Thursday, June 18, 2020

Real time reporting: Town Council - Budget hearing #1 - June 17, 2020

As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter during the meeting reporting in real-time via the virtual session.

The Twitter hashtag can be found online #tcbh0617

  • Live reporting for Town Council budget hearing live on radio 102.9
  • Chair Mercer explains choice of location due to the seriousness of the proposed cuts so the Council could "face the public" #tcbh0617
  • Reading the voting doc and recording holds from one or more council for further discussion #tcbh0617
  • Town admin budget held primarily to take the time to introduce the staff #tcbh0617 Cerel, Whelton, Alleyne, and Tracey. Marketing and Communications is a joint position with Schools and Town.
  • Q on human resources, could there be a payment for those who have a spouse on a health plan that could be on another plan? #tcbh0617 possible, has been discussed but not implemented
  • Rough head count of audience aside from town staff and Council seems to be about 75-80 in attendance. #tcbh0617
  • Q for facilities on what was cut, some of the facilities, like Senior Center and library are closed and not likely re-opening soon so they were 'easy' #Tcbh0617 no further cuts should be considered at this point given the cleaning required for safety
  • Q on expenses for two contractors in electrical and HVAC, it was reduced by $23K for this budget. What was expense for last year? A million? No, we'll have the specific answers Thursday night #tcbh0617
  • Q on police budget, new contract allowed for add of 5 officers to bring to 52. Hard to say how effective it has been as pandemic has also hit and we've adjusted to handle things safely. #tcbh0617
  • Q on Police meeting/conf line item, it really should be renamed as it covers the training. #tcbh0617
  • Fire chief up next, Q on the reforms and changes made recently and how they have set up for service to the community. #tcbh0617 removed from civil service, removed stipends, increased rescue billing amount, achieved an ISO rating of 2, only 7 others have a 1 and we're going to
  • Chief - we were able to get ahead of covid, bring in PPE and along with cooperation with police, facilities and other depts, we have been instrumental in keeping our impact low for the town #tcbh0617
  • Chief also wants to reclassify the meeting/conf line item, good quick answer to the penny as to what amount is there and what it is for #tcbh0617
  • Next up MECC the regional dispatch center of which are part. Town administrator Jamie Hellen explains how it works, and how two more communities will be added. By doing the add, Franklin will be able to save money via the assessment #tcbh0617
  • With the two new Communities, Mendon and Millville, we'll be combining two regional centers and gain some state funding incentives to do so #tcbh0617 approx $700K savings coming, will need to create new stabilization fund to prepare for 4 years out
  • Sunset is nice here on the field for this budget hearing. #tcbh0617
  • Next up school budget, Council sets a bottom line number and them the school Committee does all the rest. Dr Ahern up. Facilities Analysis is underway, looking at all facilities K-8, #tcbh0617 it is not complete, still info gathering
  • 1100 student enrollment decline since peak of 2008, enrollment projections revised this spring and will be re-looked at in Sep with the consultant. #tcbh0617 architect report looking at all of K-8 capacity as well as enrollment to be able to make decisions
  • Q what will school look like in September? Not sure, awaiting guidance from DESE this month, have started planning with a multiple function group to see what it could look like to do safely. #tcbh0617
  • May have to do this hearing again in Sep and maybe even in Jan 2021, there are so many answers we don't know. #tcbh0617 we made decision to make the nonrenewals for non-professional staff due to the uncertainty. We are still looking at what else could be done
  • Dr Ahern expands on the answer of the notifications and programs, it may seem disproportionate but it is what it is under the circumstances. #tcbh0617 no specific answer yet on the total $s of unfunded mandates
  • Q if we could close DT and cut the 14 curriculum coaches, that could have about $2.5m per some folks analysis. Sara responds we haven't calculated the DT amount as the study as mentioned is incomplete. the coaches are likely needed in Sep due to the remote learning #tcbh0617
  • Kelly presses Sara on the facilities report and when it will arrive, is it late? As she has seen the drafts does it support a closure? Sara will only say the draft does "support consolidation of facilities" #tcbh0617 she wants a complete and accurate report not 1 rushed
  • Kelly also asks about the 'late' start for a principal search for DT. The interim search was announced in early in May, given all the uncertainty, it was a wise choice, she is confident to be able to find someone. #tcbh0617
  • Given the COVID impact on music that was a factor in reduction planning, 1.5 staff at Central office were reduced in this budget. Given the disruptive nature of redistricting, waiting to see what the report says to continue the planning process #tcbh0617
  • Per Sara, first round of bring back likely to happening next week or so, #tcbh0617 Bissanti, I don't know what we're waiting for on DT, it is out of code, it can not house children, we need answers
  • Mercer adds that the preliminary from DESE calls for the school district to provide PPE for students for each of the 180 days, now it is preliminary but an example of an unfunded mandate; clarification, student should provide, District would have spares #tcbh0617
  • Den Ryan providing insights from music students over the years and all the benefits from music. #tcbh0617 Heather speaks for group grown in past week who are concerned with the school budget. What happened, why now? Points out lack of knowledge about schools
  • School Committee member Keenan speaking about his learning process, the schools do need more money and a lot more, #tcbh0617 75% of other school districts spend more than we do. DT is a short term issue. We need to solve the longer term issue, funding
  • Keenan - Most of the talk tonight is about cuts, if we don't address the funding issue, it will be sports next #tcbh0617 Dr Bergen speaks, Norwood had an override and had 70% turnout, unity, not one group against another
  • Good break point given the time it is (10:15ish) to continue the meeting Thursday, motion to adjourn, passed 9-0 #tcbh0617
  • So this concludes the reporting for this evening, catch you all Thursday #tcbh0617

Budget hearing documents can be found online

Chair Mercer explains choice of location due to the seriousness of the proposed cuts so the Council could "face the public" #tcbh0617
Chair Mercer explains choice of location due to the seriousness of the proposed cuts so the Council could "face the public" #tcbh0617

Sunset is nice here on the field for this budget hearing. #tcbh0617
Sunset is nice here on the field for this budget hearing. #tcbh0617

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