Recap: Special Town Meeting – 6/20/2024

William Mayer Town Moderator welcomed everyone, and also welcomed people at home.

Motion made to allow certain non-residents to vote (read names). Also pointed to residents who were in house what portion of the hall was for “non-voting” attendees.

Single article to be voted on tonight. Moderator Mayer discussed the protocol for the evening.

Introduced Town Admin Travis Ahern to lay out process. TA Ahern mentioned they were piloting a new option which are translating services with Chromebooks with 35 languages. (met with applause). 

FY25 Budget was approved at May Town Meeting and was balanced under Prop 2 1/2 (explanation offered).

Shortly after the May Town Meeting the School Committee reached an MOA with the Teachers Union. There is an ability to request an override — the ballot will merely be for that vote. The question tonight only allocates the funds IF the override passes. The ballot is NOT contingent on the meeting.

Article 1: Override (Special Town Meeting Combined Warrant and Finance Committee Report HERE)

SC Chair Dan Alfred took the floor and explained the need for the override, the timing, etc.  Information presented can be found on the K-12 website using this link.

Select Board Chair Tina Hein was introduced by TM Mayer.

SB Chair Hein walked through the reason for the SB request for salaries for non-union employees which is included as part of the appropriation that will be voted upon tonight and incuded on the override ballot.

SB Hein pointed out the SB support of the override and explained the reasons why it is so important today, and for the future of Holliston.

TM Mayer introduced SB Vice Chair Ben Sparrell. 

Speaking for himself and not the SB, Mr. Sparrell explained he felt it was important that all town employees be compensated fairly so as to not lose them to more competitive towns. Acknowledged the increase could be a hardship for some and encouraged people to reach out to Town Assessor Kevin Rudden with questions or concerns. Encouraged everyone to vote in September reminding them the Select Board vote was decided by only one vote.

TM Mayer introduced FinCom Vice Chair Vincent Murphy.

Explained again the purpose of the Town Meeting, merely to allocate where the money would go should the override pass.

Explained they met with the School Committee for justification for this funding. FINCOM indicated they agreed with the need for an override unanimously.

TM Mayer having a motion and second, now opens the motion for public debate.

Jack Blaze – questioning the cost of the special meeting, the cost of the election and where the funds are coming from. Is it possible for other budgets to absorb the $1.2 million and not go for an override.

TA Ahern: Costs $600 for Special Town Meeting (remaining from FY 24 budget). Ballot costs approximately $12,000. There has been no final determination on how the cost will be absorbed.

TM Mayer explained there is no way for other budgets to absorb the dollars requested because those amounts were already appropriated to those departments for their expenses at the May Town Meeting. They are not free to “reallocate” those funds.

Barbara Peatie – indicated broad support for all town functions and pointed out school budgets are nearly 60% of our tax dollars. Even when given guidelines they reguarly exceed those guidelines and yet annually, those budgets get approved.

She feels it was clearly stated to the SC and other departments what the deadlines were for the May warrant and they should have factored into negotiations eliminating the need for the time, expense and labor of a Special Town Meeting and Election.

She feels Holliston teachers are currently being paid in line with other communities,

What are the positive outcomes for teachers, students, and town in each of the years this override impacts?

Motion to indefintely postpone the question allowing the School Committee to come back to the Town and explain why they agreed to a contract which was outside of current budgetary constraints.

Motion was seconded.

TM Mayer opened for comment.

Michelle Zeamer Finance Committee reminds everyone at Town Meeting that the pupose of the meeting tonight is MERELY to allocate funds in the event the override passes. Feels that between now and 9/10 ballot that there will be plenty of time to address the concerns expressed.

TM turned comments to Ben Sweeny.

Mr. Sweeny urged everyone to vote against the motion to postpone because we need to support the teachers.

TM then called for a vote on motion to postpone indefinitely. Motion failed by a significant majority.

TM called for additional comments on the original motion.

Jay Leary – will the allocation cover the entire cost of the contract? And what is the percentage going to teachers, buses, and maintenance.

TM invited SC Chair Alfred to address these questions:

SC Alfred: Yes, it will cover the entirety of the contract. $800,000 for teachers, $200,000 for buses, and $100,000 for other salaries. Year one includes some maintenance costs, but bus costs will not kick in until year two.

TM asked for additional comments.

Allison Quinin (SP) the bar graphs are not particularly representative and comparing the overrides because we do not know what other towns requested for overrides. Can the school committee advise what other towns have negotiated contracts with a four percent increase in year one followed by two three percent increases.

TM invited SC Chair Alfred to address.

SC Alfred: Franklin is in the middle of a 4/4/4, Ashland did a 3/3/3, and Framingham did a 2/2/3.5 with top teachers at 2/5/5.5 and Wayland did a 4/4/3.

TM asked for additional comments

Sarah Berube – appreciated prior comments and would like definitive answers on when there will be open office hours before 9/10 ballot.

SC Alfred stated he believes the questions were addressed during the initial presentation. Indicated there will be community discussions in the interest of transparency.

TM introduced School Superintendent Dr. Kustka

Dr. Kustka – strongly supports this contract for our teachers. Several broad changes have occurred including full day kindergarten, additional math resources, and other resources which will benefit students. Teachers are being asked to take on more responsibility using these resources.

TM asked if there was any further discussion.

Melissa Doucette – has four children in the school system. The teachers have done a phenomenal job. Our special education programs are excellent. Feels the teachers should be fairly compensated. Reminded people that voters elected the School Committee, and we have to trust they have done their due diligence.

TM asked for a motion to move the question feeling it has been well debated.
Motion made and seconded, passed.

Reading of the original motion to amend the budget to include the appropriation subject to passage of the override.
Motion passed with minimal no votes.

Doreen Martel

5 Comments

  1. Shaw Lively on June 21, 2024 at 6:29 am

    Thanks for an excellent summary Doreen

  2. Liz Theiler PhD on June 21, 2024 at 10:40 pm

    Thank you Jay Leary for asking if the override will cover the entire contract and Dan Alfred’s confirmation “ it will cover the entirety of the contract”
    A teacher’s contract that includes as I understand an extra 10 or 15 extra minutes to students day depending on the school and the Superintendent did not seem able to explain how this time would be used.
    Should this not be clear when it is in the contract? Who is in control if she cannot clearly state how 15 minutes will benefit the students? Further at a select board meeting as I recall she indicated that the benefit of the extra time could not be measured although a member of the select board answered that it could be measured.
    Many questions to be answered about the contract and the override.

  3. Liz Theiler PhD on June 22, 2024 at 9:19 pm

    After doing some research I have from an excellent source that the override will cover one year of the teachers contract. Not its entirety as stated at Town Meeting.
    Rather, “ The expectation of a $1.1M request from the schools for an override is that that will increase their annual appropriation moving forward.”
    “There is no guarantee that that money will be in the school budget every year…Town Meeting can appropriate a number for the schools that it deems appropriate”
    When voting for an override residents have a right to know what the money will cover- and the present override covers one year of the teachers contract.

    • Daniel Alfred on June 23, 2024 at 9:59 am

      Liz, you information and statements are simply false. As I stated at Town Meeting, this override will cover the 3 years of the contact and hopefully further. We have provided financial projections demonstrating how this is the case. Of course, like all departments we will still require an annual increase in our appropriation at Town Meeting (like we do every year, but this override will cover the increase from the contract. These financials have been reviewed by the finance team at the Schools (including our Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations who has 25 years of experience doing this), as well as the TA, SB, School Budget Subcommittee, full School Committee, and finally a 1.5+ hour public discussion and Q&A with the Fincom (at which you were present) and which subsequently led to a 7-0 vote by the Fincom to recommend this appropriation at Town Meeting. This override funds the contract for all three years. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to reach out to me

      • Liz Theiler PhD on June 26, 2024 at 4:06 pm

        The $ 1.1 million dollars in the override covers the teachers salary/ contract for the first year of the contract. Contingent on the passage of the override the salary increase for years 2 and 3 could be paid with the projected 2026 and 2027 budget with a 3.25% increase ( 3.25 % of this years budget is $1.36 million) in the school departments budget leaving a small projected budget deficit which the school committee chair indicated at Town Meeting could be covered in some unspecified way.
        This is my understanding of how the new contract will be financed.

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