School officials talk budget with parents, urge attendance at town meeting

Superintendent Charles Gobron addressing a group of residents last night

“We’re going to lose teachers,” School Committee member Jack Kessler told an assembly of parents last night. “The question is how many.”

About 50 Southborough residents — mostly parents — were gathered at Woodward for an information session on the school budget hosted by Superintendent Charles Gobron. Southborough School Committee members were also in attendance.

Gobron detailed the bleak budget outlook for next year. The preliminary FY2011 budget for the K-8 schools represents a 3.63% increase over this year’s budget, but even with the increase the budget calls for the elimination of six teaching positions along with 3.5 staff and support positions.

The selectmen have asked the school to get down to at least a 0% increase, which Gobron said would mean the reduction of an additional 10 teaching positions.

While reaction to the preliminary budget on this blog has been decidedly mixed, the crowd at last night’s information session was largely sympathetic.

Kessler explained that while town meeting voters cannot increase the budget that is approved by the school committee, they can decrease it.  That puts the schools at risk, he said, because when it comes to town meeting representation, parents are in the minority compared to seniors.

“Because they don’t show up,” school committee member Marybeth Strickland said. “There weren’t a lot of parents in the crowd last year,” she said. “It wasn’t parents that supported our budget last year, it was seniors.”

But Strickland and Kessler said this year they may not be able to count on the support of seniors. “Unless parents organize and come out and support the schools, the consequences will be more dramatic,” Kessler said.

A separate information session was held yesterday morning at Woodward. Gobron told me about 50 residents, including some members of the Advisory Committee (the town’s financial board), attended that session. If anyone has a report from the morning session — or a different take on the session last night — please leave it in the comments.

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John Boiardi
12 years ago

Dr. Grabon’s Plea,

Let’s go along with the school department. Let’s lay off half the police force, half the fire department, and eliminate diesal fuel for the DPW. That way the teachers can still get their $500,000 in increased wages and benefits and we won’t lose 6 school teachers because if we do the student teacher ratio may jump from 14.6 to about 15 toward the supposed goal of 20. What does layoffs, unemployment, increased state and federal taxes,and home forecloseures,let alone increased real estate taxes have to do with anything? Heavin forbid that teachers have to survive on their step and lane increases plus the contract increase. I agree with Dr. Gabron——Let them eat cake.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  John Boiardi

Mr. Boiardi,

First, it’s Dr. G-o-b-r-o-n.
Second, clearly you haven’t read the proposed budget yet, nor did you attend either information session to learn what the proposed budget is. If you had, you would have learned that WITH the Sch. Dept.’s proposed increase of 3.63%, we DO lose ONLY 6 Full-time teachers, 1 fulltime custodian, 2 aides, and 1.55 specialists, as well as countless supplies. These cuts are the best case scenario. The current student-teacher ratio in Southborough schools is 20:1 (not 14.6 as you fabricate). With a 3.63% increase in the budget, that ratio WILL increase to 24:1 or 25:1.
In the scenario you describe, where no teachers and staff are laid off and there are no increases in the existing 20:1 ratio, the School budget would actually need to be increased by 7.69%. The schools’ costs have are increasing $1.22Million from FY10 to FY11. The Sch. Cmte. and Dr. Gobron have worked to bring that gap down by more than half and presented a budget that reflects only a $588K increase. They have done so by cutting the aforementioned teachers, staff, materials. Those who say that the Sch. Cmte. or Supt. Gobron are saying “cut everyone else, we want our full budget” grossly misrepresent the facts. What the Sch. Cmte. and Supt. are saying is “please don’t cut more than 9.55 staff members by helping us close 40% of budget gap.” Teachers, staff, and children and their parents will eat the other 60%.
A 0% increase in the School budget would result in 16 teachers being laid off. A -3% increase would result in 22 or more teachers being laid off.
These debates would be much more productive if people educated themselves about what the numbers and facts are before swinging the ax on the budgets and each other.

Eileen
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

Thank you Susan for posting a great summary of the meeting and finally getting the correct numbers out there for interpretation. I don’t know how the numbers where calculated for ratio of 14:1….no wonder some people were confused by parents being upset! We currently have 1558 students and 73 teachers; that ratio is 21:1. (And there are classrooms of 30 at the middle school….luckily it is a leveled, fast paced, math class and the teacher can handle that amount in his class).

Our school administration was able to explain, to those in attendance, how the budget is broken down (between salaries, SPED, busing etc). I would like to see that from the other major departments in town. I found reading Marty’s and Al’s post helpful….more disclosure the better…. the easier it is to make our decisions. Are the rest of the departments budgets available at Town Hall or on line?

I hope many parents understand the message about attending Town Meeting. It is important to be involved in the decision making process…don’t leave it up to someone else. I hope to see more parents and even the school budgets “opponents” at School Committee meeting next Wednesday.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

The Advisory Committee asked all the Municipal departments to submit a -3% budget. Last week Advisory met with the Town Clerk, Elections, Treasurer, Assessor, Town Accountant and the Senior Center. Except for Elections and Registration which has a budget driven by how many elections we have all look like they are ready to accept a -3% budget by trimming hours and programs. Nobody liked it but to their credit the town employees understood the grim budget situation. The Board of Selectmen have recommended a “No Pay Increase” policy for non union employees under their authority and are working the issues with our municipal unions.

Advisory has not seen a formal (voted on) budget from K-8 or Algonquin. Based on what is in the warrant today (including the 3.6 % for K-8 and 0% for Algonquin) if it was all approved it would require a 7% tax increase including a $900k Prop 2.5 override. (This would be a little over $500 on a typical home)

Advisory will be meeting with the big Municipal departments in the next 2 weeks but I think it is important to put things in perspective. If you add up the Police Department, Fire Dept and the DPW their budgets in total are about 35% of the K-8 budget.

There are solutions to our budget problems that do not require tax increases. In addition to additional reductions in the rates of spending increase, there are substantial pools of unspent, unallocated monies already paid by Southborough Taxpayers sitting in town coffers. This total of about $3.2 million dollars includes 2.3 million in the overlay reserve account a portion of which, in my opinion could be prudently released and just under $900k sitting in the Stabilization Fund.

Kate
12 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

I would imagine that the 14:1 ratio quoted comes from the Mass Department of Elementary & Secondary Education website – see Teacher Data, 2008/2009 (the link is http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/teacher.aspx?orgcode=02760000&fycode=2008&orgtypecode=5&). The Student/Teacher Ratio noted is 14.2:1.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Eileen,

Please check out the website that Kate provides regarding student teacher ratios.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

Sue,

Before you accuse anyone of fabrication please check the facts. The official web site for the Mass Dept of Elementory and Secondary Education lists the Southborough 2008-2009 student teacher ratio is 14.2 to 1. I don’t expect you to apologize for your unfounded remark nor do I expect you to check the facts. My apology for misspelling Dr. Gobron’s name ( I don’t have spell check on this blog so please forgive my spelling).. You are again sadly mistaken regarding my attendance at Dr. Gobron’s presentations. I attended the B of S meeting were he made the original presentation you refer to.. As a member of the Advisory Committee I was present during his presentation and discussion of his budget which I have a copy of (do you have a copy?). Your statement that a minus 3% would result in cuts of 22 teachers is a familiar scare tactic. If you had access to or used the test “would I prefer to cut X in the budget or lay off a teacher” when analyzing the budget you will find many items that can, should and will be cut to meet the current town financial conditionof the town.
It would certainly be helpful if you took your own advice and become more educated before you swing the “more new taxes” hammer on the town.

John
12 years ago

They cry, they get their way. That’s the way it has always been. Well enough is enough! The town should not decimate other departments in order to keep the school department happy. Put more kids in the classrooms, cut the budget. If you want your kids to live the private school lifestyle, Fay and St. Mark’s are right down the street. Pay for it yourself rather than expect everyone else to.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  John

Do you feel the same way about the Senior Center?

John
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

No. The seniors have “done their time” and carried everyone else on their backs. We owe them lots.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

Just so we are clear the Senior Center submitted a budget with a -3% option and appear prepared to operate within that guideline. No body likes it but tax increases proposed by some will hit the Seniors very hard and it looks like they are willing to do their share to hold the line.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

Sue,

The senior center took their 3% cut without the whining that is coming from school budget proponents. Those in town that propose reducing budgets(including the big four: police,fire,dpw,school) are trying to maintain the level of service that the available budget dollars will support.

Marty
12 years ago

Ed note: This comment has been removed at the commenter’s request.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Let me offer a proposal:

1. Reevaluate our police cruiser trade in plan. The current Warrant has us trading in a crusier with 68 k miles. These vehicles cost us about 30k apiece and get traded in for a few 100 dollars. I have been told that other communities operate their Crown Vics well in excess of 100-150k miles. Yes we will have to spend more on maintenance but if we are trading in a crusier that that has 68k miles and is only a few years old it is very reasonable to run the risk a new engine or transmission in (maybe $3-5k) that would extend the life for a few years rather than spend 30k on a new crusier.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Thank you for a very well thought out proposal.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

I was referring to Marty above.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

how do you go about getting a currant warrant changed? $30k is a lot of money

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  carrie alpert

There are several options. The Police Crusiers as requested will probably be printed in the Warrant but if the Board of Selectmen do not support the request it would probably be withdrawn on the floor of Town Meeting so you could speak with the Selectmen and express your thoughts (always a good idea). I think the Selectmen are in a listening mood they have been taking our financial crisis quite seriously. It is also possible that the Board of Selectmen will support an amount that is less than the full amount and will ask for a smaller amount on the floor of town meeting.

Advisory will also be reviewing this budget and all other budget and warrant items. Advisory is a sub committee of town meeting and is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all requests and making a recommendation to Town Meeting. I will try to publish the Advisory agendas so you can participate.

Finally you can speak against any budget item on the floor of town meeting if you think it is excessive. If you think a budget should be reduced you can make a motion to reduce it. The Town Clerk has a very easy to use form for making motions which is available at Town Meeting. I recommend that you find a colleague that will second your motions which will assure that you get a vote. If you have any questions about making a motion please let me know, or the town clerk or other Advisory members or the Selectmen. I am sure they will be happy to help even if it is a motion they don’t like.

Joe M
12 years ago

There are some goods points above, but there is at least one that is misinformed. The Arts Center is not a non-profit per se – it’s a town council (Arts Center is slang for The Southborough Cultural Arts Council) – and as far as I can tell, it’s the only town council or department that aside from asking for some space, doesn’t drain a nickel out of the town budget (the one exception might be the historical society). It is not the fault of the mostly volunteer organization that the building they are in never got modernized (there is one paid employee who works three times the hours she is paid at a below market wage to begin with – and even that money does not come from the town).

Look at this another way. Do we want a culture-less recovery? The recession won’t last forever. When it’s over, do we want property values to go back to where they were and keep going up (as quickly as possible)? If so, we need to see the forest for the trees. This town does brilliant things with open space and we have good schools (public and private). We have access to key east/west and north/south highways. Culture is the other vital ingredient to continuing to attract people who will ultimately raise all of our property values.

Let’s not squeeze one of the only town entities that aside for some space pays for all its own expenses. If the space is the problem, fix the space, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

Al,
If what you are saying is true, that we have the potential of saving a substantial amount of money by keeping a car for another year+ and maintaining it vs. purchasing a new one I do not think I will have a problem finding a few people to support me in my attempt at making a motion.
Seeing as it will be the first time i have said anything other than a “yes” or “no” or some cheering when the tractor got approved the year it was really wanted I think i may need a bit more guidance if in fact i am going to say anything in regards to this issue.
We absolutely need to try and put our emotions in check and find some solutions for the sake of the education of the children. The ecomomy will turn around. At the moment though we have to put our heads together and come up with some solutions.

mike
12 years ago

Hey John,

I would send my kdis to private school if I did not have to pay twice. If the money followed my kids (vouchers which the unions and libs hate) to the private school we would have some options. On average it costs public schools between $8-10K each per year for a kid in public school. And I realize that there are many more compenents added to the public shcool costs – but to be honest i dont want my kids socialized in public school or reading about bull like global warming and garbage evolutionary non-science. Give me $5k and I will take my kids out gladly and you can keep the change – that’s a pretty decent comprimise. It is not a knock against our schools or teachers , although they are deceived in what they teach and cant support much of it as my kids have challenged them to do. I just have different preferences in what is taught to my kids in a public situation and want founded science taught not a hypothesis or personal belief. I would not take them to Fay or St. Marks as our public schools here equal or exceedd them. But your agrument and direction doesn’t hold muster because you are telling parents to pay twice if they pay for private. And if anyone choses – God forbid, to homeschool their children they don’t get a cent. That is wrong and immoral.

John
12 years ago
Reply to  mike

Not exactly……what I said was, if parents want their kids to have a private school lifestyle, cough up the cash and send them. Public schools are just that….public. And they are expensive to operate. They need to look at everything and cut out what isn’t necessary. Ever watch the busses go by? Hardly any riders because the parents drive the kids to school. How’s that for paying twice.

Heather
12 years ago

I’ll vote for vouchers. Sign me up.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago

Perhaps the Mass DoE website says that our classroom ratio is 14:2:1. Anyone who has been inside one of the classrooms in the past 7 years or so and/or has seen the class roster lists will tell you that this number is wrong. I can tell that I personally counted out 20-22 “Thursday Packets”, one for each child in the classroom, every Thursday at Finn school. Consider the possibility that the State’s statistics are sometimes incorrect, as they indisputably are here.
I have not yet been given the opportunity to keep a copy of the budget, although I have had the opportunity to read in its entirety the proposed budget.
I could not agree more that the seniors have “done their time” as “John” suggests, and very appreciate that it has been the more senior members of our community who have gone to Town Meeting year after year and voted to support the schools that their children have long since graduated from. I hope that the sentiment some have expressed in this blog of “I don’t have kids in school so why should I have to pay for the schools?” does not prevail, neither with regard to the children in this town nor the seniors. It takes a village.

Kate
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

I guess the issue seems to be with teacher numbers. Eileen states that there are 73 teachers this year, the Mass DESE Southborough teacher numbers for 08-09 were 112.5. Are these figures correct? Did we lose that many teachers? I’m sure someone has the answer.

Eileen
12 years ago
Reply to  Kate

I have the FACTS…the print-out the the Administration gave School Committee at the last meeting (1/13/10) for FY10 Enrollments:
Finn: 359 students 15 teachers =17.42 (this included PreK students but not their required staff aides and had 1/2 dayK which has 26 students total);
Woodward: 334 students 17 teachers =19.65; Neary 360 students 17 teachers =21.22; and Trottier 505 students 24 teachers =21.16. I’m not sure if the DOE is adding in Specialists, or Special Ed staff. Ask any parent in the town and no one has a regular classroom of 14! As for the math class I spoke about earlier….I did have those number incorrect. There are three classes of 30, 31 & 32….so even more students than I had stated previously.
I do have a copy of the budget…and I’m reviewing it and I have questions for the Administration and School Committee. I was also at that Saturday morning meeting with the Selectman. I should have sat with the Advisory committee and answered your questions about what the classrooms are really like, the great programs that are offered, and some of the incredible gifted teachers we are lucky to have (you get what you pay for.) It has been previously stated, ‘that you can only cut so much text books and paper’……the money is in the teachers. Administration is talking with the teachers union…lets hope they are open to some negotiating. Also, please remember Dr. Gobron stated that the State has cut 400K from our SPED budget….if that didn’t happen we would be so much in the hole. The school budget needs to absorb that cut because those services are mandated by the State.
Like Sue, I thank everyone who has supported the schools in the past as well as many other important resources in this town. I don’t want Town Meeting to turn into Us vs. Them meeting…..everyone needs to realize what is at stake. Ask any parent that has moved to town….what was the biggest draw…and you would probably hear…..the schools. No one wants their taxes to increase but it seems like a reality that I’ll be budgeting for.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Eileen

If you own a typical home in Southborough right now you had better plan on a $700 dollar increase in your taxes based on the latest information that I have seen.

1. Right now the operating assumption is that the Town’s non property tax sources of income will decline about $2.2 million. There are opportunities to supplement this sum from Stabilization or the Overlay reserve but right now the assumption by the Advisory Committee is that this won’t happen.

2. While we keep talking about the 3.6% for K-8 there is a separate line item for Benefits that is going up by 7.8%. That never seems to be acknowledged.

3. There is some preliminary indication that Southborough’s Algonquin allocation will increase on the order of $500,000 or about 10%. This is due to a modest budget increase and a significant shift in the number of Southborough students attending Algonquin.

So, the overall budget hole is very deep. If all the requests were approved we would be looking at a 9.2% property tax increase including $1.4 million prop 2.5 override.

The Advisory Committee posts all the budgets it has in electronic format and a rather large spreadsheet with the entire budget for all to see on its website.

http://southboroughadvisory.nexo.com/resources

I encourage anyone to review the situation and ask LOTS of questions.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Do your FACTS include teachers that do not have assigned classrooms such as gym, art ,music, or any other teachers that splits time between schools?

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  John Boiardi

The children assigned to a given classroom constitute the number of children per class. When that class of children moves to the Art Room for art class, it’s the same number of children, i.e., 20-24, with one teacher. When they go to the library, it’s the same number of children, with one teacher. When they go to music class, it’s the same number of children with one teacher. The school nurse takes care of all of the children in a given school. If one cares to count every adult with any student contact in determining student/teacher ratios, s/he will come up with a number far less than the number of actual children in a given classroom. If you wish to count the legion of volunteers in every classroom, you can bring that ratio number down even further. But the fact is (that’s right, fact) that there are currently between 19 and 24 kids in the K-8 classrooms per classroom teacher, and the proposed budget by the School Committee of a 3.63% increase in $ will raise that ratio by laying off 6 teachers. The Advisory Committee would raise those layoffs to 16 teachers (with 0% increase in overall budget) or 24 teachers (with a 3% cut in budget).

carrie alpert
12 years ago

is there any way to push for the ciruit breaker money that was not given to us? and what channels do we go through to “channel” our dismay that the cost has been put back onto our school system to absorb?
Is there any possible way to get any monies at all from the state at this point, any at all? does anyone have that answer?
If we lose the great high energy, forward thinking teachers we have been so lucky to keep within our system it will be something we look back on as a town and all agree that it was a catalyst for a very major decline.

carrie alpert
12 years ago

At our bookclub last night it was brought up that there is need for clarification as to why Holliston is allowed to charge for busing and we as a town have to abide by a law to provide it free of charge. And if there is a law on the books why can’t we change it????? We have to think outside the box if only for a short period of time–maybe it means condensing routes and changing school hours in order to charge so as to save teachers. If the older children at the Trottier and ARHS levels were more involved in the process they might have a grasp as to what is at stake and be pro-active, as in “what? lose this teacher or that teacher? no way! what can we do to stop this from happening?”
Also, what is being done to be collect monies from those families who are delinquent in kindergarten payments—meaning from past years. I am not referencing those families who have demonstrated that they are in financial hardship, absolutely not.

Erin
12 years ago

I’m a Southborough resident who lost my job this past fall. I don’t have children in the school system, but I was a teacher many years ago in an another state. In terms of student to teacher ratios/classroom sizes, they are often defined as total number of licensed teachers employed by the district. This means that librarians, counselors, gym teachers, etc. can all be counted in the ratio. So, you can easily have classrooms of 30+ students, even if the maximum is much lower than that. That being said, I am not sure that this is how it’s calculated in Massachusetts.

I moved to Southborough in part because of the good school system. I felt that buying a home here would be a better investment that in other MetroWest communities. Although I do not want to see a significant tax increase, I am concerned about cutting staff positions – especially if specialists or entire programs are part of the cuts.

It saddens me to see people attacking our wealthiest residents (even though I am not one of them). This is OUR town, decisions can’t be made just for one population at the expense of all others. It also frustrates me to hear the woe is me attitude in relation to town employees. Contrary to what seems to be the belief, private sector employees do not get raises every year, nor do they all get bonuses. Just because the grass appears greener, does not make it so – for either side. We’re all in this together, and we’ll likely all need to make sacrifices for the long terms greater good of our community.

I would love to see an increase in our town income through the development of businesses that support our community. I do my best to support Southborough businesses, but every week when I buy groceries or general household items I have to go to another town. Could we attract a grocery store to Southborough? It seems that a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s would do well here. Could we have some business development that wasn’t just more office space or condos?

I am happy to see such passionate dialogue on these issues (even when I disagree), and I’m thankful for My Southborough so that I can follow along in the discussion.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Erin

Erin,

Perhaps then we should cut back (Not cut out) the number of librarians,conselors,gym teachers etc. to save the student teacher ratio.

Matthew Brownell
12 years ago
Reply to  John Boiardi

I don’t understand why making an across-the-board pay cut isn’t evaluated, as opposed to lopping-off heads.

Is there something against this in the contract? As I mentioned in a previous post, many employees in the private sector have had to accommodate 5 – 10% pay decreases in the past couple of years, as well as moratoriums on annual merit pay increases and performance bonuses.

What would the cost-savings be to Southborough if an across-the-board 3% wage decrease went into effect? We would not only save jobs , but would also be able to hire additional teachers.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago

We cannot cut the pay of those with a union contract. That would constitute breach of contract and we’d have to pay it. I also heard someone say it would be illegal, but I don’t know enough about school law to say whether there is a specific law that prohibits such a breach other than traditional contract law. So, we can’t just cut teachers’ pay, even if we want to and/or even if we can’t afford to pay on the existing contract.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

Marlboro has frozen step and lane increases even though it is contractual. It will go to court and on the surface you would estimate that the town would lose. However; if other towns are forced to do the same due to the fiscal hole the towns and the state are in maybe the courts or even our legislators will take action to enable towns to adjust contracts. Public sector contracts will be up for negotiation in the coming months or year. We will see how civic minded union negotiators are when they may be offered no wage increases or require more contribution to their health care, or more contribution to the underfunded retirement accounts. Forget the hue and cry about school budgets and class sizes.

bob a
12 years ago
Reply to  Sue Grinblatas

The teachers should AGREE to have their pay cut otherwise other teachers WILL BE LAID OFF.

There is a financial tsunami coming at the local, state and federal budgets. The water is receding ant the waves are approaching.

I urge imediate action by the BOS to seek concessions by ALL unions in town to ACCEPT PAYCUTS TO SAVE JOBS.

Police, fire, municipal and teachers unions must work together with the BOS or will suffer the consequences WHEN the proverbial SHTF!

John
12 years ago

I don’t see where people are attacking our wealthiest residents. I think what really hurts are the people who move to town for the schools, the character, whatever, vote for everything, then move and stick the rest of us with the big bills. I just happen to be one of the very few people left who grew up here, raised a family here, and have seen things spiral out of control.

123
12 years ago

I’m assuming there is some optimal number of students that is required to make the best use of current levels of both teachers and facilities, and provide a level of education that is considered acceptable.

Do we know how many students that is for each grade?

Have we considered accepting students from surrounding towns to make up the gap between that level and the number of students from Southboro?

I believe that surrounding towns take on students (Sudbury at the high school level, and the $ that follow) from other towns to better manage the balance between the number of students in the system and the infrastructure required to support the educational system people are looking for.

As a side note, I’m not sure what is more important than giving our children (and I don’t have any in the system) the best educational opportunities that we can. They are inheriting a burden that they do not deserve that is of a magnitude so much greater than any preceding generation. We have mortgaged our future to an extent that few can understand – promising SS benefits and Medicare benefits far in excess of what those currently benefiting from those programs have contributed and that is only part of the burden.

Finally, to me it’s tremendously shortsighted to compare the quality of what the Southboro schools deliver to all of the schools in Massachusetts. Our kids will not be competing against only the kids from Massachusetts, they’ll be competing against kids from around the world that are more than willing to leave kids behind and focus they’re resources on those with the most promise – right or wrong as that may be.

Linda
12 years ago

Irritated by all of this – maybe we should charge those families who work for the non-profits in town that send their kids to our public schools. We tax payers are carrying those kids on our backs… The Fay School and St. Mark’s PILOT payments are laughable – enough is enough!

Marty
12 years ago

Ed note: This comment has been removed at the commenter’s request.

Sue Grinblatas
12 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Marty, you again raise many good specific ideas. You point out that many of our town budget problems really have to be dealt with on a state-wide basis.
There is a School Committee meeting this Wed. at 6:30 in the Trottier library. This is a good opportunity for people to learn more about the K-8 budget well before Town Meeting, when there’s just not the time (or inclination, usually) to get the “why” and “how” that goes into the budget. (Unfortunately, there is also a meeting at 7:30 on Wed. of the Zoning Advisory Committee on whether to rezone the residential and historical areas around downtown into commercial areas.)

Emily
12 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Marty –

I wanted to put in a quick word about the Arts Council and its unique relationship with the town. It is a town committee with the member of the Arts Council appointed by the Selectmen. The Arts Council has a revolving fund that it pays its teachers and director from. The part-time director is considered a state/town employee from the perspective of having to pay into the mandated state retirement plan and the volunteer treasurer submits the payroll at the town house. All of the money in the revolving fund (balance less than $5,000) is raised by the Arts Council, not given to them from the town budget.

The SCAC (Southborough Cultural Arts Council) receives money from the state agency the Massachusetts Cultural Council through the Local Cultural Council grant program. You can learn more about the process from their website, but here is the link to what was granted in this past grant cycle (click on the tab “Grant Recipients”)

https://www.mass-culture.org/Southborough

A few numbers to help with the big picture of how the SCAC has supported the town over the years through this grant program. From 1998 – 2010 the Art’s Council awarded $57,124. Over the last 5 years (2006 – 2010) the Art’s Council has awarded $19,544 in LCC grants.

Highlight of Grants awarded in 2010:
• School related – $1,300, One Read Program
• Library – $1,895, Genealogy Club Speakers, National Poetry Month, Children’s local authors
• Local music- $500 Pilgrim Church Messiah

High Impact Grants:
• Drop Of Water Program: Focus on caring for our town’s Natural Resources. Department of Public Works, Storm drain education, (170 children)
• Buffalo Soldiers Exhibit: Historical Society, entire community
• “Nature” of Southborough: Focus on Building a Strong Sense and Value of Community and the beauty of our town, (380 children)
• Lunch Recycling Program: Woodward School, 1 week after implementation resulted in a 50% decrease in overall school trash, Grant for implementation in Neary 2010 (Entire school district)

Another way to consider SCAC a town entity would be to think of a few other town committees that offer programming, have employees and use town buildings. The Southborough Senior Center provides the town’s seniors with a variety of activities, services and events.They have a full time director and are overseen by the Council on Aging, a town committee. The Recreation department has 3 staff members provides programs for the town and is overseen by the Recreation Commission, a town committee. And the Southborough Arts Center provides the town art and culture programming, hires a part time employee and is overseen by the Southborough Cultural Council, a town committee.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Marty,

Why does everyone tap dance around the real drivers of the school budget increases? The drivers are the 3% contract increase, the existing step and lane increases and the increased health care costs. The town pays 90% and the teachers pay 10%. Other departments (such as the fire dept.) pay 80/20 which the teachers did not agree to. If you want to hold the school budget in line you can not do it by cutting books, pencils, etc. It is true that state aid, such as SPED and transportation aid is being cut, but these are essentually revenue to the budgets per se while teacher salaries are costs. When we talk about bringing the budget in line with tax dollars all we hear about is the revenue side (state aid) and not enough about the cost side (primary driver salaries).

carrie alpert
12 years ago

Marty,
what refreshing points you have made and i so enjoy your out of the box approach and thinking, and agree with it. You should come to the school committee meeting at Trottier.
If in fact what we are dealing with is a long term problem of the state not funding our budget then brainstorming actual concrete ways to come up with solutions so that we can keep out teachers is what we need and fixing windows rather than replacing them as well as keeping cars instead of upgrading them is a start.
we want to keep out teachers and when you talk to anyone out there with school aged children the common theme is the same, “what do we have to do to make it happen”?

carrie alpert
12 years ago

not sure what is going on with my computer, or perhaps it is my hands this evening.
Surely i meant to type keep our teachers!

bob a
12 years ago

pay cuts to save jobs

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/02/09/what_goes_around/

Lets give the opportunity to our town employees: teachers, police, fire, dpw etc. to save jobs. Mr Gobron, Chief Mauro and Chief Moran should take the lead and make sure we lose no employees. Take pay cuts now and be rewarded later.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

Bob

The Board of Selectmen have recommended a no pay increase plan for non union municipal employees under their supervision. This does not include the schools

That suggestion has been made to the Supervisor and the K-8 school committees but there does not appear to be any serious consideration of this option. I hope I am wrong. It is unlikely that we will get any concessions from the teachers and even less likely if the school leadership does not lead by example.

The difficult truth is that the teachers unions are very tough and unlikely to make a meaningful concession that would materially impact next years finances. Even if the local bargaining unit for the teachers was willing to make a concession they will come under intense pressure from their peers and superiors to not give in. My understanding is that all over the Commonwealth the teachers unions are not budging.

One item that is not talked about is the 7.8% increase in school benefits which is counted on a separate line item from the proposed 3.6% increase in the main K-8 budget. In addition it looks like the Algonquin budget will come in with about a 10% increase to Southborough due primarily to a shift in the mix of Northborough/Southborough students.

Overall right now it looks like our total costs for schools will increase in excess of 5%.
At the same time our non property tax revenues are forecast to decline about 20% or about $2.0 million.

mikefuce@juno.com
12 years ago

Sorry for the typos, the crackberry is not working well and the stinkin guy next to me at the airport wont stop talking to me – ahhh. Kind of makes me sick to hear all the state this, federal that, town this, all non producing entites threatening to take and keep more of my dollars. Did you happen to notice the common thread? Government entities? Unions? Did you all ever think to fire them all and start over – are you really that scared of the big bad union boys? Thugs – I’m not, come on over. Are your school silos so important to you? State mandated funds, state mandated arts, federally mandated grants, funding to get their foot in the door and pull out two years later. You know how it works. Some politician, laywer, making back room deals. Why? Jobs, laywers, polticians, special needs, technology, et… Bull, these kids cant even pass MCAS tests without being taken out of class and coached on how to take the tests. This was a nice town 15 years ago when we moved from another nice town called Wayland and Stow who are broke now and are worse off than ever. But, everyone from everywhere else (NY) and (Midwest) came here with the same big government needs and wants. Ever think what is going to happen when EMC and Fidelity pack up all you VP’s? What happens if the dow hits 5000 next year? Hhave you seen the price of gold? Not going down you money exchangers. I bet the plans are in the works – did you know that? Better sell now non-townies while you can. A real solution is to close all government and town owned buildings and sell all non essential real estate in town. We keep three schools, one fire and one police station. Get rid of the stinkin library – it is a dinasour, artrs building, fayville properties – get them off the books. Move the town hall to half of one of the schools (if some stupid law states we cant put a huge metal wall down the middle. Get rid of all the people there who are predominantly sitting on their hands and staring at the computer screen everytime I go in. i love the people but hate the institution and waste. Fire every stinkin union and union employee and all there retirement and health benefits. Let me tell you about mine and we can see if it matches – not. Why do we need them? Why do you need them? they have destroyed every private enterprise they have got their hands into in the last 50 years.. Not the workers, but the unions. And if the big tough guys – dont want to make consessions dont give in. If our kids have 25, 30, 40 kids in a class and a teacher cant do it then they can leave there are alot of folks looking for work. Give the parents vouchers to go to a school that works. But there are alot of stay at home moms and dads who would be glad to assist and make $10 and hour part time. My oldest child would love to help. She would probably work for $7.50 and hour. My two oldest kids are more factual and scientific then 3/4 of the teachers we have. I am not blaming them but they are ignorant and can not support half the theories they purport in the class room each day. All this modern day psyco babble coming through everyone is ridiculous. Why does every dog gone building need computers and internet? For what the rot of Facebook, bullying, porn? It is ruining your kids and you know it. First it was the library for the seniors and the underpriveledged, then it was the schools, then it was this and that and it is too big now to support folks. you have a PC, teach your kdis. and if your neighbor doesnt reach out and help them. My kid know it as well as i do because I taught them. Why do books cost $100 when i can buy them on amazon for $10. I will let you guess, idiots in the education system (in bed with the publishers) make the decisions and they put garbage in the books that is neither science or factual – not to mention the modern day social mantra coming from the lefties that is destroying their minds with muck. I have one sitting on my desk that is not going back to our school becasue it is filled with lies and manipulation by more leftist liberal flunkies with a chip on their shoulder and want to take more and more of what I earn in the public sector and put it in their SILO – hint: trade carbon credits. Do southborough parents and tax payers have the back bone to step up and say no to them? Do I think so? No I dont, I dont know many who actually have back bone. but I do still have hope – not obama hope but hope that good people can make good decisions. Or again are the majority too concerned with loosing day care and the chance to get into some second rate college teaching the same muck? I mean really, do you really think your kid is going to Harvard or Princton? Fat chance, nice to wish, but thats like thinking one of our lilly white kdis will play in the NBA.

Heather
12 years ago

Vouchers. Sign me up.

AS
12 years ago

Has there been any discussion about the school budget not paying for student transportation costs and bill parents directly for all students (regular school and special needs). Parents can choose to use the buses or drive their kids to school. There can be a sliding scale as the number of kids in the school system goes up for a household.

Beyond all great points made about no raises for teachers, other opportunities to cut waste etc…this is probably a more “fair” way to make up the shortfall in the school budget. I know a number of towns do this (e.g. Lexington).

Just an idea!!

Kate
12 years ago

Mike & Heather,

Our Districts don’t offer school choice, but have you considered Charter Schools? A number of Northborough and Southborough students have moved to charters after 5th grade – they’re public schools, any Massachusetts student can apply, and they’ve had pretty good results. I’ve found the Special Education services impressive, & the math instruction at AMSA has been excellent.

Heather
12 years ago

We should offer vouchers.
Choice is a very good thing.
Competition in the “educational marketplace” can be nothing but positive.

mike
12 years ago

I hope more people are reading this than just the 5 or 6 who are contributing. All raises and all benefits should not only be froze – teachers, unions and town workers – but the benefits in particular – thoughout every town agency and schools (how about the state and federal as well) should be cut. I now contribute 33.4% of my families annual health care costs per month. That equates to $4350 out of $13,000 to insure my family on BC/BS Anthem. then we pay $10 for a wellness visit – once a year, $20 for cold and flu appointments, and $40 for specailist like PT Physical therapy. So my son who has to go to PT twice a week for six months we end up paying like this. Docotr bills $181, BC/BS approves $80 and our co pay is $40. BC/BS only ends up paying half. Great plan huh? Do the stinkin teachers town employees unions people have that? i pay into my 40lK plan, I buy my companies stocks there is no so called retirement. I think the towns is a bit more than that dont you? And I am funding it it does not come from some abstract foreign bank. For what, to collect taxes, stare at a PC screen, check the dried flowers at the cemetery and make sure the cars have a sticker at the dump? to pay for the towns ambulance chaser to hire an outside firm to assess our house values so that there is no one in town held respoinsible? Just some outside source. Come on folks if they can’t bend lets collectively fire them and start over. ithink there were 5 PHd’s that could teach at a get together last night. And let me add I have been in the same profession – selling telecom gear for 20 years, highly educated, and someone teaching first and second grades benefits are better than mine? I appreciate what the teachers do. They are by and large fantastic but they as a group have to understand at this point that there is trouble brewing for them. Or someone God Bless them who drives a truck for the towns are better? have we really dumbed down our society that the average federal employee now makes $81K to sit at a deska nd harrass us?. People at Massport took $100k in vacation unused. that bull has been gone for 20 years in the private sector. hard choices need to be made. I dont want anyone fired or furloughed but I say it is time to throw everyone out as the constitution states. It is tyrnaical.

mike
12 years ago

So maybe Sue, and I know you are busy on all of this, you and the school committe as well as Mr. Gobron should speak with the wonderful unions and tell them they are most certainly going to loose positions and if they dont budge they are going to further damage the little ones they claim to care so much about – bull, I dont buy it. And, our selectmen should do the same with the town unions. Everything has to be cut folks, it is not a sustainable model. No one has the money to pay for the way the false system was built the past 20 years. It was all on borrowed money no one really had including us. It was all built on a fiat system – which by the way is crumbling more each day. The nanny state can not and will not survive because you can only print money for so long before it buys nothing – including all the services no one whats to cut.. See the price of cereal increasing every month . It most certainly is not going to get any better. And as far as the library goes come on what are you willing to cut Sue. I have not heard one suggestion only supporting the status quo – or collecting a few pennies on overdue movies or books. I know you mean well but the best intentions have come to naught. Of course Kim is wonderful at the library and does so much to foster reading. But that is your job as your childrens mother and my job as my childs Dad, not a public libraries. It is interesting so many got peeved at that term nanny state. perhaps it hit close to home and rubbed a sore spot with some?

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