Archive 2008 - 2019

March 20 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

Currently, there are three finalists for the Director of Student Services and Dr. Jackson intends to bring a candidate back to the Committee for a vote the next meeting.  For the Elementary Principal search, nine candidates have been chosen for interviews, and 3-5 will be brought to Dr. Jackson for his final decision, hopefully prior to April vacation.  Lastly, more congratulations to the HHS Math Team who placed third and continuing on to states.  As well, the Robotics team is competing this weekend and best of luck to them.

First on the agenda, the Committee voted to amend policy BIA, School Committee New Member Orientation.  Following that was a quick review of the new tool that will be used to evaluate the Superintendent as part of the new Educator Evaluation process mandated by the state.

The main focus of the meeting was the revision of the Superintendent’s recommended budget for FY15, in preparation for the presentation to the Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 25.  He began with a suggested agenda:

1.      Review important new information regarding the New Initiative, Tuition-free, Full-Day Kindergarten

2.      Review Superintendent’s budget recommendation

3.      Review current GAP between Superintendent’s recommendation and Fin Com Guideline

4.      Discuss any proposed changes to Superintendent’s recommendations

5.      Consider next steps regarding TFFDK in light of new information

6.      VOTE School Committee approved FY15 Budget Proposal

Dr. Jackson’s primary question to the Committee was: Can we realistically continue to rely on the State of Massachusetts to provide the level of Chapter 70 Aid that was projected to support TFFDK in Year Two and beyond?

I would direct community members’ attention to the recap on HCAT ( which will likely be posted in the next day or two.  To answer the above question, Dr. Jackson gave a very comprehensive lesson on Chapter 70 and the changes that came with the Joint Resolution last Friday. These changes impact the single initiative for FY15 of Tuition-free FDK.  Over the past months, Dr. Jackson noted, he and Business Manager Keith Buday had developed a good understanding of the costs of TFFDK, with the major issue being a one-year funding gap.  However, the state made adjustments to the funding that were just communicated in the Joint Resolution.  In essence, what was a one-time issue is now a permanent funding one.  Essentially, Holliston’s categorization has switched from one type of community to another and is now part of the group whose target aid number has been lowered below the actual amount of aid Holliston is receiving.  This has happened because of three variables.  The first Holliston was aware of, the other two, not:

1.      We have fewer students in FY15 than FY 14 (based on Oct. 13 enrollment numbers)

2.      The state population of students went up for the first time in five years by .3%

3.      The number of students attending Keefe Tech has gone up by five (or 14%.)

These three things are causing Holliston’s target aid number to go down by $325K.  So the money that the District believed they would be receiving in year two of TFFDK is being “eaten up” by the fact that the District’s actual aid is over target.  The only increase in Chapter 70 aid for Holliston is $25 per student, called minimum aid, for a total of $64,200.    

The options, as discussed with the Budget Sub Committee were:

1.      Abandon TFFDK (not endorsed by the Budget Sub Committee)

2.      Consider a phase in over four years, lowering tuition by 25% each year.  This would require special consideration by the Fin Com in guideline development to make up for the loss of revenue

3.      An override

4.      A one year deferment of TFFDK, establishing a Task Force of the SC, the Fin Com, the BoS, and legislators to talk about funding mechanisms.

As noted below, the School Committee has voted for the final option of a deferment.  But Dr. Jackson was quite strident in his dismay over the lack of support given by the state, especially in light of all the mandates they have imposed on communities (Ed Eval, PARCC, DDMs, etc.).  He called the increase of .9% in Chapter 70 aid “an insult.”   

Dr. Jackson then went on to present his revised recommended FY15 budget, reviewing much of the following information which has been presented in the past few meetings.

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.

Dr. Jackson reiterated the many moving parts of a School Budget, with one small change reflected below:

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)

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:

·         Reduce 2.0 FTE Teachers (HS, subject TBD; Elementary Unified Arts Teacher)- Administrators are revising the teacher schedule to reduce the staff but the students will receive the same required programming in Unified Arts.  And teachers will still maintain the required planning time as required by contract). -  $111,851

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

·         Reclassify 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 (3/20/14) FY15 Budget:

FY14 Budget- $29,556,396

1. Anticipated Expense Increases- $981,876

2. Anticipated Expense Decreases- ($193,851)

3. Anticipated Revenue Decreases- $162,737)

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

Recommended New Initiative(s)- $0- DEFER

Superintendent’s Recommended FY15 Budget- $30,384,961 (which is an increase of $828,565 or 2.8%) 

Gap Analysis/Funding Plan:

Required Funds to maintain current services: $828,565         Required Funds to add FDK: $0

Fin Com Guideline:                                        $443,345                                                         $0

GAP                                                                $385,220*                                                       $0 

* At this point, Dr. Jackson is not recommending any further reductions in staff as they will directly impact the classroom.  He would request Fin Com to increase the School Committee guideline by $64,200, which is the minimum Chapter 70 increase that the state is presenting.  He would further request additional appropriation by the Fin Com to fund the remaining gap of $321,020. The School Committee voted in the affirmative for the FY15 budget and will be presenting it to the Fin Com on Tuesday, March 25.  

Next on the agenda, Dr. Ahern reviewed the last Professional Day which took place on March 14.  The day was a building-based one, and many of the offerings provided follow-up to earlier development.  These included school-based leadership conducting sessions on Educator Evaluation, Empowering Writers, Data Teams, and Technologyn Integration.  In addition, educators are preparing to incorporate DDMs (District-Determined Measures) into Ed Eval (DDMs are assessments to measure student growth).  The day also provided educators at the Elementary Schools an opportunity to practice the District’s new Intruder Response Protocol.  

Lastly, Dr. Ahern also gave a quick update on the PARCC field testing.  As this test is one that students will take online, much of the work has been focused on technology and interfaces with Pearson.  System checks have gone well, but a dozen staff members have spent well over 100 hours on just one classes field test.  It remains to be seen how Districts will implement PARCC across the board with no additional funding.

The next meeting is April 3, 2014 (which is also the Public Hearing for the FY15 Budget).  Central to that agenda will be: the Public Hearing on the FY15 Budget; Dr. Jackson’s review of the District Goals; and a Leave of Absence request. 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.   

Kindest regards,

Erica Plunkett

Chair, Holliston School Committee


Did You Know….  “The Suburban Coalition is a statewide organization of local officials that advocates for the resources, funding and support at the state level to sustain vibrant communities throughout the Commonwealth. We work to ensure that every municipality has the resources to provide high-quality essential services of life safety, education and infrastructure maintenance to its citizens. We provide input to the state about local services, state funding and state regulations.”   

At a recent meeting, Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, reiterated the increasing challenges of using current and available tax revenue to pay for local services.  Forty years ago, Massaschusetts state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income was among the highest in the nation at 13.8%.  Today, it has decreased to 10.4%, slightly below the national average. Chapter 70 aid to schools has declined by 5% since 2001. 


Comments (2)

Thanks, Susan, and you're most welcome. School finance is complicated and anyone is welcome to contact any Committee member or any Administrator if they have questions. Erica

Erica Plunkett | 2014-03-22 06:20:57

Erica, Thank you so much for once again providing such comprehensive notes to the community. Your description of the. development of the budget is clear and easy to follow. One may agree or disagree with the school department requesting more than a 1.5% increase but at least you have given us the rational for the increase. Thanks!

Susan Haley | 2014-03-22 04:26:21