Archive 2008 - 2019

Comments on the Budget Process

by Stacey Raffi

For months, I have been looking at and listening to many forms of data -- all related to the Holliston Public Schools District Budget.  I'm learning about municipal finance and growing an appreciation for what a complex puzzle it is and YES, it is truly complex!  I have always had a level of respect for those who sit on the town committees/departments.  This year, the respect has grown to the nth degree.

I would like to personally thank my teammates on the School Committee.  We have worked for hours - questioning numbers, strategizing recommendations, questioning impact on our students, teachers, and the community at large, making recommendations, and repeating the process a few times.  I need to congratulate and thank Anne Louise Hanstad and Carol Emmons for their professional, clear and articulate presentations of our recommendations to the community, the Board of Selectmen, and the Finance Committee.  I have deep appreciation for our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Business Manager.  You have no idea how many hours they spent  providing the budget sub-committee with details, numbers, and explanations.  I can not leave out all those in the district who spent time and efforts on providing the School Committee with more data points and presentations on curriculum, etc. ... those include teachers, staff, and principals.

Over the past several weeks, I've been directly involved in making decisions that impact the lives of my fellow community members (i.e.. the "cut list").   In many moments it was frustrating, infuriating and quite frankly miserable but the desire to do the right thing for our students, our teachers, and the future of our community has always been in the forefront of my mind.  A light is finally peeking out at the end of the tunnel.

I'm more than thankful that the efforts of BOTH the Finance Committee and School Committee resulted in a big compromise that have in effect averted the need for an override for FY16. A special shout-out needs to go to Ken Szajda, Chairman of the Finance Committee.  Ken, you restored my faith in a collaborative partnership between our two committees by your rational, thoughtful, and forward thinking approach in trying to find a way to close the gap that we have been facing for FY16.

This is significant to me because, we, the town of Holliston, have been gifted an opportunity to come together and work towards:
*creating and implementing a strategy for our town that will be responsible, fair and sustainable
*pursuing one strong voice to make changes in our local and state government
*collaborating between the multiple town departments for the greater good of our ENTIRE community.

As I have sat here and re-read the above to edit, I realize that it sounds a bit fluffy and full of cliche buzzwords from the private sector but I mean every word and have chosen them because they fit my feelings.

I'm feeling hopeful that Holliston has the opportunity to be that forward-thinking, progressive town that it once was during the times of Sam Placentino.

I very much look forward to further serving my town, my future over the next few years.

Stacey Raffi

Holliston School Committee

Comments (6)

I know it's a popular subject to jump all over Dr. Jackson and his salary, but it's not like he's some out of touch executive collecting his fat salary while the worker bees do all the work. If you had a VP in business, with a PhD in his area of expertise, working with a $30 million budget and hundreds of employees in multiple buildings spread on 3 campuses, wouldn't he be worth a little bit of money? Yes, he's fairly compensated for his work, and it's comparable to what he would make in other towns. I mean, it's not like this guy is incompetent, it's just that he's fairly (and rightfully) compensated for his work. If you don't have a problem with how he runs the schools, then maybe you should stop complaining about how much he earns. This kind of work doesn't come free or for $50k per year. And it doesn't come with a company car, stock options, or private club memberships.

Hungry Hippo | 2015-04-03 15:20:45

Brian, I second Stacey Raffi's sentiments. The levels of cuts that would need to be made to meet this year's guideline were very significant - cutting a drama teacher, some courses, or even giving the Superintendent a raise (you really need to check your facts here -- last year Dr. Jackson declined even a cost of living increase) would not have done it. The body of work that was put forth to reach a solution for this year was immense, and done in good faith for the good of the whole of the Town. We simply could not gamble the level of cuts on the many hurdles it would have to clear. Dr. Szjada's time and effort for the Town is absolutely worth a "pat on the back" in your words. He, along with the School Committee Chair, members of the Budget Subcommittee, and Central office administration, all deserve respect and gratitude for putting forth their time and efforts for the Town, whether you agree with the outcome or not.

Joan Sousa | 2015-04-03 08:53:12

Agreed with the second two comments. Thank you so much for your hard work. While we all may disagree on what to cut where, the money problem is not your fault. If students were enrolling in all classes equally budgeting would still be an issue. and the movement of more special needs students to town is not your fault (nor is it theirs or their parents) but the states.

Andrew Mades | 2015-04-02 21:30:06

Thank you for the article and thank you for the selfless time you all put into this process. I have the benefit of having many family members who chose to dedicate themselves to educating our kids and therefor fully appreciate the challenges of funding a top performing district that is reliant almost exclusively on a residential tax base. Please keep fighting and know that your efforts are rewarded every day when families like ours chose to move to this great town because of what you have all created. If people take the time to follow happenings here and attend town meeting I think they will find we are very fortunate to have intelligent, and financially responsible people making decisions. All as volunteers. Perhaps I should have added crazy in there with that said! The value we receive here is significant when viewed against the lack of diverse tax base, cost per pupil and overall great community we live in. This is why we live here. Thank you and good luck. You have our support.

Matt Gibbs | 2015-04-02 16:12:19

Brian- I'm more than happy to meet with you to provide you with facts and correct information as to why there are budget challenges. My intent of this post is not to pat ourselves on the back, rather acknowledge that the different boards are in fact collaborating and working together to do what's right for our town. Instead of just "talking" about issues and challenges, both Fincom and SC have made a commitment to take this year to work through our fiscal challenges that are caused by flawed funding mechanisms. If you have realistic solutions that you would like to share, we (Fincom, BOS, and SC) would love to hear them. Contact information can be found on the town website Best, Stacey

Stacey Raffi | 2015-04-02 15:12:00

From the HR Selectmen's Meeting article - April 1. "The requested override by the school committee was rescinded as the finance committee and the school committee reached a compromise on Tuesday that eliminated need for an override in fiscal 2016. However, an override is anticipated for the following year..." It seems to me your patting yourselves on the back for kicking the can down the road. If the School Committee made the really tough decisions (e.g. Cutting drama and business courses a few years back) when it should have, we wouldn't be in this mess. Not to mention, they hand Dr. Jackson a pay raise every time the wind changes direction. But hey, "you have no idea how many hours [he] spent providing the budget sub-committee with details, numbers, and explanations." Thank heavens for the doctor's selfless service to the town!

Brian | 2015-04-02 11:04:04