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62WVN #62: Proposed 6.44% Increase in School Operating Budget

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  • waylandvoters2
    Jan 13, 2005
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      Wayland Voters Network
      January 13, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The High School Building Committee's final public forum on its
      proposed $57.3 million project is tonight, Thursday, Jan. 13, 7:30
      pm, Wayland High School Little Theater, (tour at 6:30pm).

      This newsletter is a report on last Monday's School Committee meeting
      but first, a correction.

      Several readers pointed out a typo in the last newsletter re. the
      date of the upcoming town meeting. (The tax override election is
      Tues., Jan. 25; the town meeting is Thurs., Jan. 27.) Despite the
      typo, one reader wrote: "Thank you for sharing this complicated mess
      with us." Because it is complicated, we are reprinting the
      information with the typo corrected. Skip ahead to the report of the
      School Committee meeting if you don't need a repeat of this primer on
      special town election vs. special town meeting:

      The election on Tuesday, Jan. 25, will be held at the usual polling
      places (Middle School and Town Building), 7am-8pm. One question will
      be on the ballot: whether Proposition 2½ tax increase limits should
      be exceeded in order to borrow funds to design the proposed $57.3
      million dollar high school reconstruction project. The School
      Committee is seeking $4.2 million in design funds, but no amount is
      specified in the ballot question. A simple majority is needed for
      the ballot question to pass or fail.

      The town meeting on Thursday, Jan. 27, will be held at night in the
      high school field house and other locations in the event of an
      overflow crowd. Only Town Meeting can appropriate funds. A two-
      thirds majority is needed to do so. The School Committee's article
      seeking $4.2 million in design funds will be considered first. A
      petitioners' article seeking a freeze on further spending on the high
      school project until certain conditions are met will be considered
      second. Whether the tax override ballot question is approved or
      defeated on Jan. 25 will have a major impact on town meeting on Jan.
      27. (Future WVN newsletters will provide more information about town
      meeting.)

      SCHOOL COMMITTEE 1/10/05: PROPOSED 6.44% INCREASE IN OPERATING BUDGET

      (The following was written by a college student who attended and
      recorded the meeting out of her own curiosity, and was kind enough to
      share her notes with us.)

      Up-coming Meetings (School Committee Rm, 2nd Floor, Town Building):

      1/11 Budget Working Session
      1/18 Budget Working Session & Special Town Meeting Preparation
      [Possible Mtg. w/ Charena Rd. Neighbors]
      1/24 Budget Meeting with Finance Committee [Possible Mtg. w/
      Charena Rd. Neighbors]
      1/25 8:30 p.m. Town Meeting Preparation
      1/26 7:30 p.m. Town Meeting Preparation
      1/27 5:30 p.m. Field House for final Town Meeting Preparation

      At the regularly-scheduled School Committee meeting on January 10,
      2005, the major topics of discussion were the January 27 Special Town
      Meeting (STM) and the projected School Budget for FY 06.

      SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
      Chair Lori Frieling related the town's logistical plans for
      accommodating the expected crowd at the January 27 STM.
      Three "venues" with a combined maximum capacity of 2,600 will be used
      to seat voters – the High School Field House, the High School Commons
      (i.e., cafeteria), and the High School Little Theater. Floor seating
      plans are apparently available at the Town Building Department. The
      doors to the Field House will open at 6:00 p.m. Only 382 vehicles
      will be allowed to park at the High School. Satellite parking areas
      are being provided at the Middle School, Saint Ann's Church and Sandy
      Burr Golf Club. Six school busses, which can move up to 400 people
      at one time, will shuttle people between the parking areas and the
      High School. Some arrangements have been made for handicapped
      parking. All after-school and Park & Recreation activities have been
      cancelled for that day. Set-up will occur in the meeting halls
      during the school day.

      Fred Knight volunteered to write the School Committee's main motion
      and supporting statement for its Article 1, "Fund High School Design
      Fees" [est. cost $4,232,000]. The materials will be presented for
      review and vote by the School Committee prior to use. Also, the
      School Committee decided to "control the amount of paper" at STM,
      limit any new handouts to one page and focus people on the materials
      already contained in the warrant.

      The School Committee discussed how it would proceed at STM if the
      ballot question for the Proposition 2 ½ Debt Exclusion failed at the
      polls [on Jan. 25], but a final position was not voted on. Both Bob
      Gordon and Superintendent Gary Burton stressed the importance of
      listening to the voters' wishes. Specifically, Burton said: "We
      don't want to try to push it [the high school project] under cover of
      darkness." The consensus appeared to be that if they lost at the
      polls, they would either ask that Article 1 be passed over or that
      the request for funds be scaled back, perhaps to cover testing and
      planning for the wastewater treatment plant.

      Burton reported that there are already plans in place to deal with
      interim space constraints at the High School. The School Committee
      has submitted an article for April's Annual Town Meeting requesting
      $350,000 for modular science labs or for a small renovation to create
      two new science labs in the existing high school building. Burton
      said he has had discussions with the Building Inspector and Health
      Agent and that neither of these two actions would trigger the need
      for "any other permits."

      The School Committee also considered the Town Meeting Moderator's
      desire for changing the order of the articles at STM to allow more
      people to get into the meeting halls before consideration of the high
      school articles. Committee members expressed their strong desire to
      have Article 1 be the first order of business at STM. [The other
      high school-related article, Article 2 "Manage Financial Risks to the
      Town's Taxpayers," seeks a freeze on further spending on the high
      school project until certain conditions are met.]

      FY 06 BUDGET
      Superintendent Burton presented an overview of his FY 06 Operating
      Budget and recommended a budget amount of $27,816,428, which he said
      is a 6.44% increase (i.e., $1,682,226) over FY 05. Without any
      offsets, this budget is $436,685 over the Finance Committee's
      guideline of $27,379,743. However, Burton explained that he is
      proposing $415,625 in offsets so that the suggested operating budget
      to be voted on at Annual Town Meeting in April would be $27,400,803.
      Offsets "reluctantly" recommended by Burton are $190,000 in fee
      increases, mainly for athletics, possibly for parking, and/or other
      unnamed new fees, plus $215,000 in "new revenue." (N.B. The
      cafeteria is not included in the budget because it is self-funded.)

      Burton also stated that last year was the first time in his 10-year
      tenure that the School Budget was prepared so as to meet the Finance
      Committee's guideline for percentage increase. Moreover, this year,
      he employed a different budgeting process than in the past. In prior
      years, each school principal was told how much money he/she had to
      spend and a budget was created around that dollar amount. This year,
      the principals were asked to create individual budgets based on what
      each thinks is needed to "make this a very good school system" but
      not to pad their budgets and not to get carried away.

      Burton said that FY 06 requests submitted by the principals amounted
      to a 9.84% increase over last year's approved budget. He said that
      to bring the increase down to 6.44%, he cut $888,271 from the amounts
      requested. He also stated that in FY 04, the School Department
      returned $100,028 to the town in un-used funds. Along with this,
      Burton stressed how valuable teachers were and said that although
      enrollment projections are only up two students, he wants to hire six
      additional staff.

      In an effort to raise additional revenue, Burton also discussed the
      possibility of making Wayland a "Choice Town." In the Choice Plan,
      parents from other towns may pay to send their children to Wayland
      Schools. He did not recommend this option, nor did he discourage
      it. He said that he "wanted to just leave it open as an option."

      [The Finance Committee has stated that in the spring, a Proposition 2
      ½ override of between $1.5 million and $2 million will be needed to
      fund the Town's FY 06 Operating Budget.]

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer