Monday, April 27, 2009

live reporting - Q&A #2

Q - the fear that I have is that my taxes are increasing 20% but the services my kids are getting in school is going down. I am okay with paying more taxes but I need to know what that number is. Relive peoples fear. I don't know if you can do what I just asked. I know it is hard but that is what I need. These numbers are scary but with the taxes increase and the schools services being cut that doesn't help.
A - Zollo - in terms of wage earners, most people are not spending the same each year, due to a variety of reasons. Cost of gov't does not go down. Inflation doesn't go down. Costs will go up. There is a built in subsidy. Three children. Avg citizen pays 4500 taxes, per student cost is 9200. The Zollo subsidy covers police, fire, etc. I will have received in the aggregate 250,000. I could stay here forever but I'll never pay it back. What is the reason for bringing it up? If I would educate my children on my own, it would still cost me more. The demand for the twon and housing in the town. The housing thirty years ago will be sold for more now.

If we were closer to the median, we would be in a better position with the adiditonal funds.

A - Whalen - you did a great job describing the difficulty and the challenges we have here. We are a pretty efficient shop. I am a research analsyst and that is what the numbers tell me. It really all comes down to, what kind of town do we want live in?

A - Bartlett - if you look at Page 14, there is the range of the 8.5M and 12.1M.

Q - Have you factored in the assessed values going down?
A - The 2.5% doesn't apply to each individual taxe rate. It applies to the overall town rate.
A - Bartlett the 8.5M would equate to a 22% increase

Q - financial forecasts are not actional, translate to something we can relate to; i.e police or fire, etc. Don't go back and re-do it. Clarification on the health care cost savings of 1M?
A - Roche - the 1M came from the difference in the original projected cost and the recent bid. That is one time savings.

Q - Has the town investigated farming out the tax collection? Hotels, meals tax, how much will it generate? In Florida, they have an impact fee.
A - We get 100% of our taxes, even if they are late we get 14% interest on the amount late. Against the law for an impact fee, it was through out by the courts. We have proposals for the hotel/meals tax but they have not been enacted yet. It would help but not solve our problem. It will diversify our tax receipts.

Q - On the health care side, how does the Town do it?
A - We pay about 7M for all our health care. We have been very successful working with the unions. With an increase of co-pay and a decrease in premium, it makes sense. They have worked well with us.

Q - The state has more people, they must have more bargaining power.
A - Nutting, actually our plan is better than the State plan. We look at it every year.

Q - With teachers at about 60K, can you bring in somebody for less
A - working and wages are subject to bargaining conditions

Q - with the health care, is there an opportunity to work with surrounding towns if we are the lowest, that would be something to gain
A - teacher pensions are not paid for by the town. There are 106 pension systems in the Commonwealth when there should be one. No one would design a system where there are 351 communities in the state. It will be hard to change. We do things like this every year. It is not just a public thing. It takes a lot of momentum to get things done.

Q - For me, a good school is not the thing. The curriculum is the key
A - Nutting - the school committee would agree with you.

Reminder - our meetings are open meetings

Q - split tax?
A - Roche - If we do decide a split tax rate, it doesn't allow us to raise any more money.
A - Whalen - there is a decided majority on the Finance Committee and Town Council not to do so in order to encourage business to relocate here.
A - Zollo - it is worth noting that the residential versus business is 80% to 20%. We would need a more diversified tax base. The time to make your feelings known is in November at the Town Council tax hearings.

Q - page 12 - net school spending, we are descending, based upon what we know today, what are we doing to prepare?
A - This is one of the reasons we have prepared this report.

Q - We need to be more frequent. These are general statements, we need to be more specific.

Q - Why did you get to the 31? You used some in some reports but others in some reports.
A - We picked the towns were the most comparable. We also wanted to use data that anyone could check on. We chose the DOE numbers because they are available. Norfolk was excluded only because they had not submitted their numbers to the state.

Q - My point earlier was the numbers are all good,
A - You're crossing over into a very subjective area. If you're across the board lower, there must be something there.

Q - You're only getting efficiency when there is a comparison on the same services?
A - I can't tell you how we could measure our schools with Walpoles. I see them as facing eminent decline.

A - Zollo - I don't disagree at a statisical level but at a general level it is fair to say, you know reputationally how they are doing. They are not out on the curve one way or the other.

Q - Should you include the grow projections for the school for the next five years? I know it would be beneficial.
A - The numbers are available. The total at the high school is projected to be about 1700

Q - Important to have our local reps (Spilka, Brown, Vallee) look at the legislation in process.
A - thank you!

Live reporting - Q&A

Q - commendation on report, job well done. concerning peer data, if we raise our taxes, is there a guarantee that the state won't reduce and we are back where we started
A - Whalen, put the numbers together, don't think the state looks at that statistic. we should be a below average tax burden with an above average benefit

A - Zollo - if the state minimum is hit, the state will help us determine how the money will be spent. Federal stats say we should have more police/fire but that doesn't matter to the state. It does to the school side of the budget.

Q - should include the school building issues into the 5 year plan otherwise, it wouldn't be a complete report. should update this quarterly
A -those items aren't quantified but they are addressed
Q - those items need to be there.
A - from the committee standpoint, those items are being looked at, there are no firm estimates for those factors to incorporate
A - Cameron - also look at the full report, there are additional details there. We focused on how the funding works for this executive report. We recognize how important this is.
A - Hardesty - information needs to get out, the details should be available when those decisions need to be made.

A - Zollo - the committee debated internally, we will come up with some alternatives, the relaity is what it is. The Town needs to be aware of other capital expenses. The funds for those could come from two sources, (1) Debt exclusion (expires when debt is paid off) (2) override (raises tax permanently). Differences between town fical funding options. But not out of the operational budget.
A - Whalen - in comparison with our peers, we are below the peers in debt service
A - Roche - transparency, dashboard on the website, but once the budget is set, the budget numbers don't really change. In most cases, the state number once given is set, unless there is unique circumstances, the state doesn't take away the money.

- side note - provided advice to the committee that some of the comments are coming across as defensive of the report when they should be soliciting feedback from the community

Q - when is the decision coming on the high school
A - Nutting - the building is not in that bad shape compared to other schools they have been into. We don't know when they will committee. They will not commit at this point. In six-nine months, maybe they'll give us an answer. We don't have it and we are continuing to pursue it.

live reporting - Doug continues

example of state unfunded mandate - wind instruments are now required to be professionally cleaned before reuse.

How has Franklin responded?
  • reduce head count and cut employee benefits
  • streamlined operations
  • enhanced revenues
  • spent cash reserves ($7.5 million)

Impact of current problem
forecasted deficits are structural, not directly due to the recession

FY 2010 forecast was for a deficit of 4.5 million
With other one time items, the deficit currently is $750,000

Where does this leave us?
  • We depend more upon state aid than other towns
  • Our property tax burden is less than other towns
  • Our cash reserves are stable and at the right level
Where are we now?
Town expenses
  • Franklin ranks 27th out of 31 comparable peer towns in per capita municipal spending
  • Recent capital projects have minimal effect on operating budget
School expenses
  • spending per pupil 22% less than state average
  • net school spending rapidly approaching state minimum
  • teacher compensation remains "middle of the pack"
  • Schools have cut non-teacher costs sharply
Town spending
slide of comparison to the other 31 towns

School spending
slide of numbers directly from the State Dept of Education web site

Net school spending slide
the long curve is going the wrong way

Impact of capital projects on Town Budget
  • Capital dollars can not be used for operational expenses
  • Capital debt burden is about 2% of the total Town budget
Where we are headed
state aid grow of 3% - 8.5 million deficit
state aid flat - 12.1 million deficit
state aid declines 3% - 15.3 million deficit

What can we do about this?
  • Agree on the problem
  • Develop a comprehensive multi-year plan
  • Improve transparency and accessibility if information
Continue to improve operational efficiency
  • explore regionalization in addition to Library, recreation
Influence the legislative process
  • preserve state aid
  • address unfunded mandates
  • pension reform
Ensure salaries remain competitive

explanation of steps and lanes on teacher side of the compensation

Increase tax revenue
  • find revenue from non-Franklin resources
  • assess need for override and debt exclusion - 5 year horizon
  • look to soften impact for low or fixed income households
Improve transparency and accessibility of information
  • assign ownership for improving the flow of info
  • communicate more effectively with citizens
  • preserve credibility
final thoughts
recap of previous topics

stay tuned for Q&A

Live reporting - Doug Hardesty

Committee addresses the problem, trying to boil it down to simple facts on where we have been, and where we are going.

free of bias, free of clutter

- be sure to follow along the presentation -

Boiled frog analogy - water in pan, turn heat on, put frog in pan, he'll jump out. Another pan, same amount of water, same frog, turn heat on gradually, the water will heat up and the frog will boil. The slow change was not noticeable and couldn't be avoided.

Similar to the Franklin finances, the problems have been here for years.

Franklin at a glance slide

Franklin at a glance - General Fund Revenues

clarification on this presentation is the executive summary with a couple of extra slides
the full report is available on the town web site

- rechecked the head count quickly, approx 150 people in the auditorium

Live reporting - Info Forum - Part 1

Financial Planning Committee members: Bartlett, Trahan, Cameron, Zollo, Whalen, Hardesty, Roche, Wilschek (Kelly missing)

Jim Roche, Committee Chair opens with remarks and introductions

About 100 in audience as we get underway

Doug Hardesty starts doing the full presentation

Live reporting - Informational Forum 4/27/09

Preparations underway, folks are gathering

At Horace Mann/Thomas Mercer Auditorium for the presentation and discussion of the Financial Planning Committee report

Click through to the Franklin Town website to view and download the draft report of the Financial Planning Committee here

Questions for the Forum

If you don't have questions for the discussion this evening on the long term plan, here are a few to help get you started:

  1. Page 12, the color bars are not labeled, what do they represent?
  2. How does a salary "freeze" still allow for increases due to step and lane changes?
  3. Which regionalization effort will bring the best dollar savings? Library and recreation efforts are small dollars.
  4. What unfunded mandates should be challenged to improve our expenses?
  5. If overrides are in our future, how many? when? and how big do they need to be? to get us out of this mess?
  6. Is the Town Council committed to keep this long range plan up to date (since previous efforts apparently failed)?
  7. Will the Town develop a "capital budget" as the auditors recently recommended?

Click through to the Franklin Town website to view and download the draft report of the Financial Planning Committee here

Concerned about Franklin's finances?

Concerned about Franklin's Finances?


Long-Range Financial Planning Committee

Monday, April 27th

7 PM

Mann School

(Mercer Auditorium)


You can view the report here

"overrides are going to become part of Franklin's future"

Milford Daily News
Posted Apr 26, 2009 @ 10:00 PM


Town councilors say they're not surprised at Town Administrator Jeffrey D. Nutting's recent projection of a $5 to $6 million deficit in 2011, but for the most part, are too focused on getting through this budget cycle to start strategizing.

"It's so far off at this point. In my opinion, it shouldn't even be a topic of conversation. We need to get through this budget and see where we are," said Town Council Chairman Christopher Feeley.

There are many variables - like the possibility of getting revenue from utility pole taxes and local hotels and meals taxes - that could dramatically change Nutting's projection between now and next budget season, Feeley said.

"We need to be concerned about it, but too many things could change," he said.

Councilors Stephen Whalen and Scott Mason both said Nutting's projections are always "extremely accurate."

Read the full article in the Milford Daily News here

School Committee Agenda - 4/28/09

1. Routine Business

Citizen’s Comments
Review of Agenda
Minutes: Maureen Barker is on vacation – the 4-14-09 minutes will be approved at the next meeting (5-12-09).
Payment of Bills Mr. Kelly
Payroll Ms. Armenio
FHS Student Representatives
Correspondence: none

2. Guests/Presentations
a. Dan Telhada – All Scholastic Award
b. Coach Carmen Colace – Coach of the Year
c. Cafeteria – Point of Sale Implementation – Miriam Goodman

3. Discussion Only Items
Budget to Actual
FY10 Budget

4. Action Items:
a. I recommend budget transfers as detailed.
b. I recommend acceptance of a check for $2,500.00 from the Oak Street PCC for nurses and bus fees for upcoming field trips.
c. I recommend approval of the ASMS 8th grade trip to Conn. River Valley and Eastern NY on May 1, 2009.
d. I recommend acceptance of the donation of 12 cases of copy paper for the Franklin Public Schools from Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Johnson.
e. I recommend acceptance of the donation of $4,200.00 from the ASMS PCC to pay for two 8th grade field trip coach buses.
f. I recommend declaring the graphic arts classroom modular at FHS as surplus.

5. Information Matters

Superintendent’s Report
a. Using Data to Monitor Student Achievement
b. Best Buddies Prom
c. Bicycle Racks
d. FHS Modular Classroom
e. Implementation of Point of Sale Technology / Food Service

School Committee Sub-Committee Reports
School Committee Liaison Reports

6. New Business

To discuss future business that may be brought before the School Committee.

7. Executive Session

Contractual Negotiations

8. Adjourn

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Franklin kindergarten information nights schedule

This updated the schedule previously published here:

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Wicked Local Franklin News RSS by GateHouse Media, Inc. on 4/26/09

Parents of children who will be attending kindergarten in the fall are invited to attend the Kindergarten Information Night at their particular school.

Following are dates and times for sessions (parents only) revised from earlier publications:

J.F.Kennedy Elementary School, Thursday, April 30, 6:30 p.m.

Parmenter Elementary, Thursday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.

Jefferson Elementary, Wednesday, May 20, 6 p.m.

Helen Keller Elementary, Wednesday, May 13, 6:30 p.m.

Davis Thayer Elementary, Thursday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.

Oak Street Elementary , Wednesday, May 27, 6:30 p.m.

Things you can do from here:

When a Community Loses

this article discusses the impact of high school sports fees

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Boston Globe -- Globe Magazine by Brion O'Connor on 4/25/09
Eight years ago, when my daughters were in diapers, I took an assistant coaching post with the Hamilton-Wenham High School hockey team. It was one of those rare moments when life allows you to repay a debt. I lost my dad before eighth grade. Sports kept me heading in the right direction despite the upheaval of puberty. I had a ...

Things you can do from here:

"She gets the job done without fanfare"

Milford Daily News
Posted Apr 25, 2009 @ 11:35 PM


Paula Mullen, a Franklin resident and vice chairwoman of the School Committee, was one of 100 women in the state named a 2009 Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

She will be recognized by the commission for outstanding contributions to her community in a ceremony on May 13 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the State House in Boston.

School Committee Chairman Jeffrey Roy nominated Mullen.

Roy thought she was "a perfect fit," especially because she hates the limelight, but deserves the recognition for all the volunteer work she does.

Read the full article in the Milford Daily News here.

five hours is worth more than $1 million

According to a copy of the proposal, the union demanded the following conditions: the permanent removal of five floating after-school meetings, permanent removal of the need to provide a reason for personal days, and the permanent requirement that no after-school meetings be scheduled two weeks prior to the issuing of report cards.
From the Milford Daily News article on the School Committee meeting 4/14/09.

The citizens of Franklin will find out, hopefully soon, what the cost of 5 hours of meetings are. Is it worth 1 million dollars? Or is it worth more?

The teachers union in a vote to accept the 2.5 percent wage freeze for the 2009-2010 school year attached three minor conditions to the proposal.

To remove from their contract, five floating after school meetings. There already are three mandatory meetings each month for the teachers at each school. Is there really a need for these five floating meetings? I hope not.

To remove the requirement for providing a reason for taking two "personal" days. There are only two, you use them or loose them. They are already defined "personal". Does the School Dept really need to know the personal reason? I think that is too much of a controlling issue.

To add a requirement not to schedule after-school meetings in the two weeks prior to report cards. This seems reasonable. The time before report cards should be focused on preparing the accurate information for students and parents/guardians on the progress made during the marking period.

Why this was not discussed during the meeting, I can understand given the nature of the conversation that did take place between Chandler Creedon and the School Committee. They were talking about the same topic, using different words, not really answering each others questions. For me, there is a communication issue there.

This was originally posted here on Wednesday April 15, 2009.

Letter from Ed Cafasso

Hello Everyone!

I hope you enjoyed school vacation week, this fabulous weekend weather and, of course, the Red Sox-Yankees series… Here’s an update on Franklin’s school issues.

Long-Range Financial Planning Committee: I hope all of you will do your best to attend Monday night’s town meeting regarding the findings of a year-long effort to perform an in-depth analysis of Franklin’s financial outlook for the next five years.

The findings of this group of volunteers offer you a comprehensive look at the challenges that will have a direct impact on your property value, your tax rate, the quality of your schools, and your access to municipal services.

The public forum scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Mercer Auditorium in the Horace Mann Middle School is a unique opportunity for you to gain better insight into the various forces driving the town’s finances and, more importantly, to ask questions of your elected officials about what the findings mean for you, your family and your fellow citizens.

I hope to see you there and encourage you to read a preview of the Committee’s draft report at: (The meeting also will be televised on live local government access channel 11 for Comcast subscribers only.)

FY 2010 Franklin School Budget: As you may have heard, the Franklin teachers union recently voted to accept a wage freeze for Fiscal Year 2010 but attached a series of conditions – essentially re-opening contract issues that the union had previously voted to abandon.

This saga began in December when the School Committee asked Chandler Creedon, president of the Franklin Education Association (FEA), to discuss a potential freeze with his membership. At various points during the winter, we were assured that the union was considering the idea. Finally, three months later, Mr. Creedon asked the Committee for a letter officially requesting that they consider a freeze. Our letter acknowledged the stellar work of our teaching staff, as reflected in our student’s college acceptances and academic performance. It also noted that, for most of this decade, the School Committee has worked hard to avoid reductions in teaching staff by steadily reduced spending on other services and imposing new and higher fees for busing, athletics, and student activities, to name a few. The savings generated from these decisions have been poured directly into the classroom, to recruit and retain top quality teachers, to support a strong curriculum and to maintain appropriate class sizes. Parents and community groups, like the Franklin Education Foundation, also have worked hard to contribute more to classrooms through personal generosity and the fundraising efforts of the PCCs.

On April 13, Mr. Creedon led a meeting of FEA members who were not allowed to vote on a wage freeze alone – only on a motion intentionally written to tie the freeze to new demands regarding personal days, meeting time and other issues. It is worth noting that all other major town unions have agreed to a wage a freeze. None have used Franklin’s budget problems to re-open contract negotiations.

The School Committee remains committed to work with FEA members to come up with a solution acceptable to both sides. We have repeatedly asked Mr. Creedon to make public his alleged plan for budget efficiencies. We also have asked to meet with directly with union members. To date, Mr. Creedon has refused to meet with our negotiating committee or to let us talk to his membership. The Committee will continue these good faith efforts at our meeting this Tuesday in the hopes of reaching an agreement that would avoid massive teacher lay-offs in the months ahead and help close the deficit projected for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

You can read the latest news coverage regarding this issue at:

2010-11 School Calendar: School administrators have presented two options for the academic year that begins late in the summer of next year. In one option, classes would begin Sept. 7, 2010 – the day after Labor Day – and reach the 180-day marked required by the state on June 22. In the second option, classes would begin Sept. 1 – five days before Labor Day – and reach the 180-day mark on June 17th.

As you recall, hundreds of parents surveyed last year overwhelmingly asked for the school year to begin after Labor Day, while teachers voted overwhelmingly in opposition. Parents are encouraged to examine both options and to express their views. The fact that Labor Day occurs exceptionally late in 2010 is a complicating factor. It’s also important to keep in mind that the last day of school could be pushed further into June by snow days.

You can view both options at

As our community heads into the thick of important financial hearings and budget decisions, it is critically important for elected officials to hear citizen ideas and feedback. I hope you will attend Monday’s public forum and share your thoughts. I also urge everyone to stay close to the budget process this year by paying attention to School Committee, Town Council and Finance Committee meetings. It is also important for parents and guardians to pursue a frank discussion of budget issues with your principals and your school PCCs.

These e-mails are provided as a constituent service. I try to distribute at least one e-mail update each month during the school year, as issues warrant. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. If you are receiving duplicate e-mails or if you no longer wish to receive these e-mails, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list. If you know of someone you would like to add to the list, please send along their e-mail address.

Thank you!

Ed Cafasso, Member

Franklin School Committee

edcafasso @