Finance Committee Meeting May 4


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1. Planning Board

begins at 00:01:25
Mary Burgess, Town Planner, addressed FinComm.

It is the second smallest department in town with 2 members (Town Planner and Assistant Town Planner) and a part-time clerk. If the clerk is eliminated, it creates an additional 180 hours of work for the remaining 2 members. The planning tools and techniques are needed with current staffing levels to ensure we increase commercial development in town.

MA General Laws have many state mandates the town has to follow. Town is required to have Master Plan and keep it and an official map updated. The town made an official map in 2011 because the town didn’t have an official map with the prior map being from 1969.

It also regulates public shade trees for the Department of Public Works (DPW). This means that the town is in charge of any trees that are located within the public way on scenic roads. It requires a public notice and hearing involving any shade trees.

It is in charge of public ways, and it accepted 37 roadways by RTM. It has to follow procedures by MA General Laws with as-built, surveying, etc. Our town has 6 scenic roads, and it also oversees stonewalls that are in the right of way.

With special permits, it grants 6 special permits and 3-levels of site plan review to fairly compare different developments in town. Fee schedule is provided to create revenue and compared ourselves to surrounding towns to ensure we didn’t overprice ourselves. We are average now. She continues to outline more statutory requirements and many additional other responsibilities the department oversees. Lots of time is spent researching and writing grants. She uses engineering consultants to ask questions because a project manager hasn’t been filled at DPW, and she needs to rely on these two engineers to receive stamps.

  • Cuts of 4.09% discussed here: 00:17:02 (She goes into more detail for the 17.35% and 38.26% cuts).
  • Cuts of 17.35% discussed here: 00:09:20 (Department would be closed on Fridays to maintain integrity to office with full-time staff Monday through Thursday. Its working budget is only $6K as it is so it’s very small for what they do).
  • Cuts of 38.26% discussed here: 00:10:09 (Only Town Planner remains with this cut. She says we have the smallest Planning Department in the area other than Plainville. However, based on our town’s population, we are supposed to have one town planner per 10K residents. Our town has almost 30K residents. We only have one Town Planner. We spare a lot of the economic development in this time. We used a grant to write the bylaw for an over-lay district and designated it a 43D-regulated area for acceptance at RTM. Used planning tools and techniques to expedite any process with economic development. A cut in staffing impacts any ability to keep up this level of expedition to issue permitting. She would cut any engineering services. She has 2 engineering consultants because there is no longer a project manager/engineer at DPW and she needs to rely on the engineering line item for services for stamps. No clerk, no staff on Fridays, no staff training and no GIS).

00:15:30 – Stipends should have been considered more in depth than it was as other members of the board would have preferred the stipends.

00:18:37 – She reviews Articles 15 & 16 for RTM’s Special Town Meeting which is also on June 1st, but it doesn’t pertain to the budget, Article 5, in the Annual Town Meeting. On June 1st, RTM has two meetings on the same night. One is the Annual Town Meeting to approve the budget. The Special Town Meeting is covered on the same date(s) as the Annual Town Meeting, but it doesn’t include the approval of the budget for FY2016.

2. Police Department

begins at 00:49:38
Police Chief John Reilly addressed FinComm.

He starts to talk about other business he needs covered prior to the budget information. I only capture the budget information in this recap. On June 4th, the department will share the results of its accreditation review that recently happened.

Manpower, officer safety and public safety are primary concerns. He has made countless presentations to various groups on the needs and concerns of the department. He also tries to obtain any grants he can. Fines provide revenue for the town.

Suffered loss of a civilian clerk that takes police officers off the street to cover some of these tasks. The department is unable to provide a School Resource Officer who is mandated by the state.

In 2008, there were 36 patrol officers including detectives. In 2014, only have (2) 28 patrol officers. It has 3 full-time detectives that is down from 5 full-time detectives. A supervisor no longer exists so the captain has taken on this responsibility. Calls for service have increased since 2008, and the response time has increased by over a minute since this time. It has less staff, more calls and more documentation per call.

The DARE Program was cut due to lack of funding in need to maintain enough manpower in the department. He still works with the schools department to assist in areas to educate students.

01:00:45 – He shares some recent calls taken to show that there are dangerous calls that our police officers face on a regular basis.

01:01:34 – He shares the respect he has for the school and fire departments too and how he commends each of them for trying their best to put forward services without adequate funding. He says, “This isn’t North Attleboro. This is a sad state of affairs.”

01:06:40 – He discussed a study he put forth about the crossing guards at the schools. He explains how he plans to seek out volunteers to assist through PTOs and Council on Aging. He said that less than 1% of total school population crosses with crossing guards.

  • Cuts of 2.5% discussed here: 01:03:25 ($125,357 cut by removing $17,998 out of salaries by losing 1 police officer. 1 dispatcher is lost too which concerns Chief Reilly because the Fire Chief, Town Administrator and Police Chief have been working with a new joint dispatch center that goes live on 7/1/15. Part-time crossing guards are cut too to save $55K).
  • Cuts of 4.09% discussed here: 01:05:21 ($89,410 patrol salaries cut so it loses 2 police officers. 1 dispatcher lost too. Part-time crossing guards are cut. Holiday account would be minimized. It is used because they can use the 11 holidays or work them and get paid).

NOTE: Please consider taking the time to watch a more detailed presentation that Police Chief Reilly gave on 11/4/2014 here (from 00:48:30 to 01:12:50):…

3. Fire Department

begins at: 01:13:11
Fire Chief Ted Joubert addressed FinComm.

01:14:02 – He shares 2 real-time issues happening while he is sitting in the meeting tonight. In a 4-minute period had 4 requests for medical aid. He needs a strong shift with adequate numbers at all times.

He commends the department heads in giving countless presentations to the public. In his cuts, he isn’t laying off any personnel because he can’t. He shared his grant that he won. The federal government and fire service gave NA the grant because it saw the need for staffing level. He needs 11 people a day for 2 engines, 2 ambulances and a ladder truck. He needs more than 11 people, but he needs 11 for the basic core mission. In last 4 weeks had 3 major fires (e.g. Allen Ave, Columbia St, Pearl St) and countless medical runs. 962 times last year, NA had simultaneous runs. He said that he is concerned about the safety risk of our residents as well as the risk to the fire fighters. The department is in charge of ensuring it handles fire suppression and fire prevention.

01:20:32 – Cathy Morine, FinComm member, asks about ambulance fees. He shares that the fees support 16 salaries and helps to pay for new ambulances and supports other departments too. It goes into a Reserve for Appropriation Account to pay for debt on the ambulances and support for the services.

01:22:56 – Barry Silver, FinComm member, asks about ambulances and how frequently we went outside the community. The average ambulance call is $1,200. The collection rate is 87%. If it’s a profit center, it may not hurt to consider an additional ambulance. Chief Joubert agreed, but it isn’t feasible due to inability to staff a 3rd ambulance with limited manpower in the department from prior budget cuts.

01:29:55 – Pat Murphy, FinComm member, asks about outsourcing fire assistance to a private firm to regionalize run from Attleboro and Plainville area. Fire Chief Joubert shares how you lose the local component. Delivery from a local perspective and community attachment goes a long way to assist residents versus a regionalized approach. Town Administrator Mark Fisher shared that the ambulance came into NA in 1961. In 1973, EMTs came into place, so we needed to seek certification for our employees. He shares what happens with privatizing support. Town Administrator Mark Fisher shares we only get 1 ambulance and shares other issues with it.

01:34:27 – Closing comments are shared with cutting staff and how it hinders ability to respond as needed. The concern is that the department needs enough people to do it.

01:35:44 – Chief Joubert’s response to why he can’t manage the Fire Department the same way that someone manages a household. Any decision he makes impacts 30K people in town and 60 firefighters.

01:36:55 – John Casey, FinComm member, asks how the cuts impact each shift. Chief Joubert said it’s fluid between vacation time and long-term disability. It averages $6K a week via overtime.

01:39:01 – Ron Lagasse, FinComm member, asks about special teams and Chief Joubert explained that it allows them to receive stipends. Current openings are 5 firefighters due to retirements. The FEMA grant requires us to maintain the number of 60 firefighters, so Chief Joubert is required to fill positions or NA will need to return monies back to the FEMA grant. The FEMA grant provides $450K for 6 firefighters and expires at the end of FY2016. Since these 6 firefighters are funded via a grant, the $450K is not included figures for FinComm as the grant is completely separate and doesn’t involve town funding.

  • Cuts of 2.5% discussed here: 01:28:41 ($52K overtime reduced. All specialty teams lost and will need to rely on State Police for dive team and State Fire Marshalls and State Police for investigations. Bike team lost without alternative option. Expenses also dropped down to $29K).
  • Cuts of 4.09% discussed here: 01:14:02 and 01:28:05 ($198,599 cut with $110K coming from regular overtime and also took out bike, arson and dive teams. Although people may ask how often they are used, he said that once makes it worthwhile. We need it there. Other overtimes reduced too for paramedics and EMTs).

NOTE: Please consider taking the time to watch a more detailed presentation that Fire Chief Joubert gave on 11/4/2014 here (from 01:12:19 to 01:57:24):…

4. School Department

begins at 01:50:56
Superintendent Suzan Cullen addressed FinComm.

She acknowledges the issues facing our town and mentions the Police Chief and Fire Chief and echoes that they have shared information numerous times with NA’s residents. She urges people to review prior presentations and doesn’t want to be redundant now by reiterating prior information shared.

She shares that almost every other community in our state has a Security Resource Officer (SRO) that is state mandated, but we do not. We try to figure out how to make due through great working relationships with the police and fire departments. She shares concerns of loss of crossing guards and creative thinking to resolve this concern.

Prioritized budget is shared and includes mandates facing the department. The mandates deplete the overall level-funded and level-service requests. The union’s contract runs through FY2016 and the teachers made concessions by normalizing the pay scale. This concession saves $165K each year by delaying the ability to reach the top-level step in compensation and another concession is that Appendix B positions do not receive pay raises. These combined items save the departments approximately $200K each year.

She briefly touches on the curriculum, technology and accreditation needs. She explains that she is forced to cut $100K in staff to cover mandates. She also shares a list on the school department’s history. Over the past 5 years, 50+ positions have been lost of classroom teachers, nurses, etc. Fees have been instituted for athletics, activities, transportation and parking. They brought many out-of-district programs back into the district to save costs. This process adds to our budget because we need to be certified to provide these in-district programs. We have in-fleet special education transportation that saves us a lot of money by not having to outsource this transportation.

NA doesn’t qualify for a lot of grants because we don’t have enough socioeconomic issues and is deemed as a wealthy community. We still try to get any grants we can. We also have a hard time locating substitute teachers because we pay $65 a day whereas surrounding communities pay close to $100 a day.

School Department Budget Implications are shared too. She doesn’t break it down per cut in her discussion, but she touches on pieces of cuts. These proposed cuts need approval but School Committee members. The closure of Allen Avenue School and redistricting of entire town is required. She explains how it increases class sizes town-wide. She states the increase of fees to cover costs (e.g. parking, transportation, athletics and activities). She shares that many neighboring towns don’t have parking fees. ELC (Early Learning Center is the preschool) tuition increased too. Cutting of NAMS foreign language to save $270K by letting go of 6 teachers and this program is a highly valued one for students to remain competitive through their high school education and entering college. She outlines additional cuts such as AGO Math (support for students with special needs and/or has challenges with math), department heads, and a central office administrative position.

02:06:47 – Barry Silver, FinComm member, asks how the increase of class sizes in NAMS relates to the contract to see if it violates anything. Supt. Cullen shares that the team approach at NAMS doesn’t pose a violation of increased class sizes, but it poses an issue at the elementary school level. Supt. Cullen has already shared with the union that the closure of the school doesn’t make it practicable to have class sizes remain within the contract’s limits.

02:10:42 – Barry Silver, FinComm member, asks what happens with the shifting of teachers and positions in town due to seniority. A Principal may be reassigned. No one is safe. Supt. Cullen shares the massive implications of the closure of a smaller school.

02:14:130 – Ron Lagasse, FinComm member, asks what it would take to eliminate the need to update the curriculum materials and textbooks. Supt. Cullen said it would take years and rotate. A curriculum review cycle is in place to concentrate on portions needed and have a cycle to ensure we aren’t outdated. She said it would take maybe more than $1M as a guess to how much it would cost to resolve this issue. She said each textbook at HS costs over $100. She shared that the discovery education program has helped to provide technology in areas at NAMS, but technology cannot be used in all areas to solve this issue. She shared that technology helps but it’s always 100% reliable, so it helps to provide multiple resources to provide material to students.

02:17:00 – Supt. Cullen directly addresses questions about the alternatives to closing Allen Avenue School and explains her reasoning for this closure. She answers why she isn’t closing the Woodcock Administration Building or other schools.

02:19:00 – Supt. Cullen shares why she can’t float around principals at elementary school levels. She provides many important reasons why this isn’t a feasible option.

02:23:32 – David Chee, FinComm member, he asks if the Allen Avenue School will close regardless of whether it is a 2.5% cut or a 4.09% cut.

02:24:20 – John Casey, FinComm member, asks how the closure of Allen Avenue School is providing funds. Supt. Cullen explains it is through the cuts of personnel. She shares that it costs money to keep the building open so the cost savings with this closure is through the personnel being cut. He asks about the Capital Improvement Plan as it relates to the Allen Avenue School too.

02:25:34 – Ron Lagasse, FinComm member, asks is the Allen Avenue School would be used as a viable space for BICO or something similar to be revenue-generating.

02:26:14 – Barry Silver, FinComm member, asks specifically about St. Mary-Sacred Heart (SMSH) and if it is interested in taking over the school. Supt. Cullen shared that we need a vision in place as we have no other options of where to locate the 21 people currently in the Woodcock Administration Building. SMSH would need the Diocese to review a plan for SMSH to purchase a building and a couple of years for it to obtain necessary approval. For NA, it would be a School Committee decision.

02:27:53 – Ron Lagasse, FinComm member, asks about the time commitment associated with the homeless transportation needs in an effort to understand the time frame of the mandate to understand the length of this commitment.

02:30:12 – John Casey, FinComm member, asks about enrollment projections to see how these budget issues are impacting our student population. Supt. Cullen shared that 1/3 of our population is going to Tri-County and the town has to cover some costs for students who attend Tri-County.

  • Overview of cuts of 2.5% and 4.09% discussed here: 02:02:00 ($939K cuts at 2.5% and $1.5M cuts at 4.09%).

NOTE: Please consider taking the time to watch a more detailed presentation that Superintendent Cullen gave on 11/4/2014 here (from 00:00:57 to 00:48:28):…. Another important meeting to watch is the School Committee’s meeting on 3/2/2015 here:….

5. Town Administrator

Mark Fisher addresses FinComm to reiterate the process of budget approval at 02:31:40.

6. Guest comments from audience:

  • Stacey Nassaney (RTM) begins at 02:36:00.
  • Ben Whitney begins at 02:39:55.
  • Adam Scanlon (RTM) begins at 02:44:20.
  • Stacey Nassaney (RTM) speaks again at 02:47:13.
  • Chip Poirier (School Committee Chairman) begins at 02:49:23.
  • Nate Bonneau (RTM) begins at 02:54:17.
  • John Ruppert (RTM) begins at 02:57:47.
  • John Donahue (RTM) begins at 02:59:58.
  • Keith Lapointe begins at 03:04:05.