Friday, May 28, 2021

Recap: Town Council takes 4+ hours to review FY 2022 budget on Wednesday

Quick Recap:
  • Yup, over 4 hours for the Town Council to review, Q&A the budget; multiple questions, mostly answered, a couple carried over to Thursday's session
  • Carried over a possible move of $3,000 from Historical Commission to Historical Museum; update from School Dept on unfunded mandates, update on total school age population and where schooling (inside or out of Franklin)
  • Under the standard format, not sure the community gets the full picture of a department budget matter, they only get the phrasing of a particular councilor. To really understand a departmental budget, folks need to view the Finance Committee meetings; (it would also be good for more councilors to do so).
  • Why wouldn't the Town proceed with a pilot effort to provide a full time nurse (RN) for the community? It uses the same process (grant and collaboration with neighboring communities) that other departments (Fire and Police for example) have (and did explain also during this meeting). Yet some councilors 'don't get it'
  • Fire Dept hopeful for positive news on a SAFER grant that they submitted for which would enable the  addition of 4 more firefighter/paramedics. They would be funded by the grant for 3 years and then Town would need to pay
  • MECC received a grant to enable Mendon and Millville to join regional dispatch. The grant fund Franklin's portion for several years. Town is planning to put money aside to save for the day when the grant expires and the funding is required
  • Multiple questions around the school budget, how it continues to increase and yet the enrollment is decreasing. Chap 70 funding will provide some relief in transportation and special education circuit break costs. The Town faces a gradual increase in its own support of the schools. We (Town of Franklin) have historically underfunded the schools and are being forced by the State to eventually pay our fair share. The closing of Davis Thayer, and potentially other buildings to restructure will not provide the budget relief required to fix this structural deficit. Consider two numbers: the State calculates our per pupil expense at $14K per student; the average tax bill for a Franklin homeowner is $6-7,000. So if the homeowner/family has only one student, the Schools are already not recovering the cost for what educational benefit is provided to the family.
  • DPW losing 2 positions (previously unfilled to help manage expenses during the pandemic); have other open positions they are attempting to fulfill within the budget
  • Stormwater division created to help clearly identify all the costs associated with stormwater management. What is being done is less than that required by EPA MS4 permit. Stormwater utility fee had been on the discussion listing for this year but is is gone (for now). The Town needs to better manage the funding source for stormwater and the utility fee is a more more reasonable approach than using the current tax base. Too many don't pay their 'fair share'.
  • Back again Thursday night for the remainder of the discussion and eventual vote on the budget for FY 2022


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  #tc0526


Photos captured during the meeting and shared via Twitter can be found in one album

The agenda doc for this meeting can be found 


  • Getting ready for the Town Council meeting, and 1st of two budget hearings for FY 2022. What is in the budget? What didn't make it? What questions will be asked tonight? Listen in to find out. Connection info and live stream available ->  tc0526
  • Based upon prior sessions, the Council clerk will read the budget line items, line by line. Councilors with a question in that area can place a 'hold' and when done reading through, they'll come back and get to each line, question by question #tc0526.
  • The voting doc copy you can follow along with is in the agenda doc  #tc0526
  • Meeting opens #tc0526
  • Memorial Day service at noon on Monday, no parade however. Honor guard will visit Dean College, St Mary's cemetery, etc. that day before the service on the town Common #tc0526  2 minute recess as public hearing is posted for 7:10 PM
  • Meeting resumes after recess  #tc0526
  • Budget Subcommittee chair Kelly leads with comments thanking all the staff for their work during the pandemic. Pleased to present the budget for discussion. TA Jamie Hellen opens with his remarks also thanking the staff for the work done without skipping a beat #tc0526
  • "Putting high quality affordable services forward" very fortunate, visit the Franklin page to visit the budget page with plenty of details. #tc0526 FinCom voted unanimously approved after 4 nights of deep dives into the details. "Towns look to emulate us"
  • Council holds placed on 192, 210, 220, 300, and 422. That is Facilities, police, fire, schools and DPW. The five largest items in the budget. #tc0526
  • Holds also placed on the following: 155, technology; 164, elections; #tc0526 225, regional dispatch; 390, tri-county; 395, Norfolk Aggie; 510, Board of Health; 690, historical museum; 691, historical commission;
  • Cyber security new hire is for security split between town and schools, to oversee security, best practices, testing, etc. #tc0526 explanation on split of technology between schools and town, schools have a greater percent of usage.
  • Elections #tc0526 actually just a decrease in budget from FY 2020, thanks
  • Facilities - does the budget include reductions for the Davis Thayer facility closing? Yes. Still need some maintenance portion to keep it safe and kept up.
  • $60k for DT building maintenance on town side; teachers etc and other expenses, are on the School side.
  • #tc0526 the UVGI units came from CARES act funding (federal funds) not operational town funds. Equipment came in for school campus, library and Senior Center ->
  • So those facilities will be operational in a couple of weeks. #tc0526 UV tubes will last a year, about $90 per (not thousands, just dollars) FHS was cheapest install due to the equipment already there. Presentation coming for MSBA on UVGI ->
  • The budget last year includes bonding for facility projects at Remington/Jefferson and eventually we'll need to get to the other schools. #tc0526 Franklin is first with the UVGI, couldn't really have done it pre-COVID. None of the part-time staff have health insurance
  • Now to Police, #tc0526 Q synopsis of Certification? Self initiated process audit, on all operations, training, etc. 159 standards to be met, evaluated and documented. 15 depts certified, 257 standards for accreditation. Q personal status, going from 52 to 53 ->
  • Combination of personnel moves, replacing backfill, etc .allowed for the additional officer, including a reduction in ammunition used in fire arm training. A savings in unscheduled OT also helped with the new person. #tc0526 will need more $ next year to get 4 more
  • Shortage of ammo is real, multiple factors playing but it should start easy up over time. #tc0526 things are going well with the changes to the force. Change can be fearful, haven't really had a baseline due to COVID yet but hopefully. Succession planning is underway ->
  • Likely 6-8 over next several years, planning is underway. Collective bargaining agreements define what can be done. A lot will happen this fall and then dominoes will fall next year and later. #tc0526 trying to do accreditation within the year. Then good for 3 years
  • Q on safety equipment line, also includes onboarding and hence the adjustments. Next year will likely increase due to changes but not this year. #tc0526 Jail diversion program is doing well, in year 3 of 10 year grant, looking to see how to expand with Advocates. Police exam ->
  • Every three years, or with lateral transfers #tc0526 it is not hard for folks from elsewhere to want to be here. Would more officers help with response time? Yes. Town is growing, there is more if everything. Police have 2 drones, one used at the fire this week
  • Next up Fire Dept. #tc0526 Q what is personnel status for this FY year, 56 firefighters and at full staff this time. Ambulance transport billing, we take the avg of top 50 to ensure our rates are competitive. Safer grant pending for more firefighters, very competitive
  • Firefighters were evacuated just before the floor collapsed, shows the efficiency of the battalion chiefs. #tc0526 "you are a gift to the Community" folks don't realize how close we were to losing some folks the other day. We need another station out to serve the north ->
  • We have 2 ambulances online, wouldn't make sense to bring a 3rd on now, using the reserve unit would help without relying on mutual aid. #tc0526 I think we are in a really good place right now, high training, good equipment, it has been a group effort and a team sport
  • If we get the grant, it would cover salary/benefits for 3 years. After that would be in our budget. #tc0526 Pellegri not seen morale as high as it is now in her time. Your commitment to training has shown effects so far, thanks. ISO update, class 2 last year, with ->
  • With so many changes in 12 months, we may ask them to come back. Left a spot on the side of the engine for the cert label when we get it #tc0526
  • Mendon and Millville joined regional dispatch MECC, got a grant to cover their participation. #tc0526 amount budgeted for setting aside money to enable the future payment after the grant expires. (Brief sound interruption on one system may have been on my side issue) ->
  • Switched to live stream from Zoom session to get audio #tc0526 Taking a 5 minutes break
  • Meeting resumes, thunder still rolling around outside #tc0526
  • Q on Board of Health increase? Working to bring in a public nurse along with a community grant. There is not a separate line item for enforcement, used CARES act funding for some of that. Qs on need for RN part-time. #tc0526 we are doing a regional effort ->
  • LPN is part-time at Senior Center. Other towns have full time nurses, we don't. #tc0526  Q on historical museum vs commission and switching funds, to be researched and decided on Thursday session
  • Next up Schools, Dr Ahern #tc0526 we're about 4800 this year, decreasing over next 10 years, slightly lower than forecasted, other districts lost more students due to the pandemic. Hot real estate is due to inventory, expecting a decrease and possible baby bust ->
  • Elementary school population stabile, middle school seeing more of the decrease, also making it to the high school. Eventually FHS would operate at capacity or less ( has been over since opened) #tc0526  Attempted at a # for unfunded mandates, does have a partial ->
  • Budget continues to rise, is related to special Ed costs? No, we are doing well there. The enrollment is well distributed so we don't see that economy of scale where it could help us. Rate increase is special Ed is out of our control, circuit breaker funding may help ->
  • We are obligated to service all the students in town. #tc0526 if we lose students to other schools, do we know why? Programs cut in prior years could be not competitive vs other schools. There are 300 folks I have sought out and you don't seem to be getting to them ->
  • 75% of districts spend more than Franklin does. How do we solve that? It is dollars. More teachers,  more programs, high school could use more teachers to improve offerings we can be creative but that doesn't solve the issue. #tc0526 approx 54% if the town budget
  • To keep and retain the people we have here will cost more money. All the reforms won't change the expense side of the budget. Digital learning integrationists DLI support teachers and students and skills on digital literacy. #tc0526
  • How do we tell, explain an increase in the budget when we are closing schools and loosing teachers. Health care and transportation are increasing. We are managing expenses elsewhere. Education is being more complicated, expanded nurses, all hands on deck, escalating ->
  • Mental health concerns, we are happy to do it, our responsibility and each has expanded. #tc0526 Multiple questions around school budget, clear lack of understanding by TC. It is complex but when per pupil expense is $14k and the average property tax is $6 or 7k ->
  • There is an issue with school funding. #tc0526 Plug for Tri-county by Kelly, less students going to Norfolk Aggie, should be trying to get more there Both also have changes in leadership for the schools
  • Creation of Stormwater division shows the cost of doing business. Moved funds and personnel from other depts to accommodate. #tc0526 did remove 2 people from budget as well as the curb weed spraying. New treatment plant now online, provides capacity to pump full amount ->
  • Permitted, and operates very efficiently. The 2 positions were open and not rehired during the past year. #tc0526 clarification on the cut positions are still in the budget.  There is a level of difference between what we are obligated to do and what we are doing
  • We have been doing stormwater since 2007, some of the numbers are shifting from wherever to stormwater to better reflect the total expense. #tc0526 street lights down due to change to LEDs.  $40m in backlog of roadwork that needs to be done. Covers existing roads
  • Chapter 90 has not seen increases to keep up. Ability to compost to save? It is expensive and we don't have a space for it, it is part of a plan going forward. #tc0526 water and sewer use going up, collections have increased. Retained earnings explained. Used to ->
  • Pay cash for some expenses within the water and sewer expenses. When we talk stormwater, that has nothing to do with water or sewer. Look at the stormwater division, street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, etc. #tc0526 we run a lean ship, loosing 2 people is a big deal
  • We will continue this hearing Thursday. #tc0526 council comments underway. Live stream cut out as the TV automation cut in at 11. The Council should (could) have not gone so long. Zoom session still working
  • Motion to adjourn, passes 9-0 That's all for tonight, catch you next time #tc0526 
Dr Sara Ahern answering a question
Dr Sara Ahern answering a question

DPW Director Cantoreggi answers a question
DPW Director Cantoreggi answers a question

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