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Money Matters Dominate School Committee Meeting

Discussions on present and future School District Budgets dominated the September 26 School Committee Meeting. Superintendent Joseph Maruszczak reported to the School Committee members that they were in "good shape" with the current FY12 budget. Jay Byer of the district's Business and Finance Department seconded Maruszczak's comments. "We are in a favorable position to date," he said. Even with some unexpected expenses including repairs to a fire suppression system and hot water heater, he feels that the schools are in "good shape financially."

School Committee Chairperson Heather Applegate asked Byer to comment on the recent radio report regarding a cash flow issue due to some late payments from the town of Mendon. Byer explained that the town gets their revenue on a quarterly basis from the taxpayers and there are some months at the end of the quarter where the town is waiting to receive money before it sends checks to the schools. Byer told the committee that he works closely with the treasurer of Mendon, and that it was a matter of having an "open dialogue" as to when the funds will be available. Byer commented that due to these precautions "this is the biggest non-story out there" and that there has never been a time when the town has defaulted on a payment.

Nipmuc Principal John Clements and Athletic Director William Leaver gave a presentation to the committee on the new tiered-fee structure put in place this year for High School athletics. The fee structure for athletics was changed by the School Committee at the beginning of the year so that it would be "more manageable for families and allow an increase in enrollment in the athletic program." To date, they have seen an increase of over 15 percent in student athletes including girls volleyball, which is new to the school. Clements hopes that participation increases will continue as the year goes on and will contribute to the "long term health of the athletic program."

Dennis Todd, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, spoke to the committee about a collaborative program that is in process with the town of Uxbridge for students taking vocational training work and moving towards adult services. They are working with Uxbridge to have students try new training locations and are sharing services and transportation costs with the other district. He said that he is also working with the Blackstone Valley Special Educators group to try to receive a grant for professional development in Special Education.

School Committee Member Kathleen Drennan informed the group that the Budget Subcommittee, of which she is Chairperson, met that evening to discuss the FY13 budget. She said that they discussed the approaches to the budget preparation and that the first draft of the budget will be ready by December 1 to present to the towns. The next Budget Subcommittee Meeting will be on October 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Office.

Talks turned to the School Committee and District websites and the need to put information so the community is informed about savings and other efforts. "People are looking to see cost savings and collaboration activities," said Drennan. "We need to list grants, collaborations, and milestone markers." They also discussed the need to change the website design so it became more user-friendly.


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