Friday, December 18, 2020

Finance Committee - Recap of Dec 15, 2020 meeting

Quick Recap:
  • The promised 'deep dive' into the school budget almost happened. "almost" in that if one viewing the meeting had fully read all the pre-released documents, they could sorta follow the questions and answers. Unfortunately, a key question answer was interrupted. I think (yes, my observation) the Central Office (Sara and Miriam) missed a couple of opportunities to make a better case for the budget details and what the district has done.
  • That said - the new monthly format for the FinCom meetings is a work in process and holds great promise. As an adjunct for the Town Council, the opportunity for detailed discussions on particular departments has only really occurred in these meetings. The Council used to get full presentations from each department as part of the budget hearings before more recently switching to their shorted 'hold' and question process.
  • The transfer from the water enterprise 'emergency fund' to make the payment for the water treatment plant was authorized. This was the payment that ended up mis-directed as part of the spear phishing incident.
  • Preliminary discussion on topics for the next few meetings and a review of the current stabilization fund balances was covered before the meeting closed.
Photos captured during the meeting and shared via Twitter can be found in one folder:
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  #fincom1215

Meeting agenda and related files

Meeting opens, prior minutes approved
  • #fincom1215 begins with roll call for quorum (2 missing - to be checked later) (actually only ONE member missing - vote was 8-0 officially)
  • #fincom1215 vote on minutes for prior meeting approved via roll call vote 7-0-2 (7 for, 0 no, 2 absent)
School budget
  • Getting right into the school updates; in and out of district students approx 80 students for special ed needs handled out of district (excludes transportation) #fincom1215 the q on 450+ students coming in, answer not really. Those Franklin students in schools other than FPS
  • Q no contract negotiations currently with teachers, in middle of 2 year deal. What are steps and lanes as described in contract. Compensation grid termed as steps and lanes; steps equal to years, avg 4-4.5% per step; lanes are compensation for additional degrees #fincom1215
  • Not a uniform amount across the lanes, also varies by step. Bachelor step 6 is max until they get a degree, and then move over a lane #fincom1215 there is some compensation for tuition reimbursement, doesn't cover entire degree cost
  • Q fire and police have benefited from redoing portions of the structure. Schools have a collaborative process with items on table and bargaining with a common interest. #fincom1215 principals not in union, pay scale separate, individual contracts, considerations are factors
  • Do benchmark and comparison for principals to ensure some level of equity. #fincom1215 asst principal in most buildings. Q on unfunded mandates. Estimate on what they are and how much they cost us. Had some assumptions to try and quantify - not complete, an attempt
  • Challenge to put a total dollar on all of it, doc currently have over $4M. 504 may have a physical accommodation, hard to define how much in those cases. MCAS has an admin cost, teacher salaries for rest admin, curriculum to support the testing, the tech to support #fincom1215
  • Q on revolving accounts, assumptions is that they run to zero? No, policy of Committee is to keep a year's worth in the fund. All are fee based accounts. We'll use what we need and apply the remainder for the next year. #fincom1215 balances are set aside for use when invoices
  • For the costs incurred during the year, catch up occurs mostly during the end of the year. FinCom member thinks it is unfair, Central Office did not fully address the issue. #fincom1215 next Q getting to student teacher ratio. At what point would an increase affect education
  • Info provided doesn't properly address the real question. I.e. special programs in house to save on sped costs; most elem classes 17-18-20 and a couple of deviations; process of counting teacher staff per DESE complicates issue #fincom1215
  • Accreditation report recommended adding staff at FHS to address class size; middle school teaching model (i.e. team approach) has benefit but class size can disrupt that. #fincom1215 demographics forecast provides good info 'Sister Anna Catherine's ruler helped'
  • 16-17% special ed in district is about average. The elephant in the room is the Davis Thayer study. Neighborhood school, I understand the concept. What would the effect on the budget be if we pulled the plug on those three schools? #fincom1215
  • "I am not saying there is a request to do so". What would be the effect? It has to be looked at. There is some end to that rise (1200 to 1700/quarter) How long can it be out off? We have a police station in a swamp that we need to address, etc... #fincom1215
  • Chair interjects before central office gets to answer the question. #fincom1215 request to do a better job to address the unfunded mandates, this is the hand your dealt and we're doing the best
  • Q what is the big pain point as you go through this year? It is in my memo but thinking off the cuff here funding post COVID for pandemic related items, could be hitting a funding cliff soon. CDC says $442/person to open in person. Another $2m #fincom1215 I think about
  • All the other things SEL, reliance on tech, more tech support, it goes on... That is a big weight to make sure we have enough for the kids. #fincom1215 Q on the medical services reimbursed thru to the general fund of the Town
  • Discussion on reimbursement, where included, did include Chris Sandini to get answer to help with the various budget items #fincom1215. Q - thanks for coming, we haven't had this opportunity. Midyear review, $2.3m in items are not yet encumbered due to salary set
  • Insurance, mostly health insurance. Best guess it will be likely level, encumbrance might be high at one point and there are offsets from other places to be assumed so it adjust over time #fincom1215 plan switches, and time in calendar year
  • Out of district tuition, don't have the expenses 2 add to the reporting, timing. Revolving account, going back 2. Did dip into some of the revolving funds 2 provide balance to budget. Lifelong learning is a concern, usually self sustaining but given shutdown, no rev #fincom1215
  • Don't anticipate using additional revolving funds to balance. #fincom1215 the # of teachers has been declining but it is hard to find the accounting of that over time. There are steps taken to control what can be controlled. The schools have been effective.
  • Level service budget would be about $3.5m, a level funded budget would be a reduction in services. #fincom1215 the medical billing is common among districts, some have walked away from it, we try to provide the services the students need.
Water treatment plant transfer
  • That closes out the school portion. Moving on to the water treatment plant transfer, dovetails off the cyber attack/spear phishing incident. #fincom1215 can lose track of the pump station construction completion. 40% of the funds recovered, will use emergency balance
  • The transaction authorization of the emergency funds, if additional are recovered, they will replace the emergency fund (not a slush fund by any means) #fincom1215 vendor has not charged any interest on missing payment (misdirected payment)
  • How did the emergency fund get to the $1m balance? Fund developed through surplus revenue, additional revenue over what was forecast. #fincom1215 the liability policy did yield $100k. Can not believe auditor missed that transaction, in other areas, that transfer is double
  • Authorization. I like how it was handled. I agree how it was handled. I stayed up late watching that. I want my boss to support me like that. The Town was a victim and she was too. The room went silent. I hope people understand she is as good as you get #fincom1215
  • Motion made, seconded, passes via roll call, 8-0-1 (nicole absent, no zero) #fincom1215 Update on trust fund and stabilization funds. Last page of packet as of Sept 30. General stabilization is "dust bowl" account, keeps our low interest rate and rating
Stabilization account updates
  • #fincom1215 OPEB trust fund at $7m, liability is $64m, we are still in too ten Communities for ability to pay off that liability. Free cash, $2.73m will go quick. Discussion on use of stab funds for fire trucks, fields; used when fund built
  • 10 years is a good policy but it is also true that you can get a couple of years out of them, CPA maybe another revenue source. #fincom1215 will open space fund get combined with CPA funds? Has to stay separate. Some earmarked for a project
  • It can co-mingle but can not be combined. #fincom1215 approval of meeting schedule for 2021. Motion to approve, second, passes 8-0-1 via roll call (1 absent) Storm water could be a good topic, will affect the operating budget FY 2021 is done, FY 2022 consensus hearing today
  • When the Governor puts house 1 out in January, it sets the table for discussion. #fincom1215 looking good now, hoping to hang in there to get to the spring. Likely a guess by Jamie in the Feb meeting. Revenue and budget stabilization topics for Feb.
  • #fincom1215 MECC and safety for March. Motion to adjourn, second, passes 8-0-1 via roll call. That's all for tonight, catch you all next time


No comments:

Post a Comment