Archive 2008 - 2019

February 6, 2014 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

Dr. Jackson read aloud the names of the 2014 Scholastic Art Award winners from HHS. Eleven students took home 18 awards ranging from Honorable Mention to Gold Key. Congratulations to all! We hope to be putting their artwork on the District webpage, so stay tuned in. Additionally, Dr. Ahern noted, the Miller School band was featured in this link to a CNN story on music education, brain development, and learning ( 
The main focus of the evening was Dr. Jackson’s presentation of his recommended FY15 budget.  You can watch it in its entirety on HCAT ( or read it at  As well, The Metrowest Daily News has an article on the evening:  My summary is below.

Dr. Jackson introduced his budget, acknowledging some level of frustration, reading a quote from the US Marine Corp, A Financial Guidebook for Commanders: “A vision without resources is a hallucination.” The budget process to date has been a little different this year:

·         Principals/Directors submitted their budget requests

·         Tuition-free, Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) Initiative presented Dec. 12 to Fin Com and Board of Selectmen

·         The regular New Initiative Workshop CANCELLED due to the low budget guideline and system-wide agreement on the importance of FDK this year.

·         Final preparation of this initial budget by Superintendent and Business Manager

The budget atmosphere in which this budget was developed:

·         It is not developed in a vacuum, but guided by the District’s Strategic Plan and the School Improvement Plans

·         Student enrollment is stable PK-12, with pockets of growth and decline

·         The preliminary FY15 State Aid figures project a $64,200 increase in Chapter 70 Aid, which is not figured into the Fin Com revenue projections.

Dr. Jackson said he believes there are competing philosophies at work in Holliston right now.  On one hand, there is the valid and enduring philosophy of wanting to ensure the long-term viability of the town.  This is enforced by the budget guideline developed by the Fin Com which invests $2M of locally- raised property taxes in Reserves and set-asides for future (30+ years) obligations (OPEB) and to improve the town’s bond rating. 

On the other hand, there is the goal and necessity of maintaining and/or improving current programs, which would require investing all locally-raised property taxes to provide these high quality local services.  Dr. Jackson noted that the conflict between these dueling philosophies is apparent at joint meetings amongst town committees.  He went on to say that in the past, particularly during the recession, when revenues were lowered, we have focused almost exclusively on the latter, with the scale tipping towards maintaining current programs.   However, now the scale has almost completely tipped in the other direction, despite more available revenue.  Dr. Jackson believes that we are in danger of impacting the quality of town services, including schools, fire, and police (though he was clear to say he was not speaking in anyone else’s voice).

The Finance Committee guideline across the board, determined with an eye towards ensuring the long-term viability, with any excess revenues to be set aside, for ALL departments is 1.5%.

·         The FY14 School Budget was $29,556,396

·         The Fin Com recommended FY15 Guideline would result in a budget of $29,999,741

·         That is an increase of $443,345 or 1.5% over FY14.

This year, Dr. Jackson said, he was a different approach to developing the budget, with an eye towards increasing the transparency of the process and bringing it to a more understandable level.  He went on to describe the many moving parts of a school budget.  The top four comprise a level-service budget:

1.      Anticipated Expense Increases

2.      Anticipated Expense Decreases

3.      Anticipated Revenue Decreases (independent of town taxes; it includes things like grants and fees)

4.      Anticipated Revenue Increases

5.      Recommended New Initiative(s)

He noted that the ONLY New Initiative being brought forth this year was the proposal for Tuition-free, Full-Day Kindergarten in all programs, for all students, beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year (here is the link to the Dec. 12 presentation: and here is the financial summary, as a refresher:

1.      Anticipated expense increases:

·         Outfit two classrooms ($30K)

·         2.0 FTE Teachers ($110K)

·         FTE Paraprofessionals ($32.670)

2.      Anticipated expense decreases:

·         Eliminate mid-day bus run (-$40,500)

3.      Anticipated revenue decreases:

·         Loss of tuition revenue ($350,106)

Total FY15 cost: $482,276

Moving on to present Dr. Jackson’s FY15 budget:
1. Anticipated expense increases:

·         Out-of District SPED placements (NOT total SPED costs) for a handful of students -$446,423

·         Required/Projected salary adjustments (unspecified due to ongoing collective bargaining- $279,999

·         Utilities/Heating oil- $77,883

·         Norfolk Agricultural tuition- $56,485

·         In-District services (for SPED, PT/OT)- $52,000

·         Home/Hospital Tutors (which are exploding this year due to the number of hospitalizations of students, nearly one/month, due to anxieties, etc.)  The District is trying to get this more under control with online education- $27,000

·         Building cleaning contract- $23,721

·         Regular transportation contract- $13,164

·         Middle School (which has been level funded since its inception)- $3,201

·         SPED legal services (ensures compliance)- $2,000


2. Anticipated FY15 Expense Decreases:

·         Implement FY14 budget freeze/pre-buy FY15 supplies- $70,000

·         Convert vacant Placentino/Miller position to contract services- $12,000


3. Anticipated FY15 Revenue Decreases:

·         Reduce projected use of School Tuition revenue to match FY14 actuals (we’ve been spending down reserves faster than we can fill them to mitigate the effects of low budgets and to hold classrooms harmless to the extent possible)- $115,816

·         Reduce projected use of Bus Fee revenue to match FY14 actuals- $25,000

·         Reduction in Federal Grant income- $11,921

·         Reduce projected use of Activity Fee revenues to match FY14 actuals (to put it bluntly, not all families have been paying their agreed upon activity fees and not all activity leaders have been enforcing their collection)- $10,000


4. Anticipated FY15 Increases:

·         Projected increase in Circuit Breaker revenue (SPED; assuming level reimbursement rate of 72%)- $88,996

·         Increase Bus Fees to offset anticipated revenue loss (bus fees have remained flat since their inception)- $25,000

·         Increase in HS Activity Fees to offset anticipated revenue loss- $5,000

·         Increase MS Athletic fees to offset increased expenses (this is a self-funded program and fees have stayed level since their inception)- $3,201


So, to sum up:

FY14 Budget- $29,556,396

1. Anticipated Expense Increases- $981,876

2. Anticipated Expense Decreases- ($82,000)

3. Anticipated Revenue Decreases- $162,737

4. Anticipated Revenue Increases- ($122,197)

Recommended New Initiative(s)- $482,276

Superintendent’s Recommended FY15 Budget- $30,979,088 (which is an increase of $1,422,692 or 4.81%)

Final FY15 Budget Analysis:

·         To maintain current services and programs (or what’s known as a level-service budget)- $940,416 or 3.18% would be needed. The Fin Com’s recommendation of 1.5% allows for $443,345.

·         Adding Tuition-free, FDK- $482,276 or an additional 1.63%

Total Recommended Increase- $1,422,692 or 4.81%

Next on the agenda, Carol Emmons and Ian Kelly, two members of the Superintendent Evaluation Sub Committee (along with Erica Plunkett) shared the work they had done on implementing the new instrument the Committee will use to evaluate the Superintendent.  This new tool is mandated by the DESE and is part of the Educator Evaluation system.  Similar to the teacher evaluation, the School Committee will be focusing their evaluation on ten priority elements across four different domains: Instructional Leadership; Management and Operations; Family and Community Engagement; and Professional Culture.  The Sub Committee distributed a calendar for this process, and, as always, noted that the Summative Evaluation will be read in public session in May.

Items of interest in School Committee packets included a letter to Chairwoman Plunkett and Superintendent Jackson in response to their letter from November, expressing concern over non-exemptions for MCAS test takers, along with PARCC field testing. The letter explained Commissioner Chester’s “reasoning” for the decisions around this matter.  Also included was the TEC newsletter, which included a piece on TEC’s Commonwealth Virtual School.  Dr. Jackson sits on the Board of Directors of TEC and has been instrumental in developing digital learning for TEC and its communities, including Holliston.

The next meeting is February 27, 2014.  Central to that agenda will be: FY15 Budget discussions; a presentation by HYBA for a new scoreboard; and a vote on a TEC capital reserve fund.  Office Hours are on the website (, but the next one is Tuesday, Feb 25, 8-9 am, at Coffee Haven.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Central Office or any School Committee member.  

Kindest regards,

Erica Plunkett

Chair, Holliston School Committee

Did You Know…. that Billerica is planning to implement Tuition-free, Full-Day Kindergarten, as well?  (  If you’re interested in helping advance this initiative in Holliston, check out Holliston Parents for Full Day Kindergarten on Facebook.  And, most importantly, please stay informed on the budget process, which culminates in Town Meeting on May 5th.  

Comments (1)

What happened on the cape?

I KNOW | 2014-02-12 13:07:58