Update: New date for FY budget, TC at WPS, and budget sources for 2015 and beyond

Dear friends, 1. Last night the Town Council voted to delay the submission of the FY 2015 budget from April 22 to April 29, 2014 to allow for the continuation of dialogue and consideration of the proposed budget.

  • We’ve been told that Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald, School Committee Chair Eileen Hsu-Balzer, Town Manager Mike Driscoll, and others have had several long discussions about the budget.
  • Town Manager Driscoll has asked the schools to prioritize their “needs” for 2015. (i.e. prioritize line items such as classroom teachers, special education teachers, instructional assistants, guidance counselors, math curriculum etc.) and to highlight the one-time expenses versus ongoing costs.

2. Our Town Councilors are going to school! Hosmer Principal Robert Laroche hosted Susan Falkoff on April 15th. Kenny Woodland heads to the Hosmer today and Angie Kounelis and Principal Laroche are scheduled to talk. We hope there will be more visits, particularly for those who don’t currently have children in WPS.

3. Our meetings are continuing. We met with Vinnie Piccirilli on Monday night. We are meeting with Jean Fitzgerald today and we’ll meet with Mark Sideris tonight.

  • What do we talk about? We are trying to focus on: Where will we find the funding sources needed to hire the staff and secure the materials and curriculum for WPS for 2015 and beyond? Got any ideas?

4. Thank you to the Town Council Education Subcommittee for last night’s meeting where Councilors Dushku, Palomba, and Woodland, led the discussion of possible funding sources. In our Advocacy Platform (summary) we suggested a variety of line items for 2015 and new sources for 2016 and beyond. The Town plans to look into some of these possibilities. Below are line items in the town budget that we advocate using for 2015. Note, we are asking the town to shift priorities to fix the schools that have deteriorated on our watch. We are NOT advocating to take money from other departments:

Source

Amount Available for 2015

Savings that we didn’t know we’d have when the Town Manager first released the 2015 budget.

The Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission rates: 1% increase rather than the budgeted 6%. $700,000 (5% of $14 million) (TM's original budget allocated 6% to this line item, but there was only a 1% increase)
Additional Chapter 70 money allocated by the state. $400,000

Line items from other sources that could be allocated to education if the political will to strengthen the schools exists.

The Stabilization Fund in Capital Improvement Projects $500,000–$2 million
Capital expenditures could be 5%, or 6% of operating budget (not 7.5 –8%) until the schools are in decent shape  $1 - $2 million
The Unreserved Fund Balance: ($9 million)•     Based on the Budget and Policy Guidelines, we allocate 10% of expenditures to this fund. Most other towns allocate 2% or 3%. We can change this with a vote by the TC. Other towns with Aa3 bond ratings also allocate 2-3%. $2 m of this fund is generally spent per year, but more could be used, particularly in an emergency, such as faltering schools. 
Tax assessment overlay monies (which normally cover assessment appeals): $700,000–$1 million
Transfer from prepayment of the unfunded Pension Liability fund: 

Also, the debt could be paid off by 2022 or later, rather than 2019; The terms could change moving forward. We are paying this down aggressively, which we should do, if WPS hadn’t deteriorated.

$250,000
Council reserves: Normally used for union contract payments but this does exist. $1.4 million

 

What can you do? 

Get informed (using the info below) & speak out!

Online letter to Town Manager and Councilors: http://www.watertownstrongschools.com/take-action/

Call or write your own letter:  http://www.watertownstrongschools.com/act-now/

Send letters to your neighbors or businesses: http://www.watertownstrongschools.com/share-with-neighbors-template/

Get a sign:  WatertownStrongSchools@gmail.com

Come to meetings: Learn more at: http://www.watertownstrongschools.com/

Talk about your vision of Strong Community and

Watertown Public Schools!

Best wishes, Candace and the rest of Watertown Strong Schools