Archive 2008 - 2019

February 27, 2014 School Committee

by Erica Plunkett


The meeting opened with some general comments about upcoming school events, including concerts and Math Night.  Mrs. Galeaz-Weber and Mrs. Plunkett announced their intentions to seek another term on the School Committee. Additionally, Dr. Jackson referred to a link shared on the Holliston Public Schools Facebook page on virtual snow days (not possible for public schools yet, but being done in a private school): (Editorial note: I’m sure the kids will LOVE that!) 

Dr. Ahern also noted that the foreign language lab at the High School (capital funds approved last October) is now up and running, and the company also upgraded the middle school software so that both schools are running on the same platform. 

First on the agenda, the School Committee voted to approve the Holliston Youth Baseball/Softball Association’s plan to finance and install a new scoreboard at Damigella field.  The Committee thanks them for their efforts and also tthanks student and recent Eagle Scout Brian Jacobs for his project that constructed dugouts at the field.   

The main focus of the evening was Dr. Jackson’s revised presentation of his recommended FY15 budget.  You can watch it in its entirety on HCAT (  This information was reviewed and some minor changes made (notated in RED).  A summary is below. 

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 took a slightly different approach to developing the budget, with an eye towards increasing the transparency of the process and further identify the 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.  Dr. Jackson, working with Town Manager Paul LeBeau has been able to further refine financial projections by being more specific with regard to the new teachers needed, using recent history and hiring data.  Additionally, Dr. Jackson and Business Manager Keith Buday have reviewed the financials around FDK with the DESE School Finance Office.  Next week’s meeting will hopefully include finalized costs for five years, including benefits.  The major issue remains looking to find funding sources for the first year cash flow gap of $466,689. 

1.      Anticipated expense increases:

·         Outfit two classrooms ($30K)

·         2.0 FTE Teachers ($94,413)- (assuming one hire at B2 and one at M2; this amount was originally $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: $466,689


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 ($300k+ covers just one student in an out-of-district residential placement)

·         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



Revised FY15 Budget:

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)- $466,689

Superintendent’s Recommended FY15 Budget- $30,963,501 (which is an increase of $1,407,105 or 4.76%)


Budget Increase Analysis:                                                                 

Maintain Current programs/services- $940,416 or 3.18%

Add Tuition-free FDK-                      $466,689 or 1.58%

Total Recommended Increase          $1,407,105 or 4.76%            


Gap Analysis/Funding Plan:

Required Funds to maintain current services: $940,416      
Required Funds to add FDK: $466,689

Fin Com Guideline:                                        $443,345                                                         $0

GAP                                                                $497,071*                                                       $466,689**


* Plan to close gap to maintain current services: review staffing plan for possible reductions; request additional appropriation to fund any remaining gap

** Plan to close gap to add FDK: Consult with Fin Com regarding possible sources to meet one-year funding expense.                             

 Next on the agenda, the School Committee voted to approve the establishment of a capital reserve fund for TEC. There have been changes to the laws that govern collaboratives which required this vote.  It is NOT for the Holliston Public Schools. 

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; details around Revolving Accounts; projected multi-year costs of FDK; and bus fees.  Office Hours are on the website (, but the next one is Thursday, March 27, 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. 

Did You Know…. “If you’re poorly educated in this economy, it’s really difficult.”- Michael Goodman.


 Michael Goodman is associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  Dr. Goodman previously served as the Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMass Donahue Institute.

An economic sociologist, Professor is also the co-Editor of MassBenchmarks, the journal of the Massachusetts Economy.