service on the School Committee, I have asked you to let your voices be heard on issues that directly impact your children’s futures, your property values and your quality of life.

This Tuesday and Wednesday night, you will once again have the opportunity to ask your elected officials to protect those things by taking the steps necessary to seeking adequate financial support.

Your schools have worked hard with far less funds than they need to give the young people of this community the kind of education that hundreds of other communities in the state wish they could provide. This week, I hope you will actively and publicly support our honest effort to continue that same level of service to you, your friends and your neighbors.

This e-mail reflects my opinion alone and is provided as a constituent service. 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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