On Monday, March 15 the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen will vote to adopt a town-wide budget including the school and financial warrant articles. At this time the Board of Selectmen will also take a position to support or not the Annual Town Meeting Articles. The televised portion of the meeting begins at 6:00pm. Residents may attend in person or watch on HCAM-TV. Residents may also send questions and comments to the Selectmen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Selectmen are considering reducing the Community Preservation Act (CPA) tax by approximately 1%, which would require a vote at Town Meeting. Since 2001 Hopkinton has contributed 2% to the CPA. If the reduction happens, the net tax impact of the proposed budget would be about 0.3%. If the CPA tax is not changed, the tax increase necessitated by the proposed budget would be 1.3%.
For your reference the CPA allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund to raise money through a surcharge of up to 3% of the real estate tax levy on real property for open space protection, historic preservation and the provision of affordable housing. The act also creates a significant state matching fund, which serves as an incentive to communities to pass the CPA. Matching funds have been reduced in recent years due to the state’s economic situation. Read more at http://commpres.env.state.ma.us/content/cpa.asp and http://www.hopkinton.org/gov/cpc/index.htm.
The Next Step in the Budget Process:
After the Selectmen adopt the budget it will be given to the Appropriations Committee who will review the budget, hold a public hearing (tentatively April 7) and develop recommendations on the budget. Residents will vote on the budget at the annual Town Meeting, which begins Monday, May 3 at 7:00pm.
Budget in Review
On Thursday February 11, Town Manager Norman Khumalo presented a Town Budget Recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Appropriations Committee. Under Khumalo’s $61 million proposal, the police department may have one less officer and the public library may have to close during Christmas week. For the schools to meet Khumalo’s budget, that would mean cutting their budget proposal roughly $170,000. It is not yet clear what the School Committee would cut to meet the new budget goal.
Khumalo’s overall budget raises spending 1.7 percent. Driving the increase is a projected eight percent spike in employee health insurance premiums, upgrades to computer hardware and programs for efficiency’s sake and money to cover the state’s now-missing share of the Quinn bill, which boosts police salaries after college degrees are earned and an increase to the Keefe Tech budget due to three more Hopkinton students attending Keefe Tech. It also accounts for previously negotiated raises and new contracts, because town police officers and firefighters are entering the final year of contracts providing 3 percent raises.
On January 28th, the School Committee held a Public Hearing, followed by a Working Session to create the “School Committee Preliminary Budget”. During the Public Hearing portion of the meeting, parents stated their concerns about large class sizes in the elementary grades, and potential cuts to the sports and music programs. In the Working Session, the School Committee considered these concerns, and others, as they reviewed the Superintendent’s two budget scenarios and created a new “School Committee Preliminary Budget” which was submitted to the Town Manager last week. You may read the summary online at:
The School Committee’s budget starts with the Superintendent’s Budget, then eliminates several items, and adds two items. The total reflects a reduction of $638,570 from the Superintendent’s Budget and represents a 0.5% increase from last year’s school budget. This chart is taken directly from their budget document:
|Budget Area Amount
|Reduction in the salary reserve account – $212,158
|Reduction in 2.2 special education teachers/therapists – $151,314
|Additional use of year-end balances – $93,440
|Additional revenue offset from full-day kindergarten – $75,000
|Reduction of 6 copiers from the districts copier replacement cycle – $66,000
|Reduction of 2.7 pre-kindergarten teaching assistants – $63,542
|Savings from recent teacher retirements – $39,843
|Reduction in special education tuitions to reflect new state rates – $23,990
|Elimination of late busses – $22,992
|Other expense budget adjustments – $18,731
|Addition of 4 remedial math tutors + $93,440
|Reinstatement of 4 freshmen athletic teams + $35,000
Variables in the Budget:
Teacher Salaries: The School committee and administration are just beginning negotiation with the teacher’s union. Last year teachers got a 3% raise (previously negotiated in a 3-year contract) while non-union school and town employees got a 1.5% raise. No agreement has been reached as of yet.
Fees: The other variable is fees to parents (bus, parking, athletics, clubs, etc.). This is only a preliminary budget, so the school committee has the option to consider adding or increasing fees next year, which would reduce the amount needed from the town budget.
If you have a question or comment regarding teacher salaries or fees to parents, you should feel free to contact the School Committee at any time.
State Aid: The state is also beginning its budget process, so the amount of local aid, chapter 70 monies, and Circuit Breaker Special Education Reimbursements from the state are all still in flux.
Hopkinton Proposition 2 1/2% taxes: The Selectmen have not yet made a determination of what portion, if any, of the allowable 2 1/2% increase to local taxes will be levied next year.
Nancy Burdick: email@example.com
Rebecca Robak: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Demont: email@example.com
Jean Bertschmann: firstname.lastname@example.org
Troy Mick: email@example.com
The Next Steps in the Budget Process
On Tuesday, February 9, Town Manager Norman Khumalo will present his recommended budget to a joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Appropriations Committee. The public comment period for this meeting begins at 6:30 pm. Residents may attend in person or watch on HCAM-TV (Comcast Channel 8/Verizon Channel 30). Residents should also feel free to contact the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager at any time with budget questions or concerns.
Board of Selectmen:
Brian Herr: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Zettek: email@example.com
RJ Dourney: firstname.lastname@example.org
Todd Cestari: email@example.com
Michele Gates: firstname.lastname@example.org
Norman Khumalo: email@example.com
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
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: