Potential Tax Increase, Special Town Meeting Scheduled, School Finance Update and District MCAS Results

Tax Increase May Be Needed
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) indicated at its October 19, 2009 meeting that any state cut in local aid may now have to be covered solely by raising property taxes. As we noted in our last e-mail, the state is facing a severe tax revenue shortage and town funding from the state has already fallen short of earlier predictions, with more potential cuts looming. Town officials had discussed trimming department budgets or incorporating unspent cash from previous years to cover the potential funding gap Hopkinton will face because of state cuts, but the cash has not been released yet by the state.

Special Town Meeting for Wastewater Treatment Plant
The BOS has posted a special Town Meeting for December 14, with a December 21 snow date.The warrant for the meeting opens this Thursday (October 22) and closes Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. The main purpose of the Special Town Meeting is to request funding for the Fruit Street Wastewater Treatment Facility project. While the town’s unspent budget money could be state-certified and available for additional spending by December, the BOS is asking town departments not to make any requests. For more on this issue, see Hopkinton Town Meeting to Focus on Sewage Plant at http://www.wickedlocal.com/hopkinton/news/x1718695307/Hopkinton-Town-Meeting-to-focus-on-sewage-plant

School Finances

The October 15, 2009 School Committee focused on finances and the district’s MCAS results. Cost-saving measures discussed included the Middle School NSTAR project, a transition plan to cover the maternity leave of the Director of Student Services, and a creative agreement to bring new funding sources online with a license agreement with local business, Phipps Insurance. The School Committee directed the School Department to continue to look for efficiencies and institute a freeze on non-essential spending. They discussed the potential further cuts to local aid for FY10, and planned an e-mail to the Town Manager indicating their support for any and all potential sources of revenue to be fully explored prior to making further cuts to the FY10 Budget. Superintendent Phelan noted that there has never been such a low balance in the Circuit Breaker Account, which is used for pay for state mandated, but unfunded, special education costs.

District MCAS Results
In addition to the finance discussion, Dr. Mary Colombo also gave a presentation on the MCAS results–citing promising scores in English Language Arts for grades 3 through 6 and in Math for grades 3 and 6. But she also noted the challenges in Math for grades 4, 5, 7 and 8, and in Science across the elementary and middle school grades. For more information, see the following articles:

Further State Budget Cuts, Town Improvements, Strategic Plan, Risk Study, and Important Dates

There’s quite a bit of news this week!
Further State Budget Cuts Likely
State tax revenues were likely to fall $200 million below projections in September, which could trigger new rounds of emergency budget cuts throughout the state. This does not bode well for FY 2010 budget funding, as well as likely indicates further cuts for next year’s state aid. For an overview of the current situation see the article State May Face 200m Shortfall in the Boston Globe at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/09/29/mass_revenue_projected_to_be_100m_200m_less_than_projected/
Approved School Strategic Plan
At its September 3, 2009 meeting, the School Committee approved a Strategic Plan that will serve as a guideline for district improvement over the next five years. The document incorporates feedback received from staff, parents a community focus group, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Steering Committee during the 2008-09 school year. It also incorporates feedback that was gathered from the community in a survey conducted by the Boston Research Group in the spring and summer of 2008. The plan is available on the District Homepage http://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/index2.php
Adolescent Youth Risk Behavior Study
The School Committee heard the results of the recent Adolescent Youth Risk Behavior Study at its October 1, 2009 meeting. The results of the health study (funded by MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation) indicate Hopkinton students are eating better and are engaging in more physical activity, but they are also taking part in riskier behaviors including the use of alcohol and other substances, including cigarettes and inhalants. The study should be posted on the District Homepage in the coming weeks. For more information on the entire meeting, including budget issues, see the following articles:
Preliminary School Budget Discussions
According to Superintendent Dr. John Phelan, the schools have been asked to present budget numbers to the Town Manager on Monday, October 5 that would represent maintaining level services for fiscal year 2011 and the subsequent 9 years.
Recent Town Improvements
  • The landscape improvements at the Town Hall (appropriated for in past budgets but being completed this year) should be completed this fall.
  • The installation of solar panels is almost done at the schools and work has begun on the installation at the Fire Station and Police Station. All the panels will be operational by Dec. 2009. 
  • Phase II of American Disability Act (ADA)compliance, which includes the HS Athletic Fields is almost done and will be complete by 10/16. Phase III of the town’s ADA compliance plan will be presented to the voters at Town Meeting in May.  A dedication ceremony will be held immediately before the Homecoming Football game on October 16.
Message from Hopkinton Tax Relief Committee
Residents are asked to remember the elderly and disabled of limited means living in our community when paying their property tax bills. Any donation amount can make a difference! A detachable form for making a voluntary contribution for this purpose is included with tax bills due November 2
Upcoming Important Dates
And, finally, some dates to put in your calendar for the coming weeks:
  • October 15, 2009 School Committee Meeting–Mary Colombo will present Hopkinton’s MCAS results
  • October 27, 2009 The Kickoff of the 2011 budget season. The Board of Selectman and Town Manager will issue a policy statement that establishes guidelines for FY 2011 budget at an all boards meeting. For the full 2011 budget calendar see http://www.hopkinton.org/.