Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 27, 2009

Chariho’s reply

Please find linked below the reply sent to the Supreme Court by Chariho – and the accompanying attachments – 120+ pages for your viewing pleasure (I’m sure glad Jon Anderson agreed to do this for Chariho for no additional funds over his retainer!  Although, I hear they are looking for an additional attorney – I wonder if that means we have a rebate coming).

Brief of Respondent

Appendix to Brief

February 26, 2009

HTC budget meetings

Filed under: Hopkinton Town Council — Editor @ 12:42 am

I have found the HopkintonTownCouncil, and its workings, to be very transparent. They post videos of the meetings, and more impressive was when I asked if we could discuss holding contract negotiations in open meetings, I was told that we would need to hold that discussion in a public meeting (I brought it up during an executive session).  This is amazing, especially when you consider the fact that Chariho made that decision behind closed doors and we don’t even know if it was voted on or not. Has anyone seen minutes showing when it was decided?

There has been one practice held at the HTC that I dislike and that is to seal executive session minutes.  It hasn’t covered an issue I’m overly concerned about yet but I will continue to discuss it and see what can be done.

But we are now in budget hearings and while they are public, they are not taped. So I thought I would post some notes, especially since there is some important information you should know.

First of all, the overall theme is that revenues are down locally and we can expect up to a 6% reduction from the state (unless Obama sends the 91 million dollar check quickly, which they probably will, and RIwill postpone fixing things until the country is in a real mess and half way to a socialist European model,,,,,, but I digress).

The only things going up are health care costs and Property Tax Delinquent Interest and Penalties (isnt that sad).

There have been two days of meetings where each department discussed its respective budget.  I will address my notes and thoughts going through the budget from front to back, not by the order listed on the agenda.  You can follow along with the budget draft conveniently located on the front page of the Hopkinton site or directly HERE in pdf.

Page 1, 2, 3 & 4 are totals and I’ll cover them in each section.

Pg 5, Town Clerk
The Town Clerk offered, unsolicited, to receive NO raise this year. (are you listening Chariho?  Will Chariho give 10% raises to the teachers on steps again while the rest of the world gets 0%?) Thank you Town Clerk!

The co-pays are set by contract right now. I think they are all graduated up each year between 11-13 percent but I’ll post more on that when the new contracts comes due.

Advertising revenues (item 5020) show an interesting trend.  Note how revenues fall from 06/07 to 07/08 and the 08/09 budget amount is $11,500 but Year to Date is only 1,400 (we are about 7 months through the budget year).  this particular item has a large increase at the end but this is a trend you will find repeated in the budget.  We adjusted the 09/10 revenue estimate down.

Also note item 3406 (other town clerk revenues).  The 08/09 budget amount is $225,000 but YTD is only $75.   However, and this is unique to this line, the 07/08 actuals were still high.  So we adjusted down the 09/10 estimate but only to 190k.

page 6, Probate Court – the clerk stipend position is set by regulation that it has to be the town clerk.  So this led to some humorous times when Tom Buck brought it up because we didn’t know it was Lisa. We started asking question and she said, “that’s me”

Bottom line (and I do agree with Tom but its a statute issue and probably by contract too), is that if she is at work already and doesn’t increase her work day, then why are we paying extra stipend money for it.  It may involve additional hours or responsibilities, I don’t know, it will probably come up again.

Probate revenues are relatively steady – unfortunately because that probably means people are dying.

Election costs are down mostly because its an off-election year.  We still have the budget referendum but its lighter.

Pg 7, 8, 9 & 10, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector,Finance Director & GIS  –  I think this is covered in a later meeting so I will pass on it for now. 

Pg 10, Building and Zoning
I walked in late to this meeting and came in during a discussion on electrical and plumbing inspector fees.  This cost is a stipend.  We noted that the revenues have dropped significantly ($140,000 in 06/07 to $76k in 07/08) so we assume the need for inspections has also dropped by about half.  We wanted numbers on how many inspections are done and we may pay on a piece meal basis. But to pay the same stipend for half the work doesn’t make sense.

Health insurance here has grown quite a bit also. 

We shifted around some mileage which was underestimated and reduced supplies. Most importantly was the adjustment already made to revenues.  It was estimated at $50k, down again from last years $76 and substantially from 06/07’s $140k.

Pg. 11, Town Planner – I questions the ended use of interns and it turns out URI has ended its town planner program.  Bummer

Same as above- revenues are down and have been estimated to reflect the low numbers seen last year.

Pg 12, Police. 
A couple of Sunday’s ago during the Lively Experiment TV Show, I heard Arlene Violet say there was a rule of thumb having 1 police officer for every 1000 residents.  I brought this up and was told it is not true. Chief Scunzio said he would get me the data and will post when sent. I did contact Arlene and she said the comment came from Mayor Polisina in Johnston when he said it at the Mayors’ conference.  I’ve looked around and found that numbers range from 3/4 per 1000 to 6 per 1000 (Washington DC, of course).

I also had 2 residents call me and say (paraphrasing together) “20 years ago we only had 1 full time and 2 part time – why do we now have 16?

Whether its “average” or not, I still think 16 officers is too much. But its a contract issue (what isn’t?) – one good note is that the HTC did send a referendum supporting most of the governor’s budget articles and that included the elimination of minimum manning in contracts, so we are on record saying we want the freedom to change it.

Many other costs are also bound by contract, such as uniform cleaning, co-pays, pension, etc…, so not available to change during these meetings (which certainly limits the items we can adjust).

One item that is not on contract but is mandated by the state is the practice that we pay for education tuition for police officers.  And there is no requirement they the town benefits from that education (in other words, we could pay for someones education and they leave to use the new degree elsewhere). So I have requested that we write Senator Maher and Rep Kennedy asking for a waiver to this unfunded mandate.

I did find out that only the chief and detective take vehicles home as they are on call 24 hrs day. The rest do not.

As for the vehicles, we have 3 in good condition, 2 past the 100k mile line and some seizure vehicles (forgot how many, someone please fill me in).  There is a rule that if we sell seizure cars we have to give a certain percentage to the state (or feds?) but if we trade them in we keep 100%.  So they are trying to package old cars and seizures together to get new cars in base form then install the equipment from the older cars.  I’ll admit I’m still getting my feet under me and don’t understand it all yet, but this seems like a good plan.

One thing I also did not catch on to was the police revenues.  (page 13)  there are new items listed on lines 3401 and 3430 but I have scratched out the 09/10 years and 1 and 0 in the respective lines.  Perhaps its a pass through.  Sorry – like I said, still getting my feet under me and I just don’t remember what that was about.  I do see they adjusted the 09/10 General Revenues down to the realized 07/08 amounts.  But again, not sure what the Enforcement Reimbursements are and why we estimated $36k but have only collected $591 so far.

Pg 14, Dispatchers.  While I’m not a fan of regionlized governments (ie. Chariho School Committee), it may be reasonable to consolidate services such as Dispatchers because you need to have someone, but they might not be very busy during the night shift.  Its basically 3 shifts at 7 days a week – equals 4 people. Maybe we could share this expense with Richmond or someone.

Pg 15, Animal Contr0l – not much to report here. We have contributed for the last two years towards a fund to get a new truck.  The current one is a 1998 but with only 85k miles.  A great deal if someone wants to give us an offer!  But seriously, if the budget goes south, we might need to put off that purchase.

Pg 16, Hopkinton Emergency – the costs are low here, but I still think the whole One Call system is spending money for no reason.  The argument is that if Bradford Dye goes up in smoke again we won’t have to send police door to door and can just call.  But the first person who doesn’t get the call because they arent on the list or they only use cell phones, the town will get sued and we will be back to using police.  But I only have so many windmills I can tilt at – someone else take this boondogle.

Lower on pg 16 is Meal Site – this one created the most tension.  Basically, this is for a person to be at Crandal House and cook and serve the lunch for about 8 seniors.  We have tried several things to get a Senior Center going but they haven’t been getting any involvement.  Basically we get 8ish people coming for lunch and we spend $45k per year to do it (salary, benefits, etc…).  Barbara  Capalbo brought it up, and to be honest she showed great courage to bring up anything that involves eliminating something for seniors.  

Basically, we asked the man what he did and by his own admission, he can’t get seniors involved and so he spend most of his day just helping the people at the rec center.  He does arrange some speakers about once a month, but the meat of his job (pun intended) is to make and serve the meal which takes from about 10 to noon.

Barbara proposed several options – change the position into a Senior Advocate type – eliminate the position entirely -or  merge his dutes with another department to make it worth the cost.  She made the motion to eliminate it entirely (allowing us to reallocate elsewhere) and I agree with her. Sylvia and Bev voted no.  Tom said he was going to vote with Barbara and I but offered to let it be discussed at another meeting when people can come in and give us their thoughts.  I asked if the libraries and Chariho CTC could propose how they could fill some gaps.

The following idea is a culmination of several people’s thoughts and what I will be supporting – we should continue the lunch program for the seniors by bringing in a CTC student or paying for a part time position just for those 2-3 hours per day.  Then take a portion of the money saved and give it to the libraries and churches to promote senior services (after all, they already have the staff and infrastructure).  If we could pay $12000 for the part time cook, that saves us $33k.  Spend $3000 to each library ($6k total) and pool $6000 for all the churches to share – and just save the last $21k.

I feel for the man in that position, but the reality is that it should not have been started in the first place.  There just wasn’t a need for it.

Pg 17, Public Works – this was one of the early items we discussed and many items being questioned are contract issues – such as why we pay so much overtime.  Mostly it is when we plow snow – the contract doesn’t allow the flexibility such that we can comp time to avoid the overtime.  Ahh, contracts restricting management again…

Having seen so much of this here and at Chariho I must say that the system more than any individual is most responsible for maintaining the status quo – but I digress, again…

The moral of the Public Works story is that salt has doubled in the last year

Another interesting item to come up was the plan to purchase a new truck.  Putting aside if now is a good time, the reasoning was interesting.  In 2010 there will be a new exhaust regulation that will require trucks to have mufflers that cost $7000 a piece.  Yup, you read that right.  These big mufflers (maybe the current ones) even inject diesel fuel to burn off some of the emissions.  Think about the circular logic of that – burning more fuel to save the environment, which is “destroyed” by burning fossil fuels.  Isn’t life funny!

Skip on to pg 22, Town Manager.  Not a lot to discuss here – I think the raise is 2% and copay is at 11% now scheduled up 1% each year – according to a contract signed last year (I think).

But on the bottom of the page is the Municipal Court.  There was a bit of discussion on this topic as some were confused whether or not its a money maker.  The short answer is no – it isn’t making us money at this time.

On the budget you will see that for the current year we have spend $5115 so far and collected $27,313.  So it looks like we are making money but not really.  You see, if we didn’t have the court the cases would be seen in Providence and the town would still get most of those fees (Bill D thought it could be as much as $26k).  The only difference is when someone goes to court and pleads they have a good record and the ticket is dismissed – then the entire court fee (not ticket fee) goes to the town.  Auxiliary savings are also seen by police not having to spend all day in court in Providence.

But the long and short is that the court is not making money now.  Close enough to give it time to see though.

The rest will be discussed at later meetings.  If you have specific questions, come to the meeting or send in a question.

February 19, 2009

Transparency on the move

Filed under: transparency — Editor @ 8:34 pm

We (you and me) started this blog in Dec 2006.  In February 07 OSPRI started the Transparency Train open government project.  February 9th of this year General Treasurer Caprio introduced the Treasury Online Checkbook. Feb 15th the Dept of Administration went online and the Governor’s office is following in a couple of weeks. 

Empowering citizens with information is, well, empowering. Its good to know what is going on, especially if you want to change it (like ending the ridicules practice of giving 10.5% raises for the first 10 years).

In those efforts, we are expanding the push to MA and will be speaking on this tonight on Blog Talk Radiofrom 8 to 8:30.  If you are so inclined, listen online and maybe even call in (number listed on website linked above).  I plan on referencing this Web site as a quick, free way than any citizen could do it in their town.

ps. For those of you who are donors to OSPRI, see above what we have been doing with your support. THANKS (and our grandchildren thank you)

February 17, 2009

March 9th – a big day.

Filed under: Dec 8 meeting — Editor @ 11:49 pm

[UPDATE] the SLRB hearing has been moved to March 19 (kinda kills the title, huh?)

 

March 9th is really big on two counts.  First it is our court date – as Gorham put it, a historic case and unique to our nation.

 

 

Speaking of which, at this evening’s HTC meeting, Sylvia, Tom and Barbara said they had been called by town residents asking them to have the solicitor write to the court supporting our fight against Chariho.  The thought was that since Richmond and Charlestowndid so that Hopkinton should too. 

 

Our solicitor said she had been providing Gorham information when he requests it, and did write originally, but that there was nothing more to be said. The court shouldn’t care how many people chime in, just what is said.

 

Later, during the public forum, Dot Gardner expressed the same wishes but touched on the “public opinion” aspect.

 

As far as writing to the court.  First of all, today was the deadline so it’s moot. And while I sincerely appreciate those of you and Dot asking, the reality is that the court doesn’t care (or at least they shouldn’t).  They should simply look at the law not be swayed by public opinion. And as our solicitor said, Gorham has covered everything and there isn’t more to be said.

 

That being said, I do think the court is influenced by the public on certain high profile cases. This case is high profile on a legal sense because of the historic nature, but not in the public opinion profile. Besides, its too late anyway.

 

I still believe this is really a whistle blower case, where Chariho is retaliating against me (and they do have a history of such actions), then for the RTC and CTC to jump on the pile only weakens their standing and implicates them to similar concerns.

 

But the court of public opinion is another thing.  Since the Sun and Times have both written articles when Charlestown and Richmondsubmitted their briefs or took their votes, it could be useful to have citizens or even council members write to the paper. As Scott Bill Hirst did. If it did come from council members, or better yet the council, a letter could always be sent to the court as an FYI.

 

I didn’t speak on this during this evening’s meeting because I didn’t want to put anyone on the spot by asking for someone to write a letter.  But I do appreciate the efforts. And to repeat, we have enough money for the current out of pocket expenses.

 

And speaking of our “fight against the machine,” and the other reason March 9th is a good day to take the day off and enjoy our government at work. The State Labor Relations Board will be hearing the East Providence School Committee case in a public session. 

 

 

And in anticipation of that hearing, I will be on Helen Glover (920 AM) tomorrow some time between 8:30 and 9 and on John Depetro (630 AM and 99.7 FM) Thursday between 7:15 and 7:45, speaking about a press release we put out today questioning the State Labor Relations Board why it turned down the school’s complaint but upheld the unions?

 

 

Depetro has also asked about the Chariho case so that might come up too.

 

You can find the press release HERE, and if you have an opinion on the topic, feel free to call in.

February 16, 2009

March 9 court brief

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 9:35 pm

[UPDATE] I neglected to note that this was amended fixing the 2 errors  – bottom of page 1, ‘all members save one from Hopkinton and Richmond.’  should have been Charlestown and Richmond.  Also on page 2 where the number of SC members were switched – Richmond 3 and Charlestown 4.

 

Gorham has submitted the following brief.  I know I’m biased, but I think its very good. 

Speaking of the case, we have more than enough to cover filing fees so far so no need to send any more donations at this time.  Thank you very much for the help.

Gorham Feb 16 brief

February 12, 2009

A worthy cause

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 3:14 pm

From our friends at the RI Scholarship Alliance:

We need your help to protect an important education reform program in Rhode Island. Will you take three minutes today to contact Governor Carcieri and ask him to keep Rhode Island moving in the right direction when it comes to making sure that every child gets a quality education?

 

Click here to take action now.

 

Rhode Island has an innovative program that offers tax credits to businesses that get involved in helping improve education. Rhode Island ’s program provides an important incentive for companies that make donations so that low-income children can receive scholarships to attend better schools. This new program is modeled after successful programs in other states—programs that have been proven to save tax dollars while promoting student achievement.

 

Unfortunately, the Governor’s Strategic Tax Policy Workgroup has recommended the elimination of the Rhode Island Scholarship Tax Credit, as part of a recommendation to eliminate all tax credits. That’s why we need your help today!

 

Please, tell Governor Carcieri that this program is important to you!

 

Hundreds of students are provided with real school choice as a result of the Rhode Island Scholarship Tax Credit, which also promotes economic growth. At a time where our economy is in crisis, we must protect programs that keep jobs in Rhode Island and make sure that companies stay involved in promoting education reform.

 

Bill, thank you in advance for your help. And, of course, thank you for your membership in the School Choice Works coalition.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew Campanella

Advocates for School Choice

Washington, D.C.

 

PS: It just takes three minutes to contact the Governor via the online advocacy center. Your help will make a huge difference. Click here to take action.

 

PPS: Bill, you can keep informed about Rhode Island education news by visiting the Web site of our allied organization, the Rhode Island Scholarship Alliance: www.rischolarshipalliance.org

February 10, 2009

Just a warning

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — Editor @ 9:12 pm

One of the breakthroughs for education in RI last year included opening the door to other charter schools and a representative of the KIPP schools come to the State House commenting on those opportunities.  But reading the following gives one something to watch out for as we move forward.  Exchanging one badly run organization (because of union shackles) for another is no solution. Lets hope KIPP can keep them out.

KIPP. Knowledge is indeed power, but the push by a few teachers to organize this model school seems to have been discounted until it was too late. Now KIPP is fighting back, and the union effort may end up in arbitration if not accepted by Thursday. What KIPP needs to do is remind its teachers and families that its success with students – the point of it all – is accomplished by individual teachers executing a unique program, and not the result of union rules.

And here comes Charlestown

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 9:06 pm

h/t GD – from the Sun:

CHARLESTOWN — The Town Council Monday night voted to back the Chariho Regional School Committee’s ouster of William J. Felkner by filing a friend of the court brief in the case that is headed to the state’s high court.

Council Vice President Greg Avedisian suggested the action, saying he believed that having a member of the regional school committee also serve on a town council, as Felkner did in Hopkinton, puts Richmond and Charlestown at a disadvantage.

“I feel very strongly about this,”’ said Avedisian.

The council has an obligation to insure that Charlestown students receive the best education possible and dual office holding flies in the face of that responsibility, Avedisian said.

Andrew McQuaide, Charlestown’s representative on the regional school committee, also asked the council to join the high court case as Richmond did earlier this month when it filed a brief in the matter of Felkner vs. Chariho School Committee.

“I really urge you to stand up and say ‘no,’ it cannot occur,” said McQuaide.

There will be “severe inequity in the power structure that exists” if Felkner is permitted to hold seats on both the Hopkinton Town Council and the regional school committee, McQuaide said.

In the end, the council voted 3-1 to file a friend of the court brief. The dissenting vote was cast by Richard Hosp, who said he personally was opposed to dual office holding, but he didn’t see anything in the Chariho Act or Hopkinton’s charter that prevented it.

“Are you a lawyer?” asked Avedesian.

In response, Hosp threw up his hands in exasperation.

“I’m surrounded by lawyers,” he said, getting a laugh.

Hosp also said that Felkner could always recuse himself from voting on matters if he had a conflict due to serving on both the council and regional school committee. No one should “presume” he would act in Hopkinton’s favor at the expense of the other communities, he said.

“I don’t have the same faith that you do that he would recuse himself,” McQuaide responded.

Noting there is little legal precedent on the issue of dual office holding, McQuaide said now was the time for the council to make its position known.

Continue reading the story HERE – interesting comments as well.

Richmond weighs in

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 5:24 pm

Richmond has filed a motion with the court supporting Chariho.

Richmond Motion

LRB on Open Contract Negotiations

Filed under: contract negotiations — Editor @ 3:18 pm

Please visit our friends at Anchorrising to see an interesting post on the Labor Relations Board and holding contract negotiations in open sessions.

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