Showing posts with label FPC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FPC. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2012

FPAC to feature concert with Jamie Barrett

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Wicked Local Franklin News RSS by GateHouse Media, Inc. on 1/27/12

The Franklin Performing Arts Company (FPAC) will present Jamie Barrett singing family favorites on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 1 p.m.

Things you can do from here:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Live reporting - Long Range Financial Planning Committee

Present: Doug Hardesty, Deb Bartlett, Graydon Smith, Sue Rohrbach, Orrin Bean, John Hogan,  Ken Harvey, Tina Powderly, Jeff Nutting (late)
Absent: Craig DiMarzio

Motion to approve minutes of Mar 9 meeting, second, passed 6-0

Discussion on the questions which were drafted offline since last meeting and compiled in one listing.

Town Council priority, we do it
if the committee needs to answer it to do the forecast, we do it
if the citizens feel they need this answered, we do it

discussion on how the questions are answered
the purpose of the Q&A is not just to provide the sentence or two, but to position the issue, break it down to the central issue for the forecast for the Town Council and peoples need

notion of deliverables - tossing out for discussion
trying to get to a point where we know what are focused on, what the output is, when it is expected.
instead of a massive deliverable, updated once a year or periodically
maybe put the questions on a website, clickable so they can see the answer and drill down as necessary on the issue
more able to 'live' publish as they are developed

forum last year was terrible, questions were not good, dialog was terrible
why was last year different from the prior year when more came out, more discussion was real
should consider separating the forum/discussion from the override

consideration on first time versus repeating, 'old news'
hold in a smaller venue, need to defend against 'old news'

perception created by the nature of the questions, getting the word out in a face-to-face way should be in a way that can engage in a meaningful dialog; not to be associated directly with an override to avoid that set of political overtones

clarification on the listing of questions, Town Council separated only in that if we do nothing else need to address those two. they are likely to be answered in the light of the larger issues

committee taking time to read through the compilation of questions
small print (8 pt font) and about 45 in total

anything striking or appealing?
any questions to add?

comment - we have answers to most of the questions, although maybe not in the best format
to add, pros and cons of split vs single tax rate
separating pension from OPEB, focus on the health care side of that from the Council perspective, the pension is already set at the State level; should be on our legislative wish list.

need to layout and understand the difference between the pensions and OPEB

SUTA = state unemployment tax

The committee could model into the forecast, if this were to happen, then what would happen, what effects would there be? That might be better in the context of projections but not addressed in a Q&A format

it is fair that we are getting a break, but how much would we raise if we were at the median rather than so low in relative tax burden? Could be a valid question to answer, if risky

in the prior committee we did look at the Arlington work, the five year plan that they did. Not really comparable to Franklin in terms of the growth flux that we can face. some folks fear the series of overrides could be perpetual. This could be a loaded question for a Q&A section and not likely in the best way to be presented. Need to consider the planning aspects of this and use it in the modeling

by starting to address the focal points (i.e. Town Council and citizens) this is getting to the point of addressing the questions in a manner relevant to the audience. You can answer a question in a factual way and satisfy one
group, answer the same question with a story and satisfy another segment of the audience.

need to layout the one time events where the money was 'found' to address 'always' finding the money
isolate and hone in on the increasing costs as the costs are rising faster than the revenue
the impact of the schools and their programs with the rising deficits

the correlation between home values and local real estate taxes
what is the percentage basis comparison to say Wellesley, Newton vs Franklin? does it help our story?
where could we get the data? Realtors. we could also Google to see if some white papers have already answered the question

what kinds of leading indicators are available are telling the story
what are the lottery numbers for the charter school year over year?
what are the number of students going to private schools?


clarification on updating Steve Whalen's numbers, still to be done and used as needed

for things we need changed at the State level, we need Jeff or the Council to address what is the plan, what is the process for recommending change, how does that happen? if it is not realistic, I will be reluctant to put in the time and effort

we did discuss this last time, we need the top 2-3 things, one to let people know how the hands are tied currently but that if this happens, etc.  then we can do more. But we need to explain what that is, and ensure that there is some action on it

the question for Vallee - what is it you need to get something done? is it citizen actions, is it a group of communities?

how are we going to get the information, the answers to these question, the reality is not enough people care to get out and vote? that is the problem

if we identify the right questions, maybe they are the ones you don't know the answers to. As much and as long as many people have been doing this, they have not been doing this with a long range view. There hasn't been a level of rigor focused on this.

Most of the questions have been answered, the flyer from last time has the answers. If you haven't seen this flyer, then there is an issue.

discussion around pay to ride numbers in the current budget and lack of information in the budget document  to explain the difference, individual working with School Committee to discuss the question and follow on questions

any new revenue sources? what are the sources? how are they used?
under cost containment, what regionalization efforts have been taken?

what do unfunded mandates do as percent for the budget, that increase is taking away from services to be provided.

the answer may not be highly controllable but at least get an understanding on what the reality is

we can investigate, advise but not plan. I tend to use the long range finance committee when I say what we are. A planning group would select and execute the decisions on which way to go. That is up to Jeff and the Town Council.

next meeting in 3 weeks.

Franklin, MA

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"It's misinformation that makes barriers to good decisions"

"There are very well-educated, insightful people who say I don't have enough information, so I'm always going to vote no," Chairman Doug Hardesty said. "To me if we can define what the questions are that will really provide a roadmap ... I think Franklin will be better off because you will have a bigger group of people more confident about decision they will make." 
In 2009, the committee, which was then composed of members of the Town Council, School Committee and Finance Committee, produced a 45-page report that explained how the town was facing a structural budget deficit where annual revenue growth was less than what was required to maintain town services. They projected that, through 2014, expenses would grow faster than revenue by $7 million to $10 million. 
The following year, voters rejected a $3 million property tax override. 
Graydon Smith, one of the seven residents who comprise this year's committee, noted many residents may assume the town has direct control over costs such as pensions and benefits provided to part-time employees. Instead, those are mostly determined at the state level and are difficult to change.
Read more: Franklin financial planners at work again

My notes from the meeting can be found here:

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Live reporting - Long Range Financial Planning Committee

Present: Doug Hardesty, Craig DiMarzio, Graydon Smith, Sue Rohrbach, Orrin Bean, John Hogan,  Ken Harvey, Tina Powderly, Jeff Nutting (late), Glenn Jones
Absent:  Deb Bartlett

Brian Benson, Milford Daily News reporter, in attendance

Motion to approve minutes of Feb 9, Feb 23 meetings. Separate motions, both passed unanimously.

Agenda - to complete the review of the Long Range Financial Planning Report
the final  report of the prior committee from last year (PDF)

picking up on page 26
Structural deficit likely to continue

Another item to be added is the proposed EPA regulations (originally to be determined by Dec 2010 but not yet finalized) There are two aspects, one for the M4 permit and one for the private sector with more than 2 acres of impervious coverage.

Key example of the 'known unknowns' - tabled a full update of the regulation and issues around it, point to come back to, for now, just to have it acknowledged as an item

Discussion on prior committee role in making recommendations, they were not part of the charge but were attempted  (see page 27 of report link above)

Let's make sure that we can present the facts such that no matter what position one may take, they at least can work from the same set of numbers with confidence.

There is little remaining to be done with efficiencies in Town operations so from the Committee point of view that there is only an increase in revenues or a cut in services.

There is little agreement amongst some aspects of the population on this point however. The point needs to be addressed.

Improve transparency and accessibility remains a key route to success

comparative metrics can make a strong point but they can't be used alone

Do you spend time on new issues, or do spend time working to spread the word on what we have?
A regular question being revisited.

If you show some progress on the major issues, you might have a chance to gain their buy in

Town Council and the citizens, two major stakeholder groups
1 - From the Town Council view, how bad is the budget crisis and what can we do about it?
2 - We can't hold ourselves responsible for making those who are not interested interested. You have also folks who already have their minds made up. Then there are the people on the fence who haven't made up their minds. Those are the ones who we need to focus on.

Override vote in 2010 had 41.7% turnout. 2008 has 40.3%, and 2007 had 47.3%. In 2004 held in Nov, 83.2% turnout failed the override. Situation was different in 2004 compared to the more recent ones. In 2004, the stabilization fund was large and some money was used after the override failed to ameliorate the effect of the vote.

Looking to provide the best most reliable information to the electorate to enable them to make a decision.

Now to do some brain storming on some questions to propose answering withing each area of responsibility.

Where were we, where are we, where are we going?

In what ways can the Town manage its growth?

Do Franklin residents pay a reasonable amount of property taxes? Need to rephrase that as it already has a judgement in the question. Feedback on being under-taxed was underwhelming. What is the relative burden?
Need to have non-judgmental language in all the questions.

Why did I chose Franklin? Taxes, location, schools, house prices were all compelling pieces of the discussion when I came here 12 years ago.

What are relative out of pocket expenses for services? water, sewer, trash, busing... etc.

I know a cynic can attack any information put across. Anyone can raise a 'waste, fraud, and abuse' question without having to back it up.

 What is the ultimate goal, is the report just an update or will it look different?

Come up with the list of the key questions and then check to see if the Town leaders agree on these.
poll the council on the questions they would like answered? Poll at least some of the general public to gather some input from them. It will be a sample but should be something to work with.

What are the top 3 or 4 legislative items that would help the town benefit from a budget stand point?
We would have something to hand to Vallee, Spilka and Ross to go work
We could hand to the citizens the listing and say we can do only so much now and do more when these items are changed.

Bringing meeting to close. Continue to work on your own questions, send to Doug. He will compile and bring to the group for the next meeting to review/discuss the listing.

Need to balance the two constituents (Town Council and citizens) if we do one and not the other, then we'll not be providing enough information to make an informed decision.

One of the benefits of the way the committee is comprised is that we have a range of exposure to Town government and we want to leverage that in particular to ask fresh questions, simple or complex.

Franklin, MA

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"They are really not beholden to anyone"

"Any way you slice the data, we look like a low-tax, efficient (town government), dangerously over-reliant on a revenue source (state aid) on which we have no control," Whalen said. 
"They're a new set of eyes and they will challenge things (in the previous report) as they go through the process," said Douglas Hardesty, the committee's chairman. "When we are through, hopefully we'll learn something new." 
At a meeting last night, the committee discussed an analysis done by Whalen showing how Franklin compares to 30 comparable communities in the state in tax rate, and spending on education. 
Franklin has one of the lowest tax rates of the comparable communities, and it is one of the lowest in per-pupil spending, he said.
Read the full article in the Milford Daily News here

Read my notes from the same meeting here

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Live reporting - Long Range Financial Planning Committee

Present: Doug Hardesty, Deb Bartlett, Craig DiMarzio, Graydon Smith, Sue Rohrbach, Steve Whalen,
Absent: Jeff Nutting, Orrin Bean, John Hogan,  Ken Harvey, Tina Powderly

Approval of minutes - postponed to next meeting
Action items - none

Metrics and benchmarking - Steve Whalen (Vice Chair, Town Council)

background, research analyst for an investment banking firm
drawn in by a comment made by J Nutting at a meeting sometime ago; "a town's budget is a reflection of their values"
started collecting data, started with a map and filled in data for the communities around us
The DOR site is a tremendous source of info, so much data is available
came up with 30 communities
walking through the info on his comparison worksheet
color coded communities by single versus split tax rate
we have a low tax rate compared to other communities with either a split or single tax rate
we are 21st in comparison on the average tax bill (of the 30)
we are 26th on relative tax burden which is a comparison of tax rate to community wealth
we rank 28th in percent of local property tax contributing to the total community revenue
we rank 1st in the percent of state aid contributing to the total community revenue

second sheet on Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education data
rank 27th of the 30 on per pupil spending for 2009 and would be on 2010 as well, two towns are missing data for 2010
we rank 10th in the same 30 for percent of population in school, so amongst larger communities, we have more students than most

discussion on the quality of the whole educational experience and how to best represent what we get. MCAS scores are readily available, SATs offer more comparison to those outside MA, with the increase in fees, cutting of enrichment programs, protected the core curriculum (and maintained, if not increased performance).

need to show where the cuts are happening, i.e. how much of the budget is allocated to the core versus the enrichment and what does that show? are the changes in the program indicative of the budget issues? how much of a lag in the reporting is there? We are seeing the early warnings amongst the low income and English Language Learners (ELL)

The recent requirement to meet the bullying legislation within the budget restrictions, resulted more in a shifting of resources; language was removed from the elementary grades, Latin was lost in middle schools, the Spanish teachers moved from the elementary to middle and we are adding health teachers to meet the curriculum requirements for bullying

talked bout looking at the numbers, need the story to tell, how to convey the erosion that is occurring with the cut of over 100 teachers with an increase in students

Is there a community that was high and made cuts, where are they now? Randolph is one example amongst the 30 communities

can we tackle some of these things; i.e. key metrics around the school numbers are validated, define a number of meaningful metrics and a story around it (for four weeks out)

next to last sheet - Franklin was 3rd in growth amongst the 30 communities from 1990 to 2009
we are 22 of 23 on Police spending per capita (7 towns currently missing data for the current year - should be added over the next several weeks)

comparison of Fire similar, comparison of DPW more difficult to compare
we rank 14th on per capita overall town budget

in a comparison to Natick the population is similar, yet the growth of Natick since 1990 is 6% versus Franklin in same period of 45%. they have had a growth of 45% in net state aid versus 350% for Franklin in the same period

there are many takeways from this discussion, need to continue to look in the numbers, challenge them, there is a benefit to the simplicity in our peer group, do need to challenge the comparable listing

visibility creates trust so when you include the same listing, it makes it easier, when you start excluding some here and some there, it creates questions

it is not cherry picking the data, it is creating an apples to apples comparison

no matter which way we slice the data, we have a low tax, we are efficient, and we are dependent upon state aid which we have no control over

show the 30 peer communities and include the state average

need to include some value metrics, what are we getting that we are paying for?

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Live reporting - Long Range Financial Planning Committee

Present: Doug Hardesty, Deb Bartlett, Orrin Bean, John Hogan, Ken Harvey, Craig DiMarzio, Graydon Smith, Tina Powderly (Town Council), Jeff Nutting (ex officio) Scott Mason (ex officio) , Sue Rohrbach (School Committee)
Absent:  none

Welcome to Sue Rohrbach, representing the School Committee.

Motion to approve minutes of Jan 5th meeting, passed unanimously

Discussion on committee assignments
Individuals will take the lead on a number of categories (to be added later)

1 - Capital expenditures and debt service - John Hogan
2 - Benchmarking and pensions - Graydon Smith
3 - Salary and benefits (excluding pensions) - Orrin Bean
4 - National trends in municipal finance (includes regionalization) - Craig DiMarzio
5 - Schools - Deb Bartlett
6 - Town revenue, public safety, and other - Ken Harvey
7 - Committee communications and deliverables - Doug Hardesty
(updated 2/13/11)

These individuals would also have the lead for those specific pages in the reports and other deliverables produced by the committee

Obligation to pay retired employee pensions, according to the actuarial analysis the fund is not fully covered. It needs to be fully funded by 2030. There is an annual assessment provided by Norfolk County every year. The fallacy of the pension in MA as elsewhere is they are usually based upon an average annual return of about 8%. This return was not achieved recently nor is likely to be anytime soon, hence the under-funding problem is getting worse. The Town has little say in the matter, it is set in State law dating back to 1937.

Discussions around the Capitol are addressing abuses and will get to the funding issue. The funding issue was created by not funding the pension from 1937 to 1989 during which the pension was "pay as you go". The defined benefit plan is controlled at the State level.

Work ten years to get vested and entitled to a pension. Also get access to full benefits for health insurance. Franklin took on the responsibility for paying for the retiree health benefits about 40-50 years ago. Everybody (retiree) is all in, everybody has to be treated the same. Once the retiree get to 65, they pay and get Medicare, hence come off the Franklin plan (we pay a supplemental benefit). Some employees can hit the rule of 90, that is a combination of age and years of service if equal to 90 maxes their benefits. So if they max and retire in their 50's, they could be collecting from the Town for several years before they reach 65 (when they switch to Medicare). It is a long and complicated issue here in MA. The ability of cities and towns to control the plan design has been a top priority for MA civic leaders for years.

Nutting: You can't balance the problems of the entire health system upon a few employees.

Powderly: The Budget Subcommittee of the Town Council would like this group to look into:

  1. What can we do to manage the growth of the liability for retiree health benefits going forward?
  2. How do we start funding the liability that we have?

The current liability is about $40M. It would take about $2M per year to sufficiently fund it with a trust fund. If we did put the $2M there, that happens to be the amount of free cash which would mean we wouldn't have a capital budget (as it is currently funded from 'free cash').

The average statewide pension is $27,000. We are about that. Not everyone stays for 30 years.

We are spending about 3-4M for the pension funding until about 2030 and then that number would start declining.

For the non-union environment, a management decision is always is the position is full time or part time. If we can get part time, i.e. less than 20 hours, they get salary and no benefits (paid holidays, health care, etc.)

Franklin did move the retired teachers from the State plan to a Franklin-managed plan and saved about $400,000 per year to do so.

Hat's off to all the Franklin employees for being as cooperative as they have been on the health plan design the last several years. They have increased co-pays and helped to save the town big time. Franklin pays 68% and the employees pay 32%, this is already below the State average. Most are still around 80, some are still at 90.

Picking up to review the   report of the prior committee from last year (PDF)

Discussion diverges when we reach page 15. The State averages aren't an appropriate comparison and probably should be re-looked at when this slide is revised.

Discussion on the use of the 3.5% debt service within the operational budget. 

Request for a discussion on how to bring some of these state level systemic issues to the table, who do we talk to, how do we get the state level changes started?

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Want to help with the Long Range Financial Planning?

The Long Range Financial Planning Committee is considering expansion of the Committee by two members. The Committee meets approximately 8-10 times per year and is tasked with looking at the 3-5 year financial picture of the Town. 

Anyone interested in being considered for the Committee may email a letter of interest to the Town Administrator at or fax a copy to 508-520-4903. 

Letters of interest will be  accepted until August 30th. 

This was posted to the Franklin website here:

The committee is currently composed of three Town Council, and two each from the School Committee, Finance Committee and general public. By adding two more citizens, this should help broaden the representation for the citizens.

Current members

Town Council: Scott Mason, Shannon Zollo, Steve Whalen
School Committee: Susan Rohrbach, Roberta Trahan
Finance Committee: Jim Roche (Vice-Chair), Rebecca Cameron
Citizens: Doug Hardesty (Chair), Deb Bartlett

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

Present: Hardesty, Mason, Bartlett, Rohrbach, Roche, Nutting, Sabolinski, Trahan (late)
Absent: Zollo, Whalen, Cameron, (Morrison)

Agenda document and draft list of "things to do"

FPC Agenda Priority 2010-08-11

Town budget status:
Nutting - negotiating the contract with the architect on the high school, still targeting next Nov (Nov 2011) for a debt exclusion question to pay for the renovation

Lost almost $3.2 million in state aid the last couple of years; this was offset by 522,000 in school aid (which still has not been received).

Approx Jun/Jul 2011 should have a proposal for the MSBA to approve by the middle of July so that Franklin could schedule the vote for the regular Nov 2011 scheduled election. Otherwise, a special date would need to be set.

Brendan Morrison has left the committee, should there be a replacement? or stay with nine.

Make offer to consider adding any interested, Jeff will post to the Town website. Scott will announce at the Council meeting.

Web site:
Who can take on the task of checking on the posting of the committee documents to the website? Jim Roche will. Jeff will let Diane know that Jim may call regarding the committee documents.

Bargaining Confidentiality background:
No party discusses the status of what is going on until there is an agreement on both sides.
Broad parameters are set during an executive session prior to negotiation commencement.

Committee priorities:
(see listing - to be attached later)

Discussion to clarify what's on the listing and if there needs to be additional items.
Should the committee be "Just the fact's Mame" or should it be an advocacy group?
Creating a generally accessible document is one thing, advocating for the details, explaining the ins and outs is not the same thing as advocating for or against an override.

Need to understand cost control to reference readily
1 - What is under Franklin's control, what is out of our hands and in the hands of either the State (Beacon Hill) or Congress (Washington)

2 - There are two things to show: (1) the number of employees (i.e. Fire, Police, etc.) comparable to a similar sized community and (2) how their salary compares to other similar communities. These are available and updated regularly.

There seems to be a recurring theme around a lack of trust and creditability.

Ongoing item of differentiating the capital budget and the operating budget. How well do we explain the use of free cash and the capital budget?

Anything to add to the listing?

  • Clarification on the charter of the committee, at least to review and re-evaluate the current charter
  • If the Administration is already producing a three year outlook beyond the operating budget, why are we producing a report? Should we focus on validating and questioning the current process documents? 

For next time: committee to pick three things to do brilliantly well, what would be the most worthy of our time? Also choose two or three things that should come off the listing.

Exceptions: updating the five year plan remains on the listing and does not need to be amongst the three. Monitoring the web site hits is one that can come off the listing. It is necessary but not something that needs to be done everyday.

Next meeting Sep 8th, 7:00 PM

Note email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin Matters to view the documents

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

Present: Hardesty, Roche, Cameron, Bartlett, Whalen, Rohrbach, Zollo
Absent: Morrison, Trahan, Mason, Nutting, Sabolinski

What is the next thing we can do to have an incremental effect?

Update forecast, provide an estimate on next years shortage
How do we control costs going forward, esp with 80% of our costs in employee compensation

How many towns have passed overrides around us?

need to re-do the report to make it more easily understandable, i.e. what impact does it have on me!

(Roche left)

Town of Wakefield Chap 70 inequity example

Norfolk, MA failed their override 6/22/10
The override did not pass. 1,806 votes, which is 29% of registered voters. Yes 571, No 1,235

what are the spending priorities over the next several years?
solicit input on the level of services and what services should be kept
what is the spending priority list?

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee Report

F. HEARINGS - none


1. Report of the Financial Planning Committee
Doug Hardesty, Chair presents the update
Report link provided earlier

Anticipated State Aid decrease of approx. $1.7 M

Page 4 - tells an accurate story of the forecast plus the adjustments

(Vallee arrives late)

fundamentally, about 1% off the original forecast but all adjustments are understood and explainable

Page 5 - The high school construction project, assuming it continues roughly on schedule would not significantly affect the forecast in the next five years. The bulk of that increase is assumed to hit just after.

An 8 M shortage is realistic, a range of 5 - 10 M is highly likely given the variability of the factors in the forecast.

Page 6 - of the neighboring communities, we are #1 in receipt of State Aid. 75% above the average for State Aid.

Property taxes lower than peers, school per pupil spending is less than peers, debt service is also below the peer average
There is not a category where are spending more than our peers, we are consistently spending less

Page 7 - Decline in services has been significant
Inflation 2-3 years down the road could change the forecast
Regionalization is an opportunity for cost containment, it takes time, cooperation, and negotiation

No questions from the Council...

 Franklin, MA

Franklin, MA: Mid-year Financial Update

The updated financial outlook prepared by the Financial Planning Committee for discussion at the Town Council, Wednesday, April 28, 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

FM #63 Week Ending 4/4/10

This is #63 in the series. Let's take less than 10 minutes to find out what matters in Franklin, MA as the week comes to a close on April 4th, 2010.

Time: 4 minutes, 53 seconds

MP3 File

Session Notes:

This internet radio show or podcast is number 63 in the series for Franklin Matters.

Let's take about 10 minutes to review what matters in Franklin, MA as the week ends Sunday April 4th.

In this session I cover the Financial Planning Committee meeting that occurred March 31 and look ahead to the Town Council meeting on April 7th.

You should recall that the Financial Planning Committee is the one chartered as a subcommittee of the Town Council to put together the long term or five year financial plan for Franklin. The committee prepared their first report last year.

You can view that here.

The group is focused on updating the report with current numbers. They are concerned about showing where the numbers have changed, and why, against the baseline forecast. The forecast for this year is remarkably close to where we were predicted to be overall.

They also need to review the proposed action items and show what progress has been made on them. While much progress has been made (I'll leave it to the report to provide the details), the financial situation still requires action. The choice is to continue to cut services or raise taxes to maintain the level of service we have reached.

I know the “o” word is very sensitive but there should be a discussion about our priorities. There should also be a choice provided to the voters.

The Town Council meeting on April 7th will be a good one on a number of fronts.

1 – Rep Vallee and Sen Spilka are scheduled to provide a legislative update on the Chapter 70 and other state aid coming to Franklin.

2 – Jeff Nutting should have the opportunity to provide an update on what this means for the overall Town Budget. As you may recall, the School budget proposed to increase 2.2 M. Technically, they can't call it a “level service” budget as they are adding back the late bus. Word has it that they should be looking more at a level funded budget at best.

3 – Wording on the Charter changes has been finalized so now the Council will get to discuss it again before deciding to send it forward or not. If it does go to the legislature, the charter changes still will come back to Franklin for the registered voters to have a vote and accept or reject.

For the full schedule of Franklin Meetings, check out the town website

As I close this session this week, let me remind you that

  • If you like what I am doing here, please tell your friends and neighbors
  • If you don’t like something, please tell me

Thank you for listening!

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

Present: Whalen, Hardesty, Nutting, Zollo, Sabolinksi, Mason, Rohrbach, Bartlett, Morrison, Cameron (late)
Absent: Roche, Trahan

Meeting opens

Agenda -

  1. Whalen update on his analysis with additional columns added
  2. Review forecast
  3. Override question
  4. Meeting schedule

    1 - Whalen added several columns to pull in the students and teacher populations for the communities already being compared to

    Teacher salary ranks higher than others but that is and has been a deliberate choice of the School Committee to ensure that the best teachers are here.

    Hiring teachers in specific subjects like Chemistry, Physics, Science, Math, Biology and Special Education have tended to be higher cost because of the demand and experience for their skill set.

    Still need to look into Wrentham, Southboro and other communities were they are not K-12 districts.

    According to the DESE numbers, Franklin is now under the State average in all 11 categories tracked at the state level for per pupil spending

    2 - Moving to the forecast numbers

    use 5% for the municipal interest rate for the model, 20 year term for the debt service for the high school
    might have some start in 2012 but realistically it should be 2014-2015

    We'd need to take say 5 million for the architect, there would be a small impact to the tax payers for that, then a year or so we'd take some for the construction schedule, maybe 20, then 30 and roll it all up. The shovels wouldn't go into the ground right away and then it would take time to finish.

    On the state aid forecast, there are three plans - best case, moderate, worst case. Discussion around assuming 0%, moderate a 3% drop, worst case a 5% drop (for 2013, with 2014 flat)

    Chapter 70 is formula driven

    Our purpose is to forecast what is reasonable and likely, it may not be accurate but who knows what it really will be.

    There is also the economic factor, it may simply continue down due to the state not figuring out their economic problems

    Will need to adjust the local receipts as they are primarily excise taxes and not likely to increase as drafted, more likely to remain flatter and then gradually increase

    Local receipts are income based - building permits, license fees, etc.
    likely to be flat this year, next and then increase gradually

    Property tax should be adjusted to show more of a difference between best case and worst case

    Discussion on how to handle the deferral, can't really change the number because it was forecasted and shown previously. Not changing the number so that it matches the prior report, should make it easier to handle the updates via footnotes or a reconciliation report.

    As a long-term planning group we want to provide a baseline and reasonable assumptions for the forecast, we can't be changing the numbers every time there is a new hunch or change in the numbers.

    2012 and beyond, salary assumption is for historical rate of growth
    There is virtue in picking the historical average, it is defensible and everyone can "get it". What other numbers could be used would be open to much more speculation.

    The bottom line in the whole report is that business as usual is not sustainable here in Franklin.

    When you weigh in Hopkinton, Medfield, Sharon and Hudson they are the only ones where their performance is close to our results. The teachers are compensated well. We are spending our bang for the buck on student performance (i.e. MCAS) which we will see in our housing values.

    Current contracts are running 2-3 percent over three years. Everybody seems to be getting at least one zero. In years past, everybody got 7-9 percent over three years. Not now.

    Even if we assume no raises, there is still a deficit to be dealt with. The problem is bigger than salary increases.

    Policy of Council is to spend 3.5% of the general fund revenues. So as the general revenues increase according to the forecast, then there would be a corresponding increase.

    Doug will update the numbers based upon the discussion and send around an update.

    3 - Override question
    2 councils have endorsed the long term plan
    The "O" word is such a sensitive issue
    The report has established credibility (the numbers this year are close to accurate)
    Spell it out that the prior recommendations have been unable to avoid further deficits.
    The alternative this year should be a consideration for the citizens to make a choice between cuts and an increase.

    Need to open the door for the discussion, presenting the facts
    Get to a multi-year strategy for 2011 and beyond
    Need to mitigate the financial risk of being #1 in State Aid and 28th in terms of local revenue generated amongst our peer communities.

    4 - Target for report update at Apr 28th Council meeting
    Jeff provides budget update at Apr 7th Council meeting
    When to schedule the Finance Committee review? Should include them as a preview on the report before going to the Council.

    Discussion on scheduling another meeting before the 28th, 14 or 21st possible, chose not to schedule a meeting for now. Can schedule one if necessary.

    Franklin, MA

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    FM #62 - Week ending 3/28/10

    This is #62 in the series for Franklin Matters. Let's take less than 10 minutes to review what matters in Franklin, MA as the week ends 3/28/10.

    Time: 7 minutes, 30 seconds

    MP3 File

    Session Notes:

    This internet radio show or podcast is number 62 in the series for Franklin Matters.

    Let's take about 10 minutes to review what matters in Franklin as the week ends Sunday March 28th.

    In this session I cover four meetings Planning Board, Finance Committee, the School Committee meeting and the Financial Planning Committee that occurred this past week.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

    Present: Jim Roche, Scott Mason, Sue Rohrbach, Steve Whalen, Doug Hardesty, Deb Bartlett, Brendan Morrison, Jeff Nutting, Shannon Zollo (late)
    Absent: Roberta Trahan, Rebecca Cameron

    Oct 8th 2009 minutes to be approved, motion to approve, passed.

    Motion for Doug Hardesty to be chair, seconded, passed
    Held off on other positions until some of the paperwork gets through to make the revisions to the committee "official".

    The mix of the committee will now be

    • 3 members of the Town Council (Mason, Whalen, Zollo)
    • 2 from the Finance Committee (Roche, Cameron) 
    • 2 from the School Committee (Trahan, Rohrbach)
    • 3 citizens (Bartlett, Hardesty, Morrison)

    First objective of this meeting to hear from Jeff Nutting on the budget update and start from there

    estimated total revenues

    • FY 09 - 88.3  
    • FY 10 - 89.0 
    • FY 11 - 88.6 

    The FY 11 numbers are based upon Senate numbers, House numbers have not yet been released
    overall 4% decline with local receipts and state aid

    State Aid maybe a little higher with local receipts a little lower
    Will have a better handle in 2-3 weeks when Legislature makes some decisions
    House Ways/Means budget usually available around school vacation

    Usually the House number doesn't get lower so it can be used as a baseline

    Total Town deficit currently about 3.3 to 3.5M (combined Town and Schools)

    The FY 10 budget has the deferred cost of living increase (COLA) wage increase for the brief portion of June for the last pay period into July 1. The FY 11 does not have anything currently budgeted for COLA increases for any of the "to be negotiated" agreements with the bargaining units.

    Town departmental budgets will be coming in flat with increases only in areas where known expenses have increased (i.e. gasoline cost up $100,000 over last year).

    Positions where folks have left (resigned) have not been re-filled with new folks.

    Steve Whalen provides an update on his spreadsheet with the comparisons amongst the 31 communities
    Franklin is 3 of 31 in population growth; Hopkinton for example grew at a faster rate although less in total.
    Franklin is 22 of 31 for per pupil spending, 9,995; 2 years later up only $400 but sunk to 28th
    - Wrentham needs to be looked at, it maybe a K-8 district (i.e. King Phillip Regional has the high school)

    Franklin was 13th for teacher salary, now we are at 5th (due to the teacher reductions on the lower end of the salary scale). The School Board has also acknowledged keeping the teachers in a competitive position as that affects the student performance in the classroom

    2009 property tax bill 22nd then, 22nd now

    residential tax burden was 25th, still 25th

    to give a general sense of how much debt we have, we haven't changed position, hence we are well managed

    Franklin is 20% below the medium on tax burden but we are 76% above the medium on State aid returned to the community! This is the significant issue that will hurt us until we lessen our dependence upon State Aid.

    the next two sheets break out by towns with single vs. split tax rates
    the consequences of the decision to remain with a single tax rate need to be fully understood.
    we are ranked 11th on tax rate for communities where they do have a split tax rate.
    we are ranked 12th on tax rate for communities with a single tax rate
    we have a lower tax burden and lower tax rate against comparable communities with either a single or split tax rate.

    we are trying to do something that is impossible, to have a really low tax rate and a high quality of living

    we are a well run, efficient, lean town that doesn't have a lot of taxes.
    27 communities are sacrificing more (i.e. paying higher taxes) to get less results (i.e. MCAS performance) than we are getting

    the biggest exposure we have is our reliance on State Aid.
    need to find a way to make these numbers human readable

    After Steve's update the discussion turned to overall process:

    • What annual date should we have as a target to update the full set of numbers?
    • How do we incorporate an update with what the forecasted numbers were? need to tell the story on the reconciliation (where we were vs where we are)
    • Extend the analysis by a year.
    • Need to also update the progress on the action items

    What is the timing for bringing this to the Town Council as part of the budget process?
    Should be ready for the Apr 28th meeting

    next meeting 3/31/10 7:00 PM

    Franklin, MA

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

    Jim Roche, Chairman
    Doug Hardesty, Vice-Chair

    The report as presented during April has been updated with the latest numbers on this years budget and an updated forecast for the next few years.
    The deficit is structural and continuing. The biggest impact will be felt next year.
    Prior deficits were resolved with a variety of one time fixes. These are not available.

    Teacher salaries will increase in the first ten years, due to market dynamics. This is one example. The structural deficit will continue year in and year out.

    The limitation on property taxes is a factor, the other factor is we are dependent more than surrounding towns on State Aid.

    Motion to add resolution 09-69 to the agenda. Motion to approve, 9-0

    Vallee arrives

    Endorsement - text to be provided later
    Motion to approve, passed 9-0

    Amendment proposed to add "declining" to the sentence.

    Judy speaking against adoption as the new Council will have to live with it. She will abstain.
    Vallee will join Pfeffer in abstaining.
    Whalen speaks for this Council endorsing
    Doak speaks for this Council endorsing
    Zollo agrees that the next Council will have to live with it, This is an unbiased report, they allowed the facts to come to a unanimous conclusion. There was a wide variance on the objectives and outcomes at the beginning but the outcome is clear.

    Motion to approve, 7-0, 2 abstain (Pfeffer, Vallee)


    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Financial Planning Committee Report - updated

    The updated and "final" report from the Financial Planning Committee is on the agenda for the Town Council meeting Wednesday.

    You can review (or download) a copy of the report from the Town website here.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    In the News - long term plan, state budget woes

    Franklin planners: Override or cut services loom

    from The Milford Daily News Homepage RSS by Ashley Studley/Daily News staff

    Minor corrections to the article. The reports distribution will be to the committee for final review, then to the Town Council to prepare them for their meeting Oct 21. Once finalized, then the report will be available to the current Town Council candidates and to the general population.

    The report currently on the Town website is the version reviewed at the open forum held April 27 and reported on here.

    Bottom line, the report was brought up to date with the current numbers. When developed earlier this year all the numbers were projections for the FY 2010 budget. Now that the budget is finalized, those numbers were updated throughout the report.


    State budget gap could grow from bad to worse

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Live reporting - Financial Planning Committee

    Attending: Bartlett, Sabolinski, Roche, Kelly, Hardesty, Whalen, Nutting, Cameron,
    Missing: Wilschek, Trahan, Zollo

    Also present: Glenn Jones (Town Council candidate), Ashley Studley (Milford Daily News reporter)

    Reviewing the updated slide deck, slides have the most recent numbers from the FY 2010 budget cycle.

    A couple of numbers here and there require further checking.

    The train left the station for the high school renovation project, the only question is how many folks jump on. In first or second quarter of 2011 we should have an opportunity to vote on the final number. The state would pay during the early construction period. We would only have to pay our portion in 2012 and after.

    We have a good record in that we have built three schools for a total of about $200 per tax bill.

    Discussion on how to estimate the high school cost. We will know sometime around next October what the number could be but we don't know now.

    Should we include a slide on the roads? Many towns try to budget for road repaving, we don't budget anything. We use Chap 90 and Water funds when we can rebuild the road. We need to acknowledge that the State gives us a lot of money to fix our roads.

    You can plan to put something aside for the roads in an up economy that you can't do in a down economy. We should start building a road fund similar to what we have done with the snow/ice.

    Municipal per capita spending was added, to provide a comparison against the peers, neighbors and the state average.

    The adjustments can be corrected this weekend. Get it to the councilors as soon as completed. They will have time to review it before the next council meeting. The last one before the election.