Saturday, February 28, 2015

Notes from the Foundation Budget Review Commission

Just walked in for the Shrewsbury superintendent Joe Sawyer talking about last year's override and class size issues
Query as to how they could have class sizes so high yet still being over foundation: is it teacher salaries?
Teacher salaries average for central MA
Q: percentage that's circuit breaker
Q: what's driving gap in teacher salary?
unrealistic assumption about teacher salaries, more teachers with master's degrees
Q (which we've heard before) Do we need a full redesign, or do we need a tweak?
circuit breaker is trailing, fees for transportation, athletics
"clearly...the idea around equity is important...combining some of the various sources, around grants, could be important"
Q: change census from once to twice?
fairly stable population, not a lot of effect on us
ELL tend to arrive midyear, has some effect on us
Q: $3.7M override this past year: what about this year?
budget increase of a bit over 3%, "very realistic and modest request"
given funding OPEB, snow and ice control
"even with a very modest request...our town manager's request is below even at that number"
"without additional state support...that's what tends to be causing the unpredictability"

Wachusett is in the house! Julie Kelley, Stacey Jackson
appreciative of having these hearings
"don't just identify a problem, offer a solution"
formula should not go beyond 2% increases of Prop 2 1/2
"strongly supports regionalization"
"alarming inability of towns, especially regionalized towns, to meet their obligations" to fund
1,2,3 towns that aren't able to afford their increases
of increases, half goes to education, and half to town services
in some cases, education is taking up 50,60 or more of the increase in revenue
should have a trigger if much of new revenue is being taken up by education services
Rep. Ferguson comments on compelling data

Rep. Hogan: sped costs don't reflect real costs and real needs.

missed a speaker there

Elaine Rabbitt: Dudley-Charlton regional SC
answer a challenge offered by Rep. Ferguson: was interested in hearing something new and hearing a solution
need change concept of special education and regular education
teachers no longer have students who come in without a backpack of baggage
what our students require is what we need to fund
"at best we can fund having a teacher in the classroom, but we can no longer afford other supports for our students"
Q: foundation formula makes an effort to account for different needs: would you say that there are catagories that we are missing? or is it that the classroom teaching catagory needs to be larger in general?
"the mental health component"
impossible task to think that a teacher can teach to the multiple needs of the classroom in front of them
minimal increases of budgets over past several years
"We have 200 Chromebooks used to test 2000 students"
"these things we are talking about did not even exist in those days"
"they don't have the resources, and more importantly, they don't have the time"
"that's a serious issue that we need to address"
supports have never existed
Q: what do you see as the drivers of that reality?
financial history that we've just been through; parents both working, sometimes multiple jobs
impact of what we're trying to prepare our students better
have children that are physically sick from the stressors we're putting on children around testing
Comments from Peisch is that it would be hard to recommend a substantial increase, as taxes would increase; encourage to think about other sources of revenue
Rabbitt: if we maximize what we provide students now, we'll need to provide less for us later (paraphrase)
"I really just have to challenge you with that"
"As a taxpayer, the best investment I can make is in the future of my community, and that's in education"

Rob Cohane, parent, WPS:
involved in CPPAC: where the money comes from
"I don't necessarily envy you for taking on this challenge"
special education, inflation, health insurance no longer provide services students need
urban challenges: difficult to make up that gap
when 20% of the foundation budget is going to fill in that gap
"who ends up paying for that? It's the students"
parents are paying for photocopiers, parents are paying for copy paper
cost of importing technology into the classroom
"that our children have an equitable chance to compete"
"parents in my community are paying more; it may not be a tax, but we're paying"
circuit breaker doesn't seem to be working: "By the time you get the money, it's two years gone."

Westboro: testimony is very consistent, lacks in the available funding of the information of the education system
is there anything that you haven't heard that you'd like to?
part of your charge is to look at how we prepare our students for testing and for their future
Do a zero based review? What kind of content and skills do we expect our graduating seniors to have? Is that affordable?
"then we can put together a formula that provides" equitably

Ralph Hicks: past 11 years have been a superintendent
"would really like to see us live up to Horace Mann and our forefathers"
Ashburnham-Westminster district
fully recognize that local aid has taken a hit
"we need to be able to fund education if we aer to maintain our leadership position, not only in the United States, but in the world"
trying to bargain a GIC-like plan with our employees, which would make our increase 5.8%, but when the inflationary increase is only 1.5%, we have a problem
about $400,000 to put towards next year
last override that passed was in 2004
"going to outline what teaching positions we need to cut"
Q: talk about mental health
runs through very small numbers of staff available
"problems kids come in with today are insurmountable"
most schools do not have the counselors that they need
one town might be willing to give us more, but because of the way that the regional agreement work we cannot take it
Q: is it not a matter for the regional school district agreement for different levels?
the way it's written right now, we're using the statutory method
have written a new regional agreement, hope to have it passed
Q: has talked about going to SC with cuts on Tuesday? Could we get those?
will email them
Q: changes in enrollment?
having a slight upswing, we were down for awhile
"if you build it, they will come" built a new school, young families saw a new elementary school
have increased school choice numbers

Richard Bedard: school business manager in Millbury
health insurance and retirees health insurance
have worked for many years to bring down the cost of health insurance
Millbury has bid health care to one provider, have increased employee costs, copays
health care costs have decreased
"even with those decreases, the foundation budget allocation is still low"
a $2.4M shortfall on a $22M budget
spending 2 1/2 times the foundation allocation
retirees health insurance only included in NSS if they checked it off in 1993
that needs to change; phase in a level playing field
would put Millbury closer to the state average
foundation budget plus circuit breaker is only 60% of our special education costs

Tyler Keenan, Leicester School Committee
22 of 32 years have had increases more than 2 1/2
"real decline in spending power over time"
override votes are frequent, but don't pass
tuition of special education programs
rate increases tied solely with inflation are not accurate
fewer students=/=fewer teachers
but a smaller district it's necessary for things like AP if they are to be offered
size of district and challenges faced by smaller districts as opposed to larger districts
shouldn't have a model that's "overfit"
look at what districts are actually spending, not just what the foundation budget calls for

Mendon-Upton Regional
have a constant fear that we won't be able to keep up
$25 per pupil increase $59,000 per year for M-U
"doesn't even cover the average cost for an out-of-district placement"
"money I cannot spend in other critical areas"
"critical areas where I feel the promise is not being kept"
starting us in a deficit for FY16
regional transportation reimbursement "doesn't come close" to actual costs
try to share costs with area, but are a remote district
"have made a tremendous investment in technology" $1M this year: $410 per student
"do our best to do what we should be doing: equipping our children to be ready for the 21st century and beyond"
should add technology to foundation budget
93% and 97% residental communities
"district limit to the tax ability of my communities"
"cycle of necessary overrides every 3 to 5 years will continue" unless something changes
Q: data or suggestions about how much technology allocation should be?
$400 per student this year, though some of that is a one-time expense
Committee would be interested in suggestions on this one

Adam Gaudette from Spencer: part of two regional school districts
foundation budget is well-intended
mandated local contribution is devestating to local municipal services
still haven't recovered from the economic downturn
tax receipts and local aid both down
22% where we were in 2008 on local aid
"have done everything possible" to save money
Town Hall only 3 days a week, cut recreation dept, cut salaries in fire and police
not only eliminating jobs, eliminating services on town side
"making a plea to not only look at foundation budget, but to look at MLC rates"
suggest matching 2 1/2 percent

and then there was a long part where Worcester spoke...Testimony of Superintendent Boone, of myself, of Mayor Petty, and letter submitted jointly by Superintendent Boone, Mayor Petty, and City Manager Augustus.
Two tweets regarding questions taken by Superintendent Boone: 

On that last: while those testifying may not have labeled them as "efficiecies," anytime someone has said "We did this to save money," they were offering those examples. Thanks to Senator Chang-Diaz for noting this.

Brian Lewis, parent WPS
UMass Med committed to having a robust and diverse workforce
need for successful public schools to support that
"if our public schools do not have resources for simply things like supplies...we cannot expect them to meet the needs of those programs"
would urge commission to think about how it is allocated and supplied

sorry I missed who this is...from Leominster
Look at OPEB and health insurance for retirees
should have a whole commission on OPEB alone, because it is so technical
properly to recognize cost in year it's incurred
once OPEB fully funded then can be freed up to deal with other services
"grossly underestimates, especially on the OPEB side, the costs"
method of paying for right now is the most inefficient, pay as you go
if you pay as incurred, rather than pay as you go, better later
"that's the most cost inefficiency way of paying for it"
call on them to "start recognizing OPEB in the foundation budget"
wanted to bring that aspect of the fringe benefits, for you to become leaders in this issue

member, Acton-Boxborough SC
echo a lot of what was said today
"a lot of different areas that could use modernization"
assumed special education enrollment based on a number of factors
use numbers "truly reflective of what the enrollment is"
"I'd like to ask you to be bold in moderizing education in Massachusetts"
"bold action in adverse times"
"there's a statue that stands in Concord, Lexington, Acton and's your turn"

Westborough finance committee
bascially the only thing we get is to pay our insurance; nothing towards teaching, or anything else

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