Showing posts with label focus group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label focus group. Show all posts

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The most important element of a good gathering


The most important element of a good gathering

Dear friends,
 
The single biggest mistake we make when trying to gather — whether physically or virtually — is assuming we already know its purpose. 

Even in our physically-together-normal-circumstances-gatherings, we assume the purpose is obvious. In these Corona times, as physical gatherings are fumbling into virtual ones, purpose becomes even more crucial. We now have a unique opportunity to investigate why we are gathering. Let me give you an example.

Over the past few months, millions of teachers have been scrambling to figure out how to teach their courses remotely. My mother-in-law, Nandini, is one of them.
 
She's a ceramics teacher at an all-girls school who now has to teach remotely. Without a kiln. Without clay. Without a way to squeeze a hand to show the right amount of pressure to apply when burnishing a vessel. It's hard to imagine a more physically-dependent gathering.
 
So without any of the tools she would normally have to teach, Nandini was forced to ask herself a set of questions:

  • Why do I teach this course?
  • How do I want my students to be different because of this experience?
  • What is the purpose of my class?

She realized she wanted her students to be confident problem-solvers, to be risk-takers, and to be able to create something from nothing. Ceramics was the medium but not the actual purpose
 
Nandini wanted them to keep using their hands, and to limit screen time. She wanted to keep them working in 3-D. She wanted them to be resourceful and use only materials they already had in their homes.  

My mother-in-law changes the class from ceramics to papermâché. She gave the project a new name: "Dinnerware with Paper". And she allowed for some creative freedom: they could make anything that could be put on a table. She also promised that she would still display their work at the school, once it reopened. She told me, "We will still honor their work."  
 
One of the biggest mistakes we make when converting a physical gathering into a virtual one is assuming it will look the same, just online.

As you are thinking about hosting virtual gatherings, don't confuse your assumed activity with the gathering's purpose. Your planning should always begin by asking first: What is the purpose now? 

Here are some questions to help you get clear on your gathering's purpose:

  • What is the desired outcome? 
  • Who is this gathering for (primarily)?
  • If all goes well, how might the guests be different because of this gathering?
  • How do you want people to feel when they walk away? 
  • If your virtual gathering is replacing an in-person one, has the purpose changed? Is it the same as we originally intended, or has the need changed? 
  • What is the role of the host, and what is the role of guests?

If this was helpful for you, I invite you to share this newsletter with a friend, one whom you feel always makes your gatherings a little bit brighter. 

Warmest, 

Priya 

P.S. For a deeper dive, check out my book, The Art of Gathering


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long Range Financial Planning Committee reports tonight

Milford Daily News
Posted Apr 15, 2009 @ 12:49 AM

FRANKLIN —

Tonight, the Long-Range Financial Planning Committee will present its report to Town Council, which couldn't be better timing, said Town Administrator Jeffrey D. Nutting.

"The report explains why the cost of existing town services is expected to grow faster than revenue for the foreseeable future," said Douglas Hardesty, vice chairman of the long-range committee.

"It also offers recommendations for addressing this problem. The committee believes the report will help residents trust that the problem is real and recognize that Franklin's future is tied to how we respond as a community to this crisis," said Hardesty, who is going to make the presentation.

read the full article in the Milford Daily News here

For all the reporting on the Financial Planning Committee meetings check the "Meeting Summaries" section on Franklin Matters.

For a summary of the focus group feedback used to prepare this report check here


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FM #37 - Focus group recap

This is #37 in the series of podcasts on what matters in Franklin, MA. In this session I recap the feedback from the two Focus groups that the Financial Planning Committee held on 4/2/09.

Time: 14 minutes, 14 seconds



MP3 File

Session Notes

I spent some time going back through the Focus Group notes that were published here and here to try and come up with a summary. The multiple pages of the two sets of notes can be overwhelming. Of course, the report the Financial Planning Committee is putting together is at the root of this. As much as there is in the report, it needs to be as simple as possible and answer as many questions as possible. That is the challenge!

Why were there two sessions?
To simplify the feedback, one group was given the Executive Summary and the other group was given the detailed report. Each session handled one section of the report.

Initial reactions
  • There was fear in reading this, we moved here because the school system was good, now that it appears to be going down hill, what will it be like when my kids get there (into school)?
  • This is information never really seen together, the facts are good, also left (me) with a lot of questions.
  • It's scary that this hasn't been done before.
  • I am shocked to see how much disproportionately we are dependent upon the state compared to other towns. This raises some concerns that we can do what we think is right but that the state can change and we don't have control.
  • Gee, we are getting an extraordinary value for what we are getting.

What does this tell me?
Across both sessions, the initial reactions were similar. The responses were similar whether they saw the Executive Summary or the detailed report. The numbers are staggering but they are what they are.

Interesting to find out that this (five year plan) has been done before. One indicated at least three times but each time the information was not maintained and hence obsolete quickly.
Action - Franklin does need to maintain this plan, period!

Other key comments
  • Call to action, unified communications will be key
  • Perception is that the town is always finding money.
  • One of the first things that struck me was one of the last things you say on Page 9; “our forecasts excludes certain future costs” I understand why you need to say that but will anyone of those blow up and destroy what we have done in this report?
  • I think our town needs to look at this at the community as a whole, I think there are parts of the town that look at one department or the other, there is a perception of that, starting from the top,
  • With all the issues that Franklin has, it does come down to school, it is a big part of town,we are talking of the future of this town, it drives the property values, if we don't come together now and fix it, we are talking of the future of the town.
What does this tell me?
While Jeff Nutting is fond of saying "There are no secrets here", there are quite a few folks who don't believe that. Transparency is not just a good thing. Transparency is a requirement.

A unified front will help dispel the inaccurate perceptions. If the Town Council, School Committee and Finance Committee join together in saying with one voice, this is what needs to be done, then there will be some credibility. If there are disconnects, there will be problems.
Choice: United, we will stand. Divided, we will be conquered.
Additional Explanations Needed
  • Charts need to be fully labeled
  • How do we explain the State Aid formula?
  • Tri-County funding, what do we pay per student compared to Franklin?
  • Need a better explanation of the DOE numbers where the line was added to ensure a total.
  • Can we compare the % of the Franklin school, fire, police budget to the other communities?
  • Explain tax levy (what it includes, excludes).
  • What about the consolidation efforts on the Town side, not very visible.
  • Explanation of capital versus operational dollars
  • Review pages (eg. Page 4, 5, 17) to see if graphs or pie charts would make the information easier to read.
  • Page 21, it says “what can we do about it?” but there is not enough detail here to make a decision. "Improving process efficiency" What does that mean?
  • Split tax rate, needs an explanation of why or why not.
  • Explain debt service as a part of operational dollars
What does this say to me?
As much as there were comments about "there is too much information", what ever is published needs to be accurate and simple. One page needs to tie to another. Some basic information and terms need to be explained. We (deliberately, the "collective we") need to set the table for the discussion with the proper definitions and explanations so that the discussion can proceed around the same set of facts.

Action: Some minor tweaks remain to tighten up the numbers and explanations.

--------------

This podcast has been a public service provided to my fellow citizens of Franklin, MA

For additional information, please visit Franklinmatters.blogspot.com/

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

The musical intro and closing is from the Podsafe Music Network
Jon Schmidt - Powerful Exhilarating Piano Music

Inside the Focus Groups

I spent some time going back through the Focus Group notes that were published here and here to try and come up with a summary. The multiple pages of the two sets of notes can be overwhelming. Of course, the report the Financial Planning Committee is putting together is at the root of this. As much as there is in the report, it needs to be as simple as possible and answer as many questions as possible. That is the challenge!

Why were there two sessions?
To simplify the feedback, one group was given the Executive Summary and the other group was given the detailed report. Each session handled one section of the report.

Initial reactions
  • There was fear in reading this, we moved here because the school system was good, now that it appears to be going down hill, what will it be like when my kids get there (into school)?
  • This is information never really seen together, the facts are good, also left (me) with a lot of questions.
  • It's scary that this hasn't been done before.
  • I am shocked to see how much disproportionately we are dependent upon the state compared to other towns. This raises some concerns that we can do what we think is right but that the state can change and we don't have control.
  • Gee, we are getting an extraordinary value for what we are getting.

What does this tell me?
Across both sessions, the initial reactions were similar. The responses were similar whether they saw the Executive Summary or the detailed report. The numbers are staggering but they are what they are.

Interesting to find out that this (five year plan) has been done before. One indicated at least three times but each time the information was not maintained and hence obsolete quickly.
Action - Franklin does need to maintain this plan, period!

Other key comments
  • Call to action, unified communications will be key
  • Perception is that the town is always finding money.
  • One of the first things that struck me was one of the last things you say on Page 9; “our forecasts excludes certain future costs” I understand why you need to say that but will anyone of those blow up and destroy what we have done in this report?
  • I think our town needs to look at this at the community as a whole, I think there are parts of the town that look at one department or the other, there is a perception of that, starting from the top,
  • With all the issues that Franklin has, it does come down to school, it is a big part of town,we are talking of the future of this town, it drives the property values, if we don't come together now and fix it, we are talking of the future of the town.
What does this tell me?
While Jeff Nutting is fond of saying "There are no secrets here", there are quite a few folks who don't believe that. Transparency is not just a good thing. Transparency is a requirement.

A unified front will help dispel the inaccurate perceptions. If the Town Council, School Committee and Finance Committee join together in saying with one voice, this is what needs to be done, then there will be some credibility. If there are disconnects, there will be problems.
Choice: United, we will stand. Divided, we will be conquered.
Additional Explanations Needed
  • Charts need to be fully labeled
  • How do we explain the State Aid formula?
  • Tri-County funding, what do we pay per student compared to Franklin?
  • Need a better explanation of the DOE numbers where the line was added to ensure a total.
  • Can we compare the % of the Franklin school, fire, police budget to the other communities?
  • Explain tax levy (what it includes, excludes).
  • What about the consolidation efforts on the Town side, not very visible.
  • Explanation of capital versus operational dollars
  • Review pages (eg. Page 4, 5, 17) to see if graphs or pie charts would make the information easier to read.
  • Page 21, it says “what can we do about it?” but there is not enough detail here to make a decision. "Improving process efficiency" What does that mean?
  • Split tax rate, needs an explanation of why or why not.
  • Explain debt service as a part of operational dollars
What does this say to me?
As much as there were comments about "there is too much information", what ever is published needs to be accurate and simple. One page needs to tie to another. Some basic information and terms need to be explained. We (deliberately, the "collective we") need to set the table for the discussion with the proper definitions and explanations so that the discussion can proceed around the same set of facts.

Action: Some minor tweaks remain to tighten up the numbers and explanations.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Financial Planning Committee - Focus Group - Part 2

These are the notes from the second session of the Focus Group held Thursday night by the Financial Planning Committee. The first session was spent reviewing the detailed 30-odd page report. This session covered the Executive Summary (approx. 10 pages). This session you won't read about in the Milford Daily News.

The same conventions mentioned for the first session are used here.

Second session – Focus Group

Financial Planning Committee - observers (Gwen Wilschek, Matt Kelly, Jim Roche, Rebecca Cameron)

Facilitator - Doug Hardesty

Focus Group participants (note, I tried to come close to spelling your name correctly based upon the round of introductions. If there are mis-spellings, please let me know and I will correct them.)

Tom Duval (?)

Ramsey Kurdy (?)

Kaitlyn Cronin

Sara Lawrence

Liz Kennedy

Louis Landry

Joe Cappels (?)

Jim Schliefke

Jean Silba (?)

Mark Scurella (?)


Doug's opening comments -

Good honest, unbiased information on where we are and outlook for next 5 years

Come to the table with the same set of facts.

How to digest all that we hear and come to a conclusion.


What are your 2 or 3 key takeaways or messages?

As we all know, the expenses of the Town have outpaced the aid from the state. We have to figure out a way to bring them closer together. That's the main gist of this.

I agree, then add that “gee we are getting an extraordinary value for what we are getting.”

I have to say I am shocked by the amount of state aid we get compared to our peers.

That is also disconcerting, it is a risk, what happens next year or year after? What is the strategy, what are our other options?

I can remember a long time ago, when my son was very young, Jim Vallee said this (the state revenue) is great but at some point we are going to have to pay our fair share. My son was 18 months old and Jim was saying this is going to be a problem, now my son is 17.

Five years ago, no one wanted to burst the bubble, we started taking from the stabilization instead of looking at the discrepancy.

We are efficient with what we do have, how do we increase, we are limited by prop 2.5.

What if we raised the commercial tax a buck? Doesn't that mean only that our residential tax goes down a buck? There isn't really an increase overall.

We have a single tax rate, not a split tax rate. We did comparisons carefully to ensure we were comparing apples to apples not apples to oranges.

When I look at some of these towns, Medfield, look at, Natick, Foxboro.

I can't imagine all of these towns have the same amount of corporate taxes as we have.

We picked towns with single tax rate, took into account the mix, tried to get clear peer comparisons.

Are towns with dual tax rates, in the same circumstances?

I think it might be good to point out you still get the same amount of revenue. It can't increase it more than 2.5%

There are people in this town that are facing a decision about staying here or not.

Consider the split tax, as one of the options? Exploring. The answer might be no. If we did that and lost EMC that would be a consideration.

Do the due diligence.

Page 2 - Spending levels are low. Look at the debt and when it will be paid off, compare the debt service. I'd like to see that compared to the other towns. Is that part and parcel to the debt. We have built the Senior ctr, two fire stations, schools, when is that being paid off, will that free up some cash for future use?

Did you have a reaction as you went through this? What was it?

The projections for 2014, that more than anything drives home that something needs to be done

The one that jumped out at me was the 31 percent contribution, that is a concern.

When we see the school deficit at 3.5 million, is there a town side, why don't we see that?

Teacher population relatively young, income rises quicker. Teachers required to get masters within five years. State wide, nation wide teacher salaries will increase at a faster rate.

Can we clarify pension costs esp. on the teacher side? What surprised me was the lack of surprises, kudos to those who have been saying this for years, to me, it is nothing new.

The pensions for the teachers are self funding, the town does not pay towards teacher pensions. I know that last year some town leaders said otherwise and that is not true.

Well then, why did the article last week talk about the teacher who would be retiring and complaining about not getting 2,000?

You get your pension determined by the last three years of your salary, and then you get 80% of that. So if she took the freeze for one year, she would lose that amount for the rest of her life.

That article was not well reported, you can't only read the newspaper.

I had to read the article three times to understand it.

For many years I only lived and slept here, never read the Gazette, checked out the pictures to see if there was someone I knew, never recognized anyone. I read the Globe but there is very little coverage in the Globe. I just started reading the Gazette to find out if they are going to take away full day kindergarten. Talk to another reporter at the Globe, maybe you will pick up a different set of people in the Globe to spread the word.

Do you feel this is accurate and unbiased?

I think you can. Nothing here surprises me, I have been waiting for this for 20 years. This is an excellent document. I don't know how to get people to read it, or to just ask one more question. They seem set, angry about some one thing. I don't know how to get passed that.

As an example. Jefferson/Remington, when it was opening, we sent out 1000 letters to pre-school parents, one person came. We tried to get the Globe, they wouldn't come. How do you get people to have the conversation?

That is a problem, I don't know where people are getting their information. My perspective is relatively uninformed. The “found money” is coming back to bite us, the numbers appear to conflict.

Where has this document been? Should it not be mailed to every home every week? I'll take it myself, forget giving it to the post office. I think it is really important to get this.

Should we have their mother sign off?

They should!

What are the next steps?

The goal of the exec summary is to not have to read the 30 page report. The goal is to get the right information into the hands of the citizens. We have a community forum planned for April 27th. It is not realistic that even if we get in it to every hand, that they will read it understand.

I would really consider mailing it to every home. There is a certain segment of the population that are not given the facts.

And understanding what the implications are of this, we say it at a high level, but what are the specifics?

We are up to the part of solving the problem. We haven't done that. It is clear that we need to take action. The last page gets into these are the some of the levers we have at our disposal. Does it appear that we are advocating or downplaying?

You are downplaying the override. That is fine. It is the last item on the page, we need to explore it.

We always seem to go through the steps before we have the override. The steps don't get us to where we need to be, so the override comes up. It seems like we go through the steps,

I had a good assessment, it increased and the taxes went up, override raised more (I voted for it), and the taxes went up again. Then you cried wolf again for another override. I didn't vote for that one. I wanted to see how it played out. I don't have kids in the schools. We give the impression that this is what it is.

The high school seemed it was like a huge debacle, you couldn't get a decent contractor, or you got the highest priced one. The library is falling apart, they are trying to fix it but it is fallen down. Every year here, you have asked for more money.

Never gets done, keeps sucking the tax payers dry.

That is the perception. In the area of Franklin that I live, there are houses going up every where, McMansions everywhere with families, there are houses that weren't here 9 years ago, how are you not getting more money? A lot of people in those homes don't have eight kids, they have one child, maybe.

I actually wrote that down, has the infrastructure has been surpassed by the growth of the Town?

They haven't increased to support those new neighborhoods. There are more roads to plow, more trash to pick up, don't need police to go there, no gangs there. I could be naive.

There is gap between what we see and what we are being told related to finances. What are the What are the horror stories you hear and see.

Everything in the schools has been getting cut three years in a row, the town side of the budget is mismanaged. It seems like the town has made the choice to invest in the town, not the schools.

The town gets to set the budget and they have made the choice to invest in the capital and not in the schools, that is a choice. People see the new buildings and don't understand the difference between the capital and operations.

The newspaper doesn't help. We are loosing 60 teachers and then the paper says we have a million dollars of “free cash”. Doesn't make sense. Using stabilization funds for re-curring cost before set precedent. Perception is that the town is always finding money. It is very hard to understand, extremely complicated for the average person to understand the process, very hard.

We are below everyone, those are real numbers, they are not made up.

A few years ago, there was an override and it all went down in flames. Yet they went ahead to buy a special ed van to provide the support for the kids. It was cheaper than going out for the service. We get a great bang for our buck but the rubber band is going to snap. I don't know how we are going to do it without raising tax. This has been happening since 2000. While other towns are cutting fat, we are cutting hearts and lungs.

In bigger numbers we have to come out and ask questions. Then if you vote, no that is your right. I just don't know how we get the folks to understand and ask the questions.

I think this is a good first step, look at the tax base, we are going to have to consider this

Everyone in the room has a question. Do you think given what is in the executive summary, people are going to be able to make a decision?

You need to explain capital versus operations.

The dual tax would come up, capital versus operations will come up.

I look in the Gazette and see this listing of great things for the Seniors to do. Seniors going by bus to Foxwoods for 4 bucks. How does that happen? Rather than spending town money to have my kid in a class with less than 30 kids? And my mother told me that most senior centers get grants to fund that, so I shouldn't pick on the seniors. Duh, grants and not Town spending. So you need to explain the grants. It's a perception thing.

I have young children coming into the school system. You can't set 'us versus them', those with kids vs without, these are two of the more vocal camps.

I was at a kindergarten registration session. A mother came in with six kids and said 'I am not giving this town another red cent'. I don't know how she comes to that.

I have a question: on Page 5, when I add 31 and 45, what makes up the other percents? Where is the rest of the money?

On Page 6, the school spending per pupil by town and the state average. The Globe did this, with the 31 towns in comparison to the other towns. I still have it and should have brought it.

On the next page, Page 7, does it or does it not include state subsidies? (in the state minimum spending).

I don't believe it is looking to the source, it is simply looking at the total spend.

On Page 8, I am not a big fan of rankings anyway, it says, our ranking is likely to fall, well other towns are in the same situation, so it may not really change a whole lot.

Is there a perspective that we are missing?

It always comes to the bottom line, schools, you're not going to change anybody's mind. There is more accuracy in the annual Town report than this. There is a copy on the desk down by the door. Pick one up. It is good reading.

Make due with what you have, you got to spend within your means. Franklin should be run like a business, they never did and never will, so it is cut, cut, cut. They have had enough of taxes, enough of spending, they have had it. If the job is hundred thousand, take a cut, if they don't like it, have them go elsewhere. Can't take a 15% cut in pay, go elsewhere, businesses are doing that out there.

They should look at salary structure in Franklin vs other towns. You know that Franklin is much more higher than some of these other towns. I am just saying from what you hear out there. From what you hear, get the town report and see how ridiculous it is

One of the first things that struck me was one of the last things you say on Page 9; “our forecasts excludes certain future costs” I understand why you need to say that but will anyone of those blow up and destroy what we have done in this report? By 2014 with projected expenses, by 2014 with the high school something should have been done, what does that do to the numbers? It is concerning.

There were somethings we couldn't do the forecast for when it would hit. We do need to look at the precision in the numbers. Even if we take draconian measures and cut, cut, cut, there is still a structural issue. The basic economic of 2.5% revenue and inflation without waste, it doesn't work. Does it matter?

We already pay enough taxes, it doesn't matter, you can't ask, people can't afford it. The way the economy is.

Franklin probably will change then: how? Where? When?

I really like living here. It is a nice place, I hope as a community we can figure it out.

People that are working for the town and schools are killing themselves. They are giving a lot. That is a part I wish was recognized more. I just wish it was.

I understand but every community is in the same boat.

I know, our plane is a little lower than the other's. You can only do so much with what you have.

You should be very thankful you don't live in NY. It is so much more expensive there. My father pours over the Town report, “How do you do it with that?” he asks.

I know someone with a little garrison, $6,000 in taxes. Yet they come in to take the trash out of the garage and put the barrels back.

You mentioned what we can do? The last six bullet points. You said the committee hadn't been charged with figuring those out. Do you know if there is a phase that would figure it out before asking for an override?

Town council meeting is on April 15th

The community forum is on April 27th

Could you provide a short summary of your final comments?

I think we are all in this together, we have to approach it from that stand point.

I agree, everyone needs to be open minded and ask one more question.

I think our town needs to look at this at the community as a whole, I think there are parts of the town that look at one department or the other, there is a perception of that, starting from the top,

You mentioned leadership, from the School Committee, to the Town Council, they need to get this information as widely dispersed as possible so people can make an informed decision, whether it is an override or not, get the information out there so people can make an informed decision.

Communication is key, I have had my head in the sand for a long time, once you begin to look at it, it is really bad. You can't see any other way other than to chip it. I hear that there is a Calculus class with 35 kids. I can't fathom how anyone can learn Calculus in a class that size.

I would just hope people come to this with an open mind. There are some huge divisions in this town. I have lived elsewhere and this is segregated, us and them, not seen elsewhere, not a good feeling, we picked here out of every town surrounding.

With all the issues that Franklin has, it does come down to school, it is a big part of town,we are talking of the future of this town, it drives the property values, if we don't come together now and fix it, we are talking of the future of the town.

They said it all!

Doug thanked all for their participation and feedback!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Financial Planning Committee - Focus group - Part 1

Observing: Gwen Wilschek, Jim Roche, Deb Bartlett, Rebecca Cameron

First focus group: (long section of the report)

Vincent Dibaggis

Bob McLaughlin

Mike Taylor

Elise Nulton

Caren Lee

Cindy Kozil

Eric Polito

Judy Teixeria

Bill O'Neil

John O'Neill

Facilitator: Doug Hardesty

The session opened with a round of introductions. There is a mix of long timers and some “newbies” to Franklin. Doug explained the committee's purpose to take a longer term look at financial matters, separate what is true from not true, start with same set of facts, and make sure they have provided a chance for citizens to react to the product as it comes together.

Note: Doug's questions and comments as the facilitator will be in bold. All other focus group comments will be in normal type.

Can you understand it in the written form?

This is information never really seen together, the facts are good, also left with a lot of questions.

It's scary that this hasn't been done before.

There was fear in reading this, we moved here because of the school system was good, now that it appears to be going down hill, what will it be like when my kids get there?

We actually have done this years back. This is good info, how are you going to disseminate it? We have a chronic structural problem. What are the next steps?

I am shocked to see how much disproportionately we are dependent upon the state compared to other towns. This raises some concerns that we can do what we think is right but that the state can change and we don't have control.

I think you are on the right track. Franklin had a very low tax base when Prop 2.5 came in. I applaud the committee.

The forecasted deficits are shocking, more than scary it is unbelievable.

I think you have to an override, that is one of your only solutions. The town has been well run. People are going to have to come up with more money.

I don't disagree, without a year long campaign you won't get it passed.

Is there anything in the report that was biased? Or suggestive?

I found it informative. I got halfway through and had to leave to get here. The town has done 5 year plans before, by the time we got to three it was already out of date, not maintained. This needs to be updated each year, for the five years out.

Page 11 – very good looking chart, but some of the bars are not labeled so I am not sure what they are telling me. I found it confusing.

I wasn't quite clear. In terms of State Aid, how is the decision made at the state level, I didn't get it from the report. I have 2 students in the high school, we hear we spend less, we see the testing scores, do we feel that the kids still getting a quality education?

You expect that state aid will go down, as a practical matter with Jim Vallee and his new role, we may not have much of a decrease, time will tell.

We have gotten a lot of state aid with the lottery money and that is down.

What will happen with the stimulus money? We should get a piece of that too.

What is the formula that determines the state aid? Chap 70 is complicated, not a stable figure.

I don't think there is any bias here. I know there will be an executive summary, that we don't have yet. There is a lot of info here, almost too much. The exec summary is separate, would be good to see what that is.

Was there a reaction on what you were reading? One or two pages that jumped out.

The 1.4% for Tri-County should be explained, what do we actually pay 5K or 16K per student to Tri-County?

That line item in the budget deserves more of an explanation.

Page 13 can see the dramatic difference, below the state average.

Page 14 caught my attention, there is a very bad trend going on.

There is nothing in here comparing our tax rate to other towns around. That might be a helpful figure. There is still some internal capacity for an override based upon what we have vs. comparable towns.

What is an example of what the NA category would include?

These numbers are from the State DOE chart. This row is not included in their chart, so this was added to make the numbers total.

Page 5 -What % of the school vs fire, police, etc. relative to the other communities.

Page 4 -Tax levy is from property taxes only.

Page 7 -School salaries are 38% of the total. It looks like the schools are taking more than the 38% of the cuts. It appears that the town put the schools at the bottom. It concerns me that it is an underlying theme that is not visible but it's there.

Also on Page 7, what about the consolidation efforts? There have been efforts to do so. You will hear about the fat issue, where in the report is the town taking credit for that?

It would be helpful to see where those fiscal responsibilities are put into place. We are doing it in small business but how is the town doing. We are all being asked to make sacrifices, it would be good to know what is being done all around.

How has the town done?

For a bunch of volunteers, they have done an excellent job. there will always be a tension between needs and wants, given what we have, we have done well. Would I like to see better, yes, but we have done well.

I think that joint budget committee is positive. You can sit down and look overall at the town, to decide a path to pursue without being too contentious hopefully.

As a point of reference, for the last time there was an override, the entire group Town Council, Administrator, School Committee, everyone was out, working as a unit to spread the word, willingness to cooperate will help. The level of trust goes up when there is agreement amongst the town leaders. When there is agreement amongst the town leaders, then this is in our best interests.

Transparency is a wonderful thing.

I don't think the average resident see that, there is a lot of distrust out there. The override was written for the schools, what will the Town Council do with it? They don't know, so they make assumptions

They don't think Franklin has done much cutting except for the schools because that s all that is seen and heard. What the Town has done is not heard about.

Reading this has been very helpful, not visible to the average resident

What I see are cuts in schools, don't see the town cuts, you see construction, capital being used but you don't see the town being shut down in the center with buildings that can't be finished, services are being cut that are vital, we're paying for the infrastructure.

Several years ago, they repaved Lincoln St, 3-4 months later dug up to put in some sewer lines. Why? Is there anybody watching out for things like that. It was a waste of money.

The other thing that has been talked about, capital money can't be used for operational. But capital for a larger building does require additional operational expenses. Is there a long range, five year plan for capital and roads as well.

In 1989, there were 8-9,000 parcels in town with 3 assessors, and 3 clerks. Now there about 11,000 parcels, 3 professional assessors and one clerk (versus three clerks before) due to automation, other departments have done the same.

The average citizen is feeling the effects, schools are doing more fund raisers, these are tough times. The bus fees are up, athletic fees are up, everyone is paying more for everything, and I've already given the town more in behind the scenes ways.

The more information you give, they can make a decision on that. If they don't have the information, they can hear the rumors, or whatever.

It has to be done in a clear and concise way, there is a short attention span, we are a sound bit society today, trying to convey all the good coupled with all the facts.

Give them the summary, tell him again, in the military way, they won't read it all but they should get it.

The executive summary for those who want the short version, the full report for those who want all the details.

One message, one voice is needed, knocking on doors was effective, that education plan is critical. You have to find various paths to get into the household. The education plan will be critical.

This is MA. Maybe I'm being cynical. The assumption is someone to out to take our money. What do you think of your rep; good guy. What do think of the legislature; pack of thieves.

Get the word out there, concisely available, the easier it is to see, the better they will be able to get it.

That is the watch word, get it out there, get to the various organizations here; sports, school PCCs, senior center. The avg person doesn't have time to come to the open meetings.

If we assume that the Town is fairly well managed, is there an easy way to figure out how we got here?

Is there a more concise way to show that?

It is a structural issue, revenue is capped, expenses even just rising from inflation, 10 years from now it will be worse, one percent is higher than the other. How do you communicate that reality?

Page 4, 5, 17 should be graphs or pie charts to make it easier to read.

Page 21, it says “what can we do about it?”

There is not enough detail here to make a decision, improving process efficiency what does it mean? Other than the library and recreation departments that were in the paper, what else is there?

The committee charge was not to develop the full plan. These are some of the levers that the Town can use to develop the plan. Do we lose credibility when we don't have all the answers?

I read this and went back to the charge two times, to see what it read. This is a transition to the next steps. The plan needs to include us, title – the next step.

I think you did identify the areas. Some of them are going to require some hurdles. Consolidating operations, benefits, public vs private sector, can they come into alignment? That will require negotiations. Someone will say we can't go there. Well, maybe we should.

Is this an action oriented document?

If I were presenting this, I would do the summary, four,/five key slides provide the general understanding, at least those pieces get across before they start tuning out.

You could convey this in a five minute discussion? 90% of the issues

Yes, I would ask more questions, talk to others about this, with people that had opinions.

My colleagues will be able to go with you and answer additional questions.

I think it is great info needs to get out.

I agree, not sure if it is a call to action, this is the problem, not a call in and of itself.

Call to action needs to include the residents.

Need to get this out, some people don't believe us. I still say we will need an override.

Great doc, great info, needs to be consolidated, not everyone will understand, the call to action will be to learn more. This is a good first step.

Great info, requires a longer discussion, would love to go through with a fine tooth comb to really get it clarified, how we got there, dependent upon state aid, people will have some good ideas

I have questions and will be happy to stay after

Having two young kids, the school are a concern, dependency upon the state is an issue. I am not from the area so just coming in not heavily aware of what's going on.

You got to take care of your own, info, concise, get it out, got to look for info other web sites, I am sure you're thinking of that.

I think a lot of work went into this, instead of getting this all at once, do it as a series of articles in the Gazette.

Very eye opening, it will be surprising how many people are not fully aware of the situation that we are in, it is very necessary.