Friday, October 8, 2021

Recap: Town Council hears about school budget and issues; approves Housing Production Plan

Quick Recap:

  • Superintendent Sarah Ahern and Business Manager Miriam Goodman presented an overview of the school's budget and answered questions to help clarify the issues around the school department.
  • The Housing Production Plan was approved by an 8-0 vote. The plan will be sent to the State for their review and acceptance. The work to make the objectives and recommendations happen (per the plan) remains to be done and will take time.
  • Four appointments were approved, all but one with a unanimous vote.
  • Town Administrator Jamie Hellen announced the receipt of a $2.2M grant from MassWorks for enhancements to the Washington and Grove Sts intersection including traffic control, bike lane, etc.


As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter during the meeting reporting live via from the Council Chambers.


The Twitter hashtag can be found online  #tc1006 

Town Council agenda: 


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

  • Getting ready to live tweet from the Council Chambers with meeting beginning at 7 PM. Agenda and connection info ->   #tc1006
  • All eight councilors present tonight (easy to tell when in the room where it happens!) #tc1006 some times it takes a while via Zoom to figure who's there or not
  • Citizen comment touting fund raising effort this weekend #tc1006 14 mile walk this Sunday see photo for details
  • Citizen comment on new development coming to Washington and Taft St area - set for ConComm and Planning Board hearings #tc1006
  • APPROVAL OF MINUTES a. September 1, 2021  b. September 15, 2021 two separate motions to approve, seconded, and both passed 8-0 votes #tc1006
  • Cultural Council's Kaye Kelly recognized for work on the recent Cultural Festival, proclamation read/presented by Cobi Frongillo #tc1006
  • Theme of 'Community Unity' was received well at this time especially; one vendor said their profits were akin to that from Cape Cod venues (a good comparison). #tc1006
  • "How lucky we are that arts are so well supported here in Franklin" heard regularly from other Cultural contacts by K Kelly #tc1006
  • appointment of Susan Younis - Municipal Affordable Housing Trust - motion to ratify, second, passes 8-0  #tc1006
  • appointment of Candice Narsasian - Cultural District Committee - motion to ratify, seconded, passes 8-0  #tc1006
  • Appointment of Anne Bergen - Franklin TV Board of Directors - motion to ratify, second, passes 8-0  #tc1006
  • appointment - Ken Norman - Franklin TV Board of Directors - motion to ratify, second, passes 7-1 (Bissanti - no) #tc1006
Franklin School Department Update
  • Franklin School Department Update to Town Council: Dr. Sara Ahern, Superintendent of Schools, with Miriam Goodman, Business Manager. #tc1006 presentation doc available to follow along for reference ->    #tc1006
  • little enrollment changes, some variances from McKibben forecast school by school but overall close; Middle School less than forecast; FHS exactly at forecast #tc1006 ECDC has more this year than forecast 4848 total last year, 4771 this year, these are preliminary numbers
  • roles within staff changing to meet needs, interventionists, language learners, etc. overall headcount relatively stable - #tc1006
  • enrollment declines has resulted in less teachers, smaller class sizes and less numbers; avg size 20.6 in Elementary; chart with middle school enrollment/teachers, as well as a district wide chart #tc1006
  • Miriam Goodman provides insights into the Finances, beginning with Chap 70, foundation budget plus local contribution equals total with a backfill of state aid. We are getting circuit breaker and transportation at about 70%, increase in charter school #tc1006
  • we are a minimum aid community, getting only the $30/student from them until we raise the delta of $11M they overpay us for local aid. We are second only to Boston in this category #tc1006
  • foundation budget going down due to enrollment declines, state won't reduce our aid - if it did we'd go bankrupt, they keep us whole, we will need to pick up the tab ($11M) until we get more, of if our enrollment increases, we could get more (enroll still declines though) #tc1006
  • we are 13% below state avg per pupil spending #tc1006 78% of districts spend more per pupil than we do
  • trying to be very strategic in applying additional funds, COVID funds and state funding at expected levels help restore the staffing that had been laid off during June 2020. Most of them returned in Sept 2020 #tc1006
  • Superintendent thankful for collaboration with Town Administration, via Jamie. ESSER funding, from Federal gov't, strategically being applied to help now and extend through FY 2024 (gives us time to provide/find local funding to support this) to help the students #tc1006
  • instruction transformed with technology, facility support esp with ventilation has been very helpful for health in the buildings. #tc1006 increase of nursing staff to help staff in buildings - additional mental health support being requested via ESSER III funds
  • facility timeline - Davis Thayer transition in particular, anticipate clearing building during Fall 2021, materials to be declared surplus; SchComm vote at end of year to declare facility as surplus and turn over to Town ownership (Town already maintaining building) #tc1006
  • begin Master Facility analysis in Winter 2021 (after election). #tc1006 - pandemic has added complications to the analysis, re-looking at some of the unexpected fluctuations (i.e. assumption of 275/homes turning, actual 260 through 9/30/21)
  • space needs also changed due to the pandemic, need to re-evaluate as to what the post-pandemic world and needs would be #tc1006 Chandler - thanks to the SchCom for being here, thanks also to many of the candidates for being here too
  • Chandler - that we are second only to Boston in State aid is scary. Jones - thanks, from list of unfunded mandates - "without mandates we'd have more room to maneuver" previous quote had been prepared by MASC #tc1006
  • the mandate report was hard to quantify and a best effort - the budget report does include a professional development line up. #tc1006 generally the School dept. spends 99.9% of the funds allocated so very little goes back to the Town
  • Hamblen - thanks for presenting the info; McKibben report done before COVID, yes - student differences result of move ins to other school areas , not due to DT closing. #tc1006 not everyone moves during the summer; req'd contribution is up; what is early forecast? too early now
  • Pellegri - thanks for coming and providing the info, per pupil expenses include all income sources; how do results compare to other getting more money - not an easy answer but it could be put together. are students behind due to COVID? learning loss? #tc1006
  • comparisons not exactly easy to do given the circumstances, this is seen across MA and across the US; additional funds being applied to support those needs to being them up to grade level expectations #tc1006
  • pandemic did point out inequities, MCAS and other things are being looked at for change #tc1006 remote only learning is not permitted to be offered by us. Some students may have unenrolled from FPS and enrolled elsewhere to do so
  • Dellorco - through SAFE we found addiction has risen; Ahern - shout out to J Levine and SAFE for her work. #tc1006 
  • Frongillo - thanks, as to all - how do we measure outcomes? a variety of ways, some through test scores, not reflective of whole approach; at FHS students DECA work
  • post secondary success is another way; Mock Trial team; 8th grade civics projects, would love to see more project based learning; those don't hit the headlines, test score hit the headlines. #tc1006 # of student on AP scores and test results
  • student/teacher ratio is a challenge at FHS for the US News report and ranking system; we take a hit there. We do care, scores are dependent upon the student/teacher ratio. #tc1006 how does the funding work? how did we get here? Ahern defers some to Jamie
  • property wealth and median income has increased over time, factors combine to drive the Chap 70 numbers. #tc1006 Jamie provides a good overview of the budget process, dept by dept review before going to FinCom and then TC in May; depts do come with a wish list
  • try to achieve in a slow and steady process to achieve objectives - look at budget narrative, budget docs, participate in the meetings to learn about the details  town budget info ->   #tc1006 School budget info -> 
  • Bissanti - narrative needs to change for Chap 70 from a state increase to find more ways to fund what you need. #tc1006 how do we help the schools more?
  • food deliveries have problems, chicken sandwich without lettuce the other day. Menu items can change day to day, truck schedules surprising, products not necessarily in stock. #tc1006 we are seeing the impact of the broken supply chain
  • students are getting a meal, maybe different but they are getting a breakfast and lunch daily for every child at no charge. #tc1006 Dellorco - A teamster, there are no drivers, it is not your fault
  • Mercer - what is the % of students leaving the district, up/down - Ahern, very flat overall - an increase in homeschool, it jumped last year, staying high this year #tc1006 Q on the pie chart, why are they more specialists? Are they taking away from teachers?
  • Mercer - I applaud the efforts to explain it, Ahern: who is supporting the classroom is more of a team approach to the key teacher in the room, delivery and needs have changed, requiring additional support #tc1006
  • D'Angelo - final phase is being installed at Kennedy this week, then the systems will be turned live within three weeks, all the other Town buildings including the fire stations are completed. #tc1006
  • Mercer - transportation? are we getting any support from the State? Goodman: our biggest impact are the athletic runs and the after school activities due to the driver shortages #tc1006 having this type now (not during a budget presentation) is hitting an audience we need
  • it has been a challenging 2 years but our staff has stepped to the plate to do a wonderful job #tc1006
Legislation for Action
  • moving to Resolution 21-54: A Resolution  Adopting the Town  of Franklin 2021  Housing Production Plan  (HPP)
  •  = Motion to Approve Resolution 21-54 - Majority Vote req'd #tc1006 only req'd vote to approve
  • support from Jamie with kudos to Bryan and Planning Dept, thanks to Planning Board for approval; this is a roadmap, still needs to to be worked, will help us plan for the future #tc1006 many thanks around to get this done - vote to pass 8-0
  • Resolution 21-55: Gift Acceptance - Veterans Department, $1000 (Motion to Approve Resolution 21-55 - Majority Vote) - motion, second, passes 8-0 #tc1006
  • Resolution 21-56:Gift Acceptance - Conservation Commission, $1000 (Motion to Approve Resolution 21-56 - Majority Vote) #tc1006 - motion, seconded, passes 8-0
  • Resolution 21-57: Gift Acceptance - Town of Franklin, Dog Park Gazebo (Motion to Approve Resolution 21-57 - Majority Vote) #tc1006 motion, seconded, passes 8-0  (building approved, to be installed soon)
  • Resolution 21-58: Cable Funds in Support of PEG Service and Programming per MGL Ch. 44, §53F3/4 (Motion to Approve Resolution 21-58 - Majority Vote)
  •  #tc1006 motion, seconded, passes 8-0 - similar to the quarterly transaction to move from cable vendors to Franklin TV
Town Administrator's Report
  • $2,2M Massworks grant for reconstruction of Washington and Grove St; thanks to Planning Board, betw this grant and host community agreement, by winter shd have $3M to add light, bike lanes, etc. #tc1006 thanks to Legislative team for assistance
  • $75K for housing development grant, won't need to use local funds and may re-appropriate or re-apply to the actual development work. $22K for road safety grant to work on speeding and seatbelts; senior center implementing vaccine policy Oct 18, certs req'd or mask
  • 49 have passed via COVID, 47 of the 49 were over 70 yrs old. need to protect the seniors! #tc1006 for all town sponsored events. 51 active cases as of last week, it has increased recently. small cluster of cases, sadly many with small children - a reality here in Franklin
  • 215 Prospect st did come in - next step for their evaluation;  Fire house open house on Saturday 10 -2 PM on West Central #tc1006 municipal aggregation, NationalGrid rates at 14.86, we are locked at 10%, no one needs to do anything. If you want to opt back in, call
  • waiting list at housing authority is over 6,800 individuals not all from Franklin #tc1006
Councilor Comments
  • Hamblen - thanks for School presentation, thanks to the Downtown Partnership, the Festival was good, it was wonderful. Bissanti -attended the veterans coffee - commend Health Dir Cathleen Liberty for her info and insights. #tc1006 rec dept, can't say enough about that
  • Chandler - Police exam coming up in December, footings in at dog park, thanks to your family Councilor Bissanti for your donation #tc1006 Frongillo - recognized Cultural Council for new event, FDP did a repeat event, bigger and better
  • Jones - so good to see, it is a lot of work to make that possible - thank you! #tc1006 Dellorco - Harvest Fest was great, to spend time with folks outside was great. FHS football - shout out to them for beating Mansfield, made my night - we got a lot of money, thank you!
  • Mercer - thanks to Ahern, Goodman and SchComm for coming tonight, thanks to FDP for Harvest Fest, and with that entertain a motion to adjourn #tc1006, passes 8-0

Audio recording of meeting to be available in couple of days

Cultural Council's Kaye Kelly recognized for work on the recent Cultural Festival
Cultural Council's Kaye Kelly recognized for work on the recent Cultural Festival

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