Monday, March 2, 2020

School Committee meeting recap - Feb 25, 2020: Demographics report available; budget outlook presents math problem

The two major topics from the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 were the first look at the demographics study report and two, the Superintendent's Recommended budget for FY 2021.

The demographics report is provided below along with the presentation document. There is a second review of the report scheduled for Thursday, March 5 at the Horace Mann Middle School cafe at 7:00 PM.

The demographics show the student enrollment decline will continue to drop from the peak of 6300, currently 5100 to about 4500 before settling and eventually rising again. The factors and assumptions for the numbers are provided. The two critical factors to maintain the numbers projected are keeping the mortgage interest rate under 5% and having existing home sales reach 275 units per year. If either of these factors change, the numbers would be off. If, for example, the home sales don't reach 275, the enrollment likely would continue to drop.

More discussion around the numbers will be forthcoming. This is the first of two steps to help decide the future of Davis Thayer. The second piece is due in an April time frame and is the facility analysis. What are the space requirements to provide the education to the current and projected enrollment and how do the existing facilities provide that space?

My back of the scrap paper analysis says a building can be closed, if the enrollment does continue to drop, perhaps even two could be closed. What the facilities analysis shows will be key to understand what is needed and how we can provide it. Stay tuned.

The Superintendent's Recommended budget came out of the gate asking reasonably for the critical needs to be met. Some several hundred thousands of other requirements didn't make the 'critical' cut. There is another $1.2M in unmet needs NOT included in the budget as shown.

The math problem comes into this as the whole of Franklin's budget can only grow about $3M. So even if the critical needs budget was desired, and ALL of the $3M went to the schools. One, that leaves police, fire, DPW, Library with no increase for anything over what they had least year. Two, that also means $900K of the critical needs doesn't make the budget this year.

Of course, the gap will get resolved before the budget is finalized in June, the real question is how. What and where will the cuts come from? Expecting $3M to be 'found' is unrealistic.

Additional details from the meeting can be found in my notes recorded live during the meeting in the links below.
Meeting docs

You can also find the demographics study on the Town of Franklin page

Assumed to be supporting documentation for the presentation
(was not referenced during the meeting but was posted to the packet web page)

Also available on the Town of Franklin page

My meeting notes
  • Live reporting: New business to Closing (Executive Session)
  • Live reporting: Discussion/Action Items - Discussion
  • Live reporting: Recommended budget FY 2021
  • Live Reporting: School Committee - Feb 25, 2020

The future of Davis Thayer is being studied this year
The future of Davis Thayer is being studied this year

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