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Thread: Should the School Committee be in the "override business?"

  1. #1
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    Default Should the School Committee be in the "override business?"

    John Flaherty’s May 22 Town Crier letter raises an interesting question: should the School Committee “be in the override business?”

    He cites the third element of the Committee’s Mission Statement, “recommend a budget that delivers a high-quality educational program to the children entrusted to our care.” As the fourth of our Budget Principles elaborates, that budget should “respect the fiscal priorities of the Town by considering cost reduction, new revenue, and program redefinition, with attention given to such considerations as staff patterns, operational efficiencies, and cooperative ventures.”

    Presumably, Mr. Flaherty isn’t suggesting that the schools stop requesting or advocating for overrides. Rather, it appears that he recommends that the schools propose budgets without considering whether those budgets would require overrides, nor the amount of those overrides.

    In developing its budget for the 2008-2009 school year, the School Committee (for the first time in my memory) voluntarily came in below the Finance Committee’s budget guideline, thereby helping to reduce the override from an initially projected $2.6M to a voter-approved $1.9M. It did so out of concern for the viability of the higher amount, and because the lower amount would preserve the educational program.

    In essence, Mr. Flaherty asks the School Committee to ignore override viability even when override failure would significantly degrade the educational program. If my opinion isn’t clear, let me state it explicitly: it would be wholly irresponsible of the School Committee to ignore the “override business.”

    I am interested to know what others think.

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    Jeff, "in essence" what John is asking is in regards to the priorities of the school budget. I'll be explicit in my desire to discuss this matter without creating strawmen. Nobody is proposing that the School Administration submit -- with the School Committee's consent -- a $65 million budget next year because the fate of our children depends on it. Let's instead discuss the responsibility of the School Committee in regards to budget items.

    As I've stated publicly in School Committee meetings, privately in correspondance with you, and publicly again in a so-called "irresponsible" motion at Town Meeting, my wife Kamala and I have lived in Wayland for over 14 years. We'll have no children in the schools until FY 2010, yet we have not complained of our tax burden and have fully supported every override that has been proposed in our residence here. We understood that primarily the budget reflected an investment in the school system which was an obvious betterment of the town and one that we looked forward to benefitting from when our time arrived. The events surrounding the decision to close/consolidate Loker School has shaken our confidence in the responsible oversight role of the School Committee and the investment and spending priorities of the School Administration.

    The specific savings that the SC confidently assumes as fact from the reconfiguration and the recent acknowledgement from Dr. Burton about an estimated $1 million investment in IT infrastructure, software, and other technology are very troubling. Our assumption for the past 14 years has been that the school budget has been planned and appropriated across a balance of short term operating expenses and long term investments. Instead we're led to believe -- through the recent "override business" -- that the budget is only just barely covering costs. And it required closing a school to do it!

    Jeff, I believe you've been on the SC for the past 8 years or so and before that on the FinCom. You obviously understand budgeting (and were happy to point that out to me on one of the Town Crier blogs when I questioned how much "guesswork" should be inherent in municipal budgeting assumptions). In terms of budgets, overrides, and the responsibility of the School Committee, you've been on a committee that 1) has oversight over an administration which has acknowledged underfunding technology spending for the last several years. You've questioned the intent of Mr. Flaherty when he raised the topic of which administrative costs/positions are necessary. Would it have been worth it over the past several years to redirect any of those admin expenses toward technology investment? Whose decision is that? 2) You stated that any school consolidation based on enrollment would be 3-5 years out -- one year before it overruled the same adminstration to "in essence" close an elementary school for budgetary reasons, not the least of which was to make an override more palatable. Further, that consolidation has been poorly planned in haste and not yet quantified despite the best guesswork of many.

    Given those two long and short-term budgetary issues, the question of irresponsibility is not whether the SC ignores the "override business," but if the override requested legitimately reflects "a realistic budget that will give us what we need to maintain the best educational experience for our children."

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    Paul, you make a number of points which I'll address below. It's not clear to me, however, if any of them are on the topic of whether the schools should factor the frequency and size of overrides into their budget thinking.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Jeff, "in essence" what John is asking is in regards to the priorities of the school budget.
    Interesting, but that wasn't my interpretation at all. The schools have been setting priorities in the context of override consideration. John appears to be suggesting that we "ease" override context by asking for more (perhaps still prioritized).

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    I'll be explicit in my desire to discuss this matter without creating strawmen. Nobody is proposing that the School Administration submit -- with the School Committee's consent -- a $65 million budget next year because the fate of our children depends on it. Let's instead discuss the responsibility of the School Committee in regards to budget items.

    As I've stated publicly in School Committee meetings, privately in correspondance with you, and publicly again in a so-called "irresponsible" motion at Town Meeting, my wife Kamala and I have lived in Wayland for over 14 years. We'll have no children in the schools until FY 2010, yet we have not complained of our tax burden and have fully supported every override that has been proposed in our residence here. We understood that primarily the budget reflected an investment in the school system which was an obvious betterment of the town and one that we looked forward to benefitting from when our time arrived. The events surrounding the decision to close/consolidate Loker School has shaken our confidence in the responsible oversight role of the School Committee and the investment and spending priorities of the School Administration.

    The specific savings that the SC confidently assumes as fact from the reconfiguration and the recent acknowledgement from Dr. Burton about an estimated $1 million investment in IT infrastructure, software, and other technology are very troubling. Our assumption for the past 14 years has been that the school budget has been planned and appropriated across a balance of short term operating expenses and long term investments.
    In my opinion, this last assumption of yours is correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Instead we're led to believe -- through the recent "override business" -- that the budget is only just barely covering costs.
    Also correct, but this isn't an "instead", it's an "along with."

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    And it required closing a school to do it!
    As the schools have said numerous times, the reconfiguration from 3 to 2 1/2 schools was driven by (1) declining enrollment, (2) concern about the size of the override, and (3) the ability/desire to maintain the educational program.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Jeff, I believe you've been on the SC for the past 8 years or so and before that on the FinCom. You obviously understand budgeting (and were happy to point that out to me on one of the Town Crier blogs when I questioned how much "guesswork" should be inherent in municipal budgeting assumptions). In terms of budgets, overrides, and the responsibility of the School Committee, you've been on a committee that 1) has oversight over an administration which has acknowledged underfunding technology spending for the last several years.
    Based on an explicit technology plan (see here and here), the Director of Technology has proposed technology budgets sufficient to meet that plan in each of the years that I've been on the School Committee. Based on capital budget guidelines from the Finance Committee, the Administration and the Committee have generally ended up submitting a lower technology budget request to the town. Would the Administration and the Committee have preferred to fully fund the plan? Without a doubt. Would it have been sensible to have attempted to amend the Finance Committee budget upwards on Town Meeting floor so as to fully the plan, without a Finance Committee approved source of funds? Well, that's one example of the general question that I'm asking.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    You've questioned the intent of Mr. Flaherty when he raised the topic of which administrative costs/positions are necessary.
    I think that I understand his intent (to lower costs). What I've asked him is which administrative costs/positions would he reduce. I've yet to hear an answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Would it have been worth it over the past several years to redirect any of those admin expenses toward technology investment? Whose decision is that?
    That would be a decision of the Administration and the School Committee, with the latter having the final say. It's something of an odd tradeoff, however, in that the former is an operating cost while the latter is a capital expense. And setting aside the financial machinations, it's not a tradeoff that I would have made.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    2) You stated that any school consolidation based on enrollment would be 3-5 years out --
    I've never said any such thing. Although I know that you've been paying close attention to the conversation, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you missed this point. For your benefit, I'll spell out exactly what I did say.

    A speaker on Town Meeting floor in April of 2007 suggested that the voters not approve the requested Happy Hollow window replacement capital expense out of concern that the building might shortly be closed. Perhaps going out on a limb, I interpreted the word "closed" to mean, well, "closed," as in empty of occupants. I now realize that I might have been clearer had I included "empty of occupants" in my spoken words, which were as follows.

    We're probably at least three to five years away from having to make a closure due to enrollment needs. People may remember that this year's entering kindergarten class at roughly 190 students, I think was 30-40 more than was anticipated so it's not even clear that there's a downward enrollment trend at the kindergarten level. Were Happy Hollow to be a building that would be closed, however, we wouldn't be closing it and letting it deteriorate; we'd want to make sure it's in a good condition, so that it could be reopened at some point in the future in the same way that Loker was closed and then reopened. Thank You.

    Despite your attempt to change my meaning from the specific "closure" to the more ambiguous "consolidation," that's not what I said.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    one year before it overruled the same adminstration to "in essence" close an elementary school for budgetary reasons, not the least of which was to make an override more palatable. Further, that consolidation has been poorly planned in haste and not yet quantified despite the best guesswork of many.
    It's your opinion that the reconfiguration was "poorly planned in haste." Was the reconfiguration decision made quickly? Without a doubt. In the opinion of the Committee, circumstances called for that quickness. That said, it's a reasonable opinion (just not one that I share) that the Committee should have waited a year. Were there flaws in the reconfiguration decision-making process? Also without a doubt, as is inevitable in any complex and public process. But that in no way undermines the eventual decision and the ongoing implementation.

    As for "not yet quantified," I don't agree at all. While every detail isn't yet known about funds that haven't yet been spent (and therefore remain only forecasts at this point), much quantification has been done regarding personnel changes and class sizes as well as what the redistricting will look like, to name just two. To suggest that there has been no quantification is to wholly ignore the considerable evidence to the contrary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Given those two long and short-term budgetary issues, the question of irresponsibility is not whether the SC ignores the "override business," but if the override requested legitimately reflects "a realistic budget that will give us what we need to maintain the best educational experience for our children."
    In my opinion, the FY09 override requested (and approved) reflects such a "realistic" budget. If you would like to ask that question, you are of course free to start that thread. But that specific question wasn't the one that John apparently asked nor that I found interesting as a general topic for discussion.

    So I'll ask you directly, Paul: should the School Committee be in the "override business" in the general sense that I posed it above?

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    So much to say, so little time.
    For now, I only have time to address two things:
    1. Just to clarify, I understand that the SC is not operating in a vacuum and needs to have some sense for how their budget fits into the town’s ability (and desire) to pay it. As Paul points out, submitting a $65 million budget that includes a lot of frills would be preposterous, and would undoubtedly backfire.
    However, the other end of the spectrum would be equally absurd – submitting a $2 million dollar budget in order to please the voters and keep everybody happy.
    Fortunately, there is a middle ground where intelligent, well researched decisions can be made NOT based on overrides, but instead based on realistic expectations and needs, without cutting out or reducing key essential services.

    2. “the School Committee (for the first time in my memory) voluntarily came in below the Finance Committee’s budget guideline, thereby helping to reduce the override from an initially projected $2.6M to a voter-approved $1.9M”

    Considering a recent private discussion that Jeff and I had on the subject of “spin”, it's important that this line not be misinterpreted to imply that the SC’s actions reduced the override by $700,000. (Though, based on a recent email from a different SC member, it may be only a matter of time before such a claim is actually made.)

    For purposes of this discussion (Jeff, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong), the word “helping” in that statement is important, as other factors also helped to bring the number down.
    Depending on who you talk to, what day of the week it is and whether or not the moon is in Capricorn, the actual number that they are claiming is anywhere between $250,000 - $500,000.

    It remains to be seen what savings there will actually be, when the multitude of expenses associated with this school closure are sorted out and subtracted from the bottom line.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Jeff, in regards to the FY 2009 savings, it is my opinion that the savings were quantified based on FTEs, etc, but those estimates in terms of which positions were eliminated (savings) versus reallocated elsewhere (not savings) or not hired (again not savings -- not spending money does not equate to actually lowering expenses) are still in question. Further, the busing routes and accompanying incremental costs due to this murky consolidation/closing (it's a closing to those in the neighborhood with elementary-age children, agreed?) are also not quantified, so the total FY 2009 "savings" to the operating budget is yet unclear. Estimating it does not make it so.

    On the technology issue: did Dr. Burton actually say that "we have been deliberately undefunding technology" to the tune of $1 million? I did not hear it personally so I have to go by the word of those who say they did. If so, how do you reconcile that statement with the "explicit technology plan" referenced above? Do you support the $1 million figure? I'll await your response before commenting any more on it.

    My connection of these issues to the "override business" question is that the override should not be a question of expense versus capital accounting. If the override is for a debt exclusion for capital investment, so be it. if it is to fund the yearly operating budget, so be it. If it requires both, so be it. The point is that the budget should be reflecting the charter of the School Committee and any override request relating to School funding should include all resources necessary to meet it. The Loker operating savings -- which may or may not be realized to the extent of what was used as a basis to make this past override more "passable" -- seemed to put the SC in the "business" of managing a budget related to some arbitrary override elasticity scale. The technology underfunding issue (if true) calls into question why such costs were not included in operating or capital budgets, or past override requests.

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    Jeff:

    The issue of calculated savings is really the one that bothers me most. Accounting 101 shows us that to calculate the real savings associated with a project, we must take the gross dollars saved, and subtract costs associated with achieving the gross amount, for the NET savings.

    In the case of this consolidation/closing, the gross includes some false savings. An example -- the "extra" K section eliminated in this project was a phantom section. It would have been gone no matter what. It can't be counted in the gross savings and it is approx. $52K.

    Bussing savings is another that comes not from the project itself, but from years of neglect in reconfiguring bus routes and enforcing the 1.5 mile rule. False savings attributed to project and a question raiser in terms of why the administration let the bus situation get so out of control during these last few years that such "efficiencies" could be realized.

    It is also understood, and this should be confirmed, that the current secretary at Loker is being let go and replaced by someone with more credentials given the lack of a principal. If that is true, and again I'd be interested in confirmation of this, then more salary needs to be appropriated to that position and more savings lost.

    Also, it has been the pattern in previous years that actual job eiliminations as scheduled have become reassignments (e.g. - accounting admin jobs reassigned instead of eliminated as a result of software purchase/upgrade). Please list the names and titles of those jobs eliminated, if there is no breach of legality here, so as to track actual savings vs. reassigment of cost.

    Finally, what about actual costs? Cordoning, reconfiguring, new stipends, etc. They all count as netting against the gross.

    I could keep going, but the point is that basic accounting principles need to be followed. How about posting a T-Chart that shows the gross savings (itemized) at the top and the subtractions for costs incurred to get to the net? It doesn't change the decision, but it does provide transparency. Right now, the cost savings are nothing better than a muddled assertion.

    As to the original question, should the school committee be in the business of overrides? The answer is two fold:

    1. Yes, it in terms of sticking to the maximum allowable budget and superseding to require override $$ if possible. Going under the max to appease people seems counter to the goal of doing the best for our kids and the schools.
    2. No, in terms of politically playing residents in town against each other to achieve goals. The school closure/reconfiguration was the SC/politics combo at its worst and has left lasting damage and deep mistrust amongst somem of our residents.

    -JB

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    So much to say, so little time.
    For now, I only have time to address two things:
    1. Just to clarify, I understand that the SC is not operating in a vacuum and needs to have some sense for how their budget fits into the town’s ability (and desire) to pay it. As Paul points out, submitting a $65 million budget that includes a lot of frills would be preposterous, and would undoubtedly backfire.
    However, the other end of the spectrum would be equally absurd – submitting a $2 million dollar budget in order to please the voters and keep everybody happy.
    Fortunately, there is a middle ground where intelligent, well researched decisions can be made NOT based on overrides, but instead based on realistic expectations and needs, without cutting out or reducing key essential services.
    I don't recall ever suggesting that a $65M school budget (or for that matter, a $2M version) was in the offing. It takes far less of an increase to trigger an override--even $500k (which might be on the order of the cost of an intelligent and well-researched elementary school foreign language program or all-day Kindergarten) would do the job.

    So let me make my original inquiry clearer still: should the schools pursue intelligent and well-researched programs that might cost on the order of $500k without any consideration of the override implications?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    2. “the School Committee (for the first time in my memory) voluntarily came in below the Finance Committee’s budget guideline, thereby helping to reduce the override from an initially projected $2.6M to a voter-approved $1.9M”

    Considering a recent private discussion that Jeff and I had on the subject of “spin”, it's important that this line not be misinterpreted to imply that the SC’s actions reduced the override by $700,000. (Though, based on a recent email from a different SC member, it may be only a matter of time before such a claim is actually made.)

    For purposes of this discussion (Jeff, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong), the word “helping” in that statement is important, as other factors also helped to bring the number down.
    Depending on who you talk to, what day of the week it is and whether or not the moon is in Capricorn, the actual number that they are claiming is anywhere between $250,000 - $500,000.
    The override reduction of about $300k from the school budget and about $39k from the municipal budget (but owing to school-related items) has never changed. That $340k reduction was slightly more than matched by about $360k of savings on the town side. In my opinion, using the word "help" implies a relatively smaller fraction of the impact than half, and certainly doesn't overstate the case.

    The number that isn't yet fixed is the final impact of the reconfiguration on the school budget. My current take on that amount is about $400k* from the 1/11 report, about $39k on the town side (per the Finance Committee), and an estimated additional $60k from a reduction in Kindergarten sections, for a total of about $500k.

    *Note that about $100k in co-curricular programs above the Finance Committee's guideline was preserved, taking the gross of $400k down to a net of $300k.

    Transportation will be harder to factor in, since we've reduced the level of service at the same time that we're experiencing increased fuel prices. I don't know if the numbers are final yet, but I think that a preliminary bid showed slightly less of an increase than the 15% that was budgeted.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    It remains to be seen what savings there will actually be, when the multitude of expenses associated with this school closure are sorted out and subtracted from the bottom line.
    That's correct. However, it does not appear at this point that there are any large ticket items out there that haven't been considered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Jeff, in regards to the FY 2009 savings, it is my opinion that the savings were quantified based on FTEs, etc, but those estimates in terms of which positions were eliminated (savings) versus reallocated elsewhere (not savings) or not hired (again not savings -- not spending money does not equate to actually lowering expenses) are still in question.
    I don't follow. The savings that the schools have quantified are expenses that would have been made in the 3 school model but not in the 2 1/2 school model.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Further, the busing routes and accompanying incremental costs due to this murky consolidation/closing (it's a closing to those in the neighborhood with elementary-age children, agreed?) are also not quantified, so the total FY 2009 "savings" to the operating budget is yet unclear. Estimating it does not make it so.
    I don't follow. Just because something is estimated doesn't mean that it isn't quantified. Our entire FY2009 budget is estimated at this point--it can't be any other way. I may be mistaken, but it appears from some early numbers that I saw that transportation will come in below the 15% increase for which we budgeted. That factors in the decreased level of service--had we planned to provide a comparable level of transportation as we did for the current school year, there would have been a larger increase. I don't know what that amount is, but a back of the envelope calculation looking at the total current year spend and the MS/HS fraction that will be unchanged suggests that it would have been well less than $100k.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    On the technology issue: did Dr. Burton actually say that "we have been deliberately undefunding technology" to the tune of $1 million? I did not hear it personally so I have to go by the word of those who say they did. If so, how do you reconcile that statement with the "explicit technology plan" referenced above? Do you support the $1 million figure? I'll await your response before commenting any more on it.
    I don't recall his exact words. We've certainly been knowingly underfunding technology given competing financial needs. That doesn't mean we're happy about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    My connection of these issues to the "override business" question is that the override should not be a question of expense versus capital accounting. If the override is for a debt exclusion for capital investment, so be it. if it is to fund the yearly operating budget, so be it. If it requires both, so be it. The point is that the budget should be reflecting the charter of the School Committee and any override request relating to School funding should include all resources necessary to meet it.
    I don't understand what this last part means. The override request IS the resource.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    The Loker operating savings -- which may or may not be realized to the extent of what was used as a basis to make this past override more "passable" -- seemed to put the SC in the "business" of managing a budget related to some arbitrary override elasticity scale.
    Correct, we've always been in this "business." I've been asking if we should be, and if not, how we make that work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    The technology underfunding issue (if true) calls into question why such costs were not included in operating or capital budgets, or past override requests.
    Technology HAS been part of past operating and capital budgets and past overrides and debt exclusions. It's the FULL funding of technology to meet the plan that hasn't been included. Requesting overrides and debt exclusions isn't without cost, both in terms of energy and voter goodwill. In a vacuum, I guess, it's possible to suggest that the schools should have put "extra" technology-only questions on the ballot, but doing so risks override fatigue even more than what we've experienced to date.

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    Jeff: Your response ignores my post completely, actually quoting savings where I distinctly said they were phantom (e.g. - K section).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Jeff:

    The issue of calculated savings is really the one that bothers me most. Accounting 101 shows us that to calculate the real savings associated with a project, we must take the gross dollars saved, and subtract costs associated with achieving the gross amount, for the NET savings.

    In the case of this consolidation/closing, the gross includes some false savings. An example -- the "extra" K section eliminated in this project was a phantom section. It would have been gone no matter what. It can't be counted in the gross savings and it is approx. $52K.
    Unless I'm misunderstanding you, I disagree. By combining all of the Kindergarten sections in a single building, we can place the students more efficiently, thereby saving a section.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Bussing savings is another that comes not from the project itself, but from years of neglect in reconfiguring bus routes and enforcing the 1.5 mile rule. False savings attributed to project and a question raiser in terms of why the administration let the bus situation get so out of control during these last few years that such "efficiencies" could be realized.
    I agree that the transportation savings isn't the result of the reconfiguration, as I've said in several responses above. I don't agree that our past model was one of "neglect" or "out of control." Rather, we were providing a valuable service that we weren't required to by law.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    It is also understood, and this should be confirmed, that the current secretary at Loker is being let go and replaced by someone with more credentials given the lack of a principal. If that is true, and again I'd be interested in confirmation of this, then more salary needs to be appropriated to that position and more savings lost.
    I'm not aware of any details here. My understanding is that we were planning to create a building leadership stipend for someone who will be in the building anyway. You are correct that such a stipend would eat slightly into the overall savings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Also, it has been the pattern in previous years that actual job eiliminations as scheduled have become reassignments (e.g. - accounting admin jobs reassigned instead of eliminated as a result of software purchase/upgrade). Please list the names and titles of those jobs eliminated, if there is no breach of legality here, so as to track actual savings vs. reassigment of cost.
    I don't have any such list, but the positions are included in the 1/11 report (page 2).

    The accounting software issue has nothing to do with the schools, to my knowledge. It's a finance department topic. If my understanding is correct, the schools never indicated that there's be a savings, at least not until much more is known about how the new system will work. Perhaps you could share details on what accounting savings was proposed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Finally, what about actual costs? Cordoning, reconfiguring, new stipends, etc. They all count as netting against the gross.
    Cordoning is estimated to be $5k. I don't know the amount of the stipend, but I wouldn't expect it to be dramatically more than that. Those costs indeed affect the net, as does the utility savings, which hasn't been factored in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I could keep going, but the point is that basic accounting principles need to be followed. How about posting a T-Chart that shows the gross savings (itemized) at the top and the subtractions for costs incurred to get to the net? It doesn't change the decision, but it does provide transparency. Right now, the cost savings are nothing better than a muddled assertion.
    I haven't heard of a T-chart, but here's a stab at what you're asking for with respect to the reconfiguration (approximations/estimates).

    • Personnel savings per 1/11 report: $400k
    • Municipal savings per FinCom: $39k
    • Estimated savings due to reduced K section: $60k
    • Energy savings: $16k
    • Cordoning cost: $5k (one-time)
    • LO leadership stipend: $10k (no basis for this, just an order of magnitude placeholder)
    • Transportation increase (assuming level service): $50k (order of magnitude)

    Net: $450k (includes the one-time cordoning cost)

    If I've missed any, please let me know and I'll add corrections.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    As to the original question, should the school committee be in the business of overrides? The answer is two fold:

    1. Yes, it in terms of sticking to the maximum allowable budget and superseding to require override $$ if possible. Going under the max to appease people seems counter to the goal of doing the best for our kids and the schools.
    Many people consider the "max" to be the amount within Proposition 2 1/2. As far as I can recall, this is one time (the occasion of the 5th override in 7 years) in my thirteen years in town government when the schools have come in below the Finance Committee's guideline, and the schools did so in the presence of encouragement from the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and parents of school-age children.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    2. No, in terms of politically playing residents in town against each other to achieve goals. The school closure/reconfiguration was the SC/politics combo at its worst and has left lasting damage and deep mistrust amongst somem of our residents.

    -JB
    I'm certainly aware that it has left lasting damage, and I echo the words of Barb Fletcher and Louis Jurist at the LWV Candidates' Night in regretting that this was so. However, whether it was next year or the following that one of the two smaller and comparable elementary schools would become the Kindergarten-only school, I don't see how there wouldn't have an "us versus them" mentality.

    I strongly disagree that the School Committee "played residents against one another." That result was instead a by-product of a Committee working hard and with integrity to make a decision in the best interest of the entire school community and the town. You may disagree with the process and the decision, but you are wrong to suggest that this "playing" was somehow an active effort on the part of the schools.

    Let me turn the question back to you. When would you have addressed the decreasing enrollment? When there was 1 empty classroom in each of the 2 "full" schools? 2 empty classrooms in each? 4? When we could go straight to 2 schools without a Kindergarten-only building? And given how close the comparison was, do you really think that there was a way to make the change without upsetting one community or the other?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Jeff: Your response ignores my post completely, actually quoting savings where I distinctly said they were phantom (e.g. - K section).
    I didn't ignore your post at all, as should have been obvious from the fact that I was responding to the posts of others one at a time. I simply hadn't responded yet, as I have now.

    If there's one thing on which I think everyone can agree, it's that I've been extremely responsive throughout the last 5 months. But I can't always promise instant turnaround.

    It's not particularly practical to respond to them all at once, and it's highly unreasonable to expect me to address your thoughts in the 7 minutes between 6:41p and 6:48p.

  12. #12
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    So as not to disappoint, I need to turn my attentions elsewhere this evening, so I most likely will not be posting anything more until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Unless I'm misunderstanding you, I disagree. By combining all of the Kindergarten sections in a single building, we can place the students more efficiently, thereby saving a section.

    Not true. There were 10 sections this year, but only nine were used. There were 10 budgeted for again this year, and only nine would be used again. Unrelated to school closure.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I agree that the transportation savings isn't the result of the reconfiguration, as I've said in several responses above. I don't agree that our past model was one of "neglect" or "out of control." Rather, we were providing a valuable service that we weren't required to by law.

    If cost control is part of the deal, as the SC talks about so often as fiscal responsibility, you let this go on for such a long time for the benefit of few and the expense of many. Fiscal irresponsibility, in my eyes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm not aware of any details here. My understanding is that we were planning to create a building leadership stipend for someone who will be in the building anyway. You are correct that such a stipend would eat slightly into the overall savings.

    It will cost more. How much more will depend on who they hire and at what expense over and above what we pay now. There may, in fact, be multiple new expense lines for this building leadership team. The T-Chart should show this person by person.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I don't have any such list, but the positions are included in the 1/11 report (page 2).

    No names and no accountability. I want to know who gets laid off, sees a salary reduction etc. to tie it back to the 1/11 list to ensure the savings were real.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    The accounting software issue has nothing to do with the schools, to my knowledge. It's a finance department topic. If my understanding is correct, the schools never indicated that there's be a savings, at least not until much more is known about how the new system will work. Perhaps you could share details on what accounting savings was proposed.
    What I know, or think I know, is based on a member of the finance committee at the time who told me the school dept. was supposed to lay off two accounting people as a result of the forced adoption of the townwide accounting software package. Those two people never were laid off, they were "reassigned" by Gary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I haven't heard of a T-chart...
    Simple accounting device used to show debits on the left and credits on the right. You did the basics in your list, but I disagree with some of the numbers. The real savings is smaller, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Many people consider the "max" to be the amount within Proposition 2 1/2. As far as I can recall, this is one time (the occasion of the 5th override in 7 years) in my thirteen years in town government when the schools have come in below the Finance Committee's guideline, and the schools did so in the presence of encouragement from the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and parents of school-age children.
    One time too many, in my opinion. Either manage a budget within the Prop 2.5 guidelines or propose an override right for all residents of our town. You sacrificed the Loker community for the benefit of others. All for short, short money. It was just plain wrong to do so on such short notice, Jeff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm certainly aware that it has left lasting damage, and I echo the words of Barb Fletcher and Louis Jurist at the LWV Candidates' Night in regretting that this was so. However, whether it was next year or the following that one of the two smaller and comparable elementary schools would become the Kindergarten-only school, I don't see how there wouldn't have an "us versus them" mentality.

    I strongly disagree that the School Committee "played residents against one another." That result was instead a by-product of a Committee working hard and with integrity to make a decision in the best interest of the entire school community and the town. You may disagree with the process and the decision, but you are wrong to suggest that this "playing" was somehow an active effort on the part of the schools.

    Let me turn the question back to you. When would you have addressed the decreasing enrollment? When there was 1 empty classroom in each of the 2 "full" schools? 2 empty classrooms in each? 4? When we could go straight to 2 schools without a Kindergarten-only building? And given how close the comparison was, do you really think that there was a way to make the change without upsetting one community or the other?
    It was the short notice, the overnight reversal of a November stance, a flawed public process, huge amounts of misinformation and missing information incorporated in said process, etc. that made this so bad. It always would have been disappointing. It was the lack of backbone in standing up for all our schools that led to the vitriol. If I were on the SC, I would have said no to short-term sacrifice and yes to taking the right amount of time to go through this process. The SC failed in my opinion, and this opinion is clearly shared by many residents in our community. Now with the "at limit" classrooms in HH (at least), many homes being sold and turned over in town to new families with elementary school aged kids, and the yet to be determined storm of the new year with long bus lines, overwhelming traffic, complaining parents, etc., I wonder how long this great, money saving decision will benefit us. Not long, is my guess.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I didn't ignore your post at all, as should have been obvious from the fact that I was responding to the posts of others one at a time. I simply hadn't responded yet, as I have now.

    If there's one thing on which I think everyone can agree, it's that I've been extremely responsive throughout the last 5 months. But I can't always promise instant turnaround.

    It's not particularly practical to respond to them all at once, and it's highly unreasonable to expect me to address your thoughts in the 7 minutes between 6:41p and 6:48p.
    It appeared to me as if you read my post and ignored the points (largely because you used the K section as part of the savings). Timing issue, not an accusation. I agree you do respond and it is hard to do so quickly. Sorry.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I don't have any such list, but the positions are included in the 1/11 report (page 2).
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron
    No names and no accountability. I want to know who gets laid off, sees a salary reduction etc. to tie it back to the 1/11 list to ensure the savings were real.
    Jeff Baron is right. That same tired old list that Jeff Dieffenbach keeps referring us back to - the 1/11 report, tells us nothing. Let’s see some specifics. Names, salaries, etc.
    If you don’t have this list, please tell us who does.

    If there are savings, let's see them, and be able to verify their accuracy.
    Otherwise, it all just seems like a shell game.
    This doesn't need to be so muddied and hard to understand.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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