Selectmen review budgets, ask about Sunday hours for the Transfer Station

Some of you have asked recently what it would take to get the Transfer Station open on Sundays. At their meeting on Tuesday, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf wanted to know the answer to that same question.

While reviewing a proposed $3.55M public works budget, Phaneuf asked DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan what impact opening the Transfer Station on Sundays would have on her budget and department.

Phaneuf asked Galligan to put together scenarios based on her available staff. “If it can’t be done, I’d like to know what needs to be done to make it happen,” Phaneuf said.

In addition to the DPW budget, selectmen, along with the Advisory Committee, also got their first look at the facilities, police, and fire budgets.

Here’s a high-level recap of the numbers including the percent increase over last year. All except for the facilities budget represent level-services budgets. You can read more detail on the budget discussion in the Metrowest Daily News.

DPW: $3,554,690 (+3.3%)
Fire: $1,805,630 (+4.49%)
Police: $1,576,317 (+2.3%)
Facilities: $472,403 (+10.5%)

12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Neil Rossen
11 years ago

These are reported as ” a high level recap of the numbers and % increase over last year”. As with private businesses, can we not see DECREASES? Or have we unsustainable union deals to honor and will not risk court action? Each town is a microcosm of the State. MA like other blue states is sinking as red states REDUCE taxes and attract businesses and residents. Do we really want to emulate CA and IL? Or can MA and our town turn it around?

I expect the usual chorus of tax hikers to assail me.

Marnie
11 years ago

The economic situation that the US, MA and Southborough have experienced is certainly not going away for this planning cycle. It is critical that the Town have a 2-5 year plan for Southborough with considerations of our micro and macro environment impacts. Our town planners, advisors and residents should have a thorough understanding of the “must haves” for servicing the town and the “nice to haves.” It is difficult to take a peek at only a few of the service contracts without the context of an entire plan, inclusive of our school budgets and all other departments and service activities.

I see the opportunity for the Selectmen and advisory is to understand and frame up the needs in a prioritized ranking. Offering clear trade-offs and decisions that taxpayers should make. For example, the 10.5% increase in facilities can only be understood knowing what specifically is driving these costs up- labor, raw materials, building maintenance, capital expense, etc.(assuming that our departments have secured the best available negotiated rates and procured raw materials with cost efficiency in mind prior to submitting a first pass of their budget.) What does the 10.5% get us? It is our Selectmen, advisory and taxpayer obligation to understand the trade-offs of funding the 10.5% increase versus something else. What is the opportunity cost of funding that 10.5% increase- what do we miss out on funding and will Southborough be “okay” without it.

We have not seen the school budget but as a working mother of 2 in the public school system, one of my priorities is assuring that my children obtain top tier education in a healthy, clean and spacious environment with a proper student teacher ratio. Some of our choices last year have impacted that ratio and we have 4th grade classrooms with a 24:1 ratio which I believe have impacted the teacher’s ability to control a classroom and the student’s ability to stay highly focused on the materials. I am not willing to make that sacrifice this year. Our school system is doing the best that they can with the limited resources that they have but it is my opinion that we should not be willing to sacrifice this budget for a “nice to have” in another department.

We need a series of honest discussions at our meetings leading up to our Town Meeting. I think it is every taxpayer’s obligation to understand what the budget is and appreciate that we cannot fund everything.

My suggestion for my peers, friends, neighbors….Please take the time to learn about our budgets (public meetings held and posted here and at our town website (http://www.southboroughtown.com/calendar.htm) and build your own set of prioritized rankings of what our tax dollars should fund in preparation for Town meeting. Self- education is our best chance for transparency in our budget process.

Neil Rossen
11 years ago

Good, sensible letter Marnie. Seems though that your priority is the school. Well 24:1 is not a bad ratio and compares well with Detroit at 62. Yes, this is not Detroit and 62 is too much but 24 seems fine to me. If the teacher cannot control 24 relatively well off students then perhaps questions should be asked about the teacher. Just my opinion, and possibly better not debated at length as agreement is distant.

So far, the budgets never seem to get boiled down to the essentials you ask for – maybe that would be too much like a business. That takes me back to John Butler’s argument that we need a new town structure with a Manager. Perhaps that time has come

Lisa
11 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

Neil,

I have to disagree with your comment on “24 relatively well off students”, well in a perfect world that would probably work. But most classrooms at the schools have children that are receiving IEP Services, my son’s class has 19 students and 5 are receiving services. That is the reality. I give major kudos to the teachers that we have and how well they are able to educate ALL students equally. Yes it is their job and they are trained for this, but I feel it is our job as Parents and Tax Payers to make sure they have every tool necessary to be successful.

I am suprised I am commenting on this as I normally agree with you!

Marnie
11 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

Neil,
My comment was not aimed at one teacher, in fact, the teachers are doing an outstanding job with the kids. Lisa’s point is spot on, it is not about “well off” students at all. We are so fortunate to have integrated classrooms, classrooms accepting all children however, the funding does not provide support for all level of children needs. Teachers are required to manage needs of 24 children and that is not an “easy” task. My request is that everyone should know their priority and yes my priority is securing appropriate funding for our future generation.
I wholeheartedly agree with the town manager role. Our town could benefit from a more business like approach and I would happily circulate a petition for our town’s reconsideration of a manager role in town government again in 2011!

carrie alpert
11 years ago

fantastic post Marnie, would expect nothing less from you–the 3rd paragraph in particular should be a manual for the upcoming “debate” and decision making for the student/teacher ratio. As you stated self education is key.

the line, “not willing to make that sacrifice this year” is pretty much how i feel. i am finished with the supporting, making do and sacrificing while turning a blind eye to the overcrowding and the burn out the teachers are facing.

agreement is distant if in fact you are comparing the students in our town to being relatively well off compared to students in Detroit. And when you say 24 “seems fine to you” Neil you are probably thinking that the students are all sitting and actively listening and following the rules but that is not the case, even if the classrooms were not integrated 24 is a lot of different personalities all working together at once; really is not a t.v show.

I also have to ask how many of the current teachers you have personally met as it is pretty brazen of you to comment that the fault lies with the teacher to not be able to control “24 well off students” –really snide–

By the 5th grade the kids are BIG and 24 of them crammed into a tiny classroom at Neary is not conducive to learning, you cannot form a winning argument to push that through. At my fall conference i kept looking around thinking, “all day 24 kids are shoved in here?”
Thankfully my child’s teacher is a gem and can “control” her classroom–she must have the “24 well off students”

Neil Rossen
11 years ago

The closing of Neary should be examined objectively and a determination made as to whether consolidation could save money. Or find savings elsewhere in the budget. As far as I’m concerned, no new taxes, period. Those who have an agenda of their own should pay for it by voluntary donation.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago

I agree that maintaining a high quality education system is amoung the highest priorities in town. It it the right thing to do for our children and is the surest way for us to maintain premium property values (win win).

However, we also have to face facts and make some hard decisions that we have been avoiding for a long time.

1. Over 70% of town spending is done in our school system. People always look to the Selectmen for leadership on cost containment. The reality is we need to look to the School Committees and their budget process.

2. While incomes in Ma have gone down over the last 2 years (I believe the number is about 1/2 %) Public sector workers have continued to make steady economic gains. The old bargain Modest Salary, job security,good benefits and a retirement benefit comparable to good private sector employers has been replaced with Good Salary, Job Security, very good benefits and a retirement program unavailable in the private sector. We have a lot of fine people working for us but we do not have a sustainable way to continue the status quo.

3. Labor Costs are far and away the biggest category of expense in town.

So, there are a lot of things, like closing Neary, that should be carefully reviewed but if you want to make a serious reduction the student teacher ratio you will either need to address cost of teachers and other public sector workers or look you neighbor who has been out of work for a year in the eye and tell him or her that you want to raise his/her taxes. That may be the thing to do but there are no easy answers.

Jim Hegarty
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

There have been several recent posts on this blog concerning the costs to operate the town and suggestions on costs and taxes. Since the Board of Selectmen are in the middle of labor negotiations with town unions, now is an excellent time for anyone with an opinion on these matters to contact all three selectmen and express your opinions on these contract negotiations.

I believe that last year, state employees had to take 2 weeks off without pay (not sure about this year), and President Obama recently announced a two-year salary freeze for all federal civilian employees.

Neil Rossen
11 years ago

As usual, a sensible post from Al Hamilton. Maybe the DETAILS of teacher and school officials compensation should be clearly published together with their retirement benefits (andf for that matter other town employees) in an understandable format. This would allow us to more accurately judge the merits.

carrie alpert
11 years ago

I would be remiss if when i read the two above posts i did not comment. I agree that Al, you make sensible points and if the numbers continue to decline closing Neary in order to maintain optimum levels in all areas: ratios/salaries–building maintenance etc.

there are absolutely no easy answers for quality education with balanced budget or striving to have a balanced budget. i remember when i suggested, merely suggested combining the Senior Center with Finn–not only for cost efficiency but for the benefit of the 2 age groups– and the uproar it created.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago

Closing Neary is a misnomer. The reality is that the School Committee would declare Neary surplus to their needs and turn the facility over to the BOS. At that point many interesting options become available including consolidating the programs in Fayville Hall, South Union School and Cordaville Hall and perhaps even the Police Station.

That would then in turn permit the disposition of all of those facilities which could be , sold off or perhaps given to the Fire Dept so the Chief could go out in a “Blaze of Glory” (Sorry Chief I could not resist).

I think it would be prudent to not make any changes to Neary that could not be reasonably undone to return it to use as a school in the future if the need arose in the future.

  • © 2022 MySouthborough.com — All rights reserved.