This year I finished my three year term on FinCom and will not seek re-appointment for another three years.  That was my original plan since I committed to it, not knowing that this has almost become a Supreme Court appointment in the Town of Holden!   Please note in Shrewsbury, for example, their Town Moderator limits appointments to three terms (9 years). 

Holden should consider the same to give more people an opportunity to understand the town finances and participate in the process.   At the very least FinCom meetings should be televised, just like our Board of Selectmen meetings.     

Going forward I will continue to follow the Town of Holden finances and use this page to make comments and suggestions.   Today I want to review the numbers that I posted last week on the WRSD.    Let me explain the numbers below:

  • Column 1 and 2:      Fiscal Year
  • Column 3 (Total WRSD) and Column 4:   This is the total budget for all 5 towns (Holden-Rutland-Paxton-Princeton-Sterling) and the annual percentage increase.
  • Column  4 (Holden) and Column 5:      These are the portions of the total budget that was allocated to Holden and the annual percentage increase.
  • Column 5-6-7:      Total number of Holden Students per year, cost per student and the annual percentage increase.
  • ***  the WRSD can only control the total budget, they have no control how the budget is broken up amongst the 5 towns. 

 

Total WRSD Increase Holden Increase Students Cost Per  Increase
FY18 submitted 90,872,878 4.60% 26,595,981 6.98% 3,261 8,125 5.21%
FY17 final 86,875,664 4.77% 24,767,733 8.19% 3,207 7,234 7.55%
FY16 final 82,294,246 3.43% 22,892,166 4.38% 3,188 7,180 3.26%
FY15 final 80,175,991 2.80% 21,931,966 .24% 3,154 6,953 1.35%
FY14 final 77,991,330 21,880,445 3,189 6,681
Avg 
Increase
Last 3.90% 4.95% 4.34%
4 years

 

 

Last year (FY17), the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen approved a budget that was more then the final 8.19% increase, but was reduced when Paxton and Rutland did not approve their initial numbers.    The final increase was more then 8.19%, since we approved an additional $150,000 for the Schools through a  special one-time WIFI project.      This past year (FY18) the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen, however, did not approve an increase of 6.98%.   In the end, however, this increase of 6.98% was approved by the voters at Town Meeting.    

One of the reasons given in opposition this year was that the WRSD needs to have their budget increase in the 4% range and not the 6% range?   This is confusing since the entire WRSD, which includes all five towns, was in the 4% range at  4.60%.    The 6.98% increase was our allocation of the increase, versus the other 4 towns, which the WRSD has no control of?   Sometimes it works the other way.   Look at FY15, the entire WRSD budget increase for the 5 towns was 2.80%, while the Town of Holden increase was only .24%.   

Most importantly, how can you say:

  1. that we can not afford our school allocation, while
  2. contributing $500,000 into a General Stabilization Account that already has a balance of over $4,800,000 million between this account and Free Cash

It was mentioned that somehow cutting this $500,000 contribution this year would put us $500,000 behind next year’s school budget?  I would understand this argument, if  we had taken $500,000 from the General Stabilization account balance,  but this was not the case.       

This is simply a question of priorities!!       If we needed to find a $500,000 cut in FY18, I would rather not deposit $500,000 to fund that already has over $4,800,000, then not fund a school budget that has an overall increase of 4.60%, that is in line with the average increase of 3.90% that past 4 years.        

Don’t get me wrong there are some things that I would like the WRSD look into; for example;

  1. Change the percentage of the employer health insurance for part-time employees, working less then 30 hours.  Maybe consider not offering benefits to them?
  2. Analyze cost savings if the WRSD were to bid out dining and janitorial services like the colleges to private companies like DAKA and Sodexo..   Check out tweet below.

The bottom line is that an average increase 0f 4.34% per student the past 4 years is something I can support as a taxpayer and commend the taxpayers vote this year at Town Meeting to fund the school budget in opposition to the Finance Committee and Board of Selectment.    Not to mention it is the town schools that is driving our property values, most of ours most valuable asset.