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72WVN #72: School Budget Approval Delayed

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  • waylandvoters2
    Feb 15, 2005
      Wayland Voters Network
      February 15, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The School Committee meets tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.,
      School Committee Room, Town Building, to continue budget
      discussions. (Meetings are also scheduled for Feb. 16 and 17.) This
      newsletter includes a report by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca on the
      status of the budget and other items discussed at last week's School
      Committee meeting.

      First, an important reminder. Anyone interested in running for office
      in April's Annual Town Election must return nomination papers to the
      Town Clerk by the close of business on Tuesday, March 8. Here are
      the open seats, and the people who have taken out papers to date:
      Board of Assessors (one seat/3-yr. term)
      Board of Health (two seats/3-yr. terms, one seat/1-yr. term) –
      William Currier, Anna Ludwig
      Board of Road Commissioners (one seat/3-yr. term) – Mark Santangelo
      Board of Selectmen (two seats/3-yr. terms) – Betsy Connolly
      Housing Authority (one seat/3-yr. term) – Susan Weinstein
      Park and Recreation Commission (one seat/3-yr. term) – Anna Meliones
      School Committee (two seats/3-yr. terms) – Louis Jurist
      Town Moderator (one seat/3-yr. term) – Peter Gossels
      Trust Fund Committee (one seat/3-yr. term) – John Wilson


      PROPOSED BUDGET - The School Committee took up the proposed FY06
      budget, which they had planned to approve at this meeting. However,
      it still exceeded the Fincom guideline. School Committee Chair Lori
      Frieling has discussed the situation with Finance Committee Chair Bob
      Lentz, who agreed that the Fincom guideline was "a bit low." At a
      previous meeting of the Fincom Lentz had explained that the goal of
      the guideline was to accommodate contractual and mandated budget
      increases, and he now believed that the 4% given to the School
      Committee was not quite adequate to do that. Frieling reported that
      the Fincom planned to take the matter up at their meeting of February
      14th, and there was general agreement that the School Committee
      should defer final action on their budget until a special meeting
      they tentatively scheduled for the 15th. At that meeting, explained
      Superintendent Gary Burton, they could decide in light of the new
      Fincom guideline whether to conform to the Fincom's wishes, go ahead
      with the budget in its current form, or take any other action.

      The Fincom has also asked the schools to come up with a contingency
      budget reduced by 5% in the event the planned $2 million operational
      override in April does not pass. The School Committee interprets this
      as 5% less than the $27.8 million they had planned to ask for, or a
      $1.3 million reduction leaving a net of $26.5 million. The current
      year budget is $26.1 million. Burton agreed to come up with the
      requested cuts. He complained, however, that "such a reduction will
      change how we operate the schools in a noticeable manner." In
      mentioning possible cuts, he said, "The extracurricular program is as
      vital to what we do as reading, writing, and arithmetic."

      SNOW - Burton's decision to keep Wayland schools open the day after
      one of the biggest snowstorms in area history was discussed. In
      retrospect, he said, "I probably should have closed the schools on
      that Monday (Jan. 24)…I made a mistake." Frieling defended his
      decision, saying that she had been consulted late on the Sunday
      afternoon and thought the weather at that time "was beautiful."
      Burton went on to say that "we often had school when the sidewalks
      weren't plowed" but, he said, "I cut it too close." The decision was
      so unusual as to prompt coverage in Boston media and even the New
      York Times. School Committee member Bob Gordon suggested that while
      the decision had to be a judgment call there might be some reasonable
      guidelines, like "When every town for a hundred miles around closes
      its schools, maybe we should too."

      High School Building Committee Chair Lea Anderson and HSBC member
      Dianne Bladon, discussed where to go next in the wake of the decisive
      defeat at the ballot box of the override for the proposed new high
      school, and the moratorium on further spending for the project
      approved by Special Town Meeting. Frieling said that several good
      ideas had come up, including a survey, focus groups, roundtable
      discussions, and reconvening the High School Building Committee.

      Anderson said that, from chats with her committee members, there was
      a desire to learn from the results. Gordon said he believes the
      biggest issue is the uncertainty of reimbursement from the state, and
      that the proposal should be put back to the voters with the condition
      that any construction would wait until after SBA funding is approved.
      He said, "We have to sacrifice time. The uncertainty is whether we
      have to perform elective surgery on the project." Bladon suggested
      that the School Committee formulate a process to move forward and
      then figure out what and when information would be needed before
      issuing anything like a survey. She pointed out that "the answers you
      get to a survey now may not be the answers you get ten months from
      now." School Committee member Jeff Dieffenbach countered "the longer
      we wait on the survey the more information we'll lose," and that a
      survey should be sent out by March. Frieling agreed that a survey
      should be done very soon. Everyone agreed that such a survey should
      be designed by a professional, and Bladon indicated she might know an
      appropriate candidate.

      The group also reached a consensus that the HSBC should be kept
      intact with the current members, and that there should be a joint
      meeting between the School Committee and the HSBC soon.

      MODULAR SCIENCE LABS - Frieling met with Finance Committee member
      Carl Geiger to transfer information regarding modulars or other
      temporary possibilities to be proposed at Annual Town Meeting in
      April. Interim science lab measures "will need to last longer than we
      thought - at least a year, maybe two," she said, and may therefore
      need to be upgraded from the earlier proposals. The administration is
      still looking at three or four options to deal with the needs.

      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