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Bellingham Finance Committee Meeting Minutes – 4/14/14
Fincom Present: J. Collamati (Chair), J. Allam, J. Cibelli, R. Szczepan,
M. Fernandes (arrived at 7:20)
Fincom Absence: A. Elliott, (one vacancy)

Chairman Collamati called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

First on the agenda was a public hearing on the School Department budget (#300). The entire School Committee and Superintendent Fleury were present. School Committee Chairman Dan Ranieri explained the methodology used to develop the budget, as well as presenting the following highlights:
Chairman Ranieri explained that the School Committee is well aware of necessity for fiscal responsibility when formulating the budget, and understands that increases may not be supported in the coming years.
The overall School Department budget for FY2015 is increasing by $1,020,000.
Staffing is being decreased by 1.8%, mostly through attrition.
Busing costs will be increased by $101,492 (mostly due to Special Ed requirements).
Current student population is 2310; projection for the year 2024 is less than 2000.
School Budget Committee recommended increases in lunch and athletic fees. Even with proposed increases, Bellingham’s fee schedule remains lower than most towns in the area.
Primavera tuition costs are increasing by $2,000 per student. It was reported that there has been decrease in revenue, yet Primavera School costs to Town have risen. However, School Administration continues to look forward to growth in the program.
“School Choice” costs to Bellingham have risen steadily over the past few years.
As part of the discussion on potential school closings and redistribution of faculty, attempts will be made to maintain current staffing ratio in lower grades; upper grade class sizes will increase.
82% of the total school budget goes towards salaries (see graph). Special Ed salaries alone equal $4.6 million.
There are 51 students currently enrolled in the autism program at an annual cost of approximately $1 million. The legal age range requirement for autism programming is 3 years to 22 years.
The current number of students in the Primavera program is 30. Some questions arose regarding the future of the program and the building in which it is held. Those, and other questions, will be answered once studies are completed and decisions are made on potential school closings.

Aging buildings were cited as the reason for increases in maintenance and repairs budget for FY2015.
Current FY2014 School Department budget appropriation is $20,985,196.00.

After questions regarding the practice of including Norfolk Agricultural School tuition in the School Department’s budget (why there is not a separate budget department as is the case with the Blackstone Valley Technical School) were answered, a motion was made to support the approval of the total School Department budget in the amount of $22,253,396.50 (inclusive of salaries and expenses.
Szczepan/Cibelli  5/0

To reiterate from above, Mr. Ranieri reported that school transportation costs are rising due to Special Ed requirement, therefore the budget request has risen $101,492.00 over FY2014.
A motion was made to approve the school transportation budget in the amount of $2,033,492.00. Szczepan/Fernandes  5/0

Article 17 – School Contracts in Excess of Three Years
Article 17 provides for longer term contracts in order to take advantage of potential cost savings.
A motion was made to recommend Article 17 as written.
Szczepan/Fernandes  5/0

New Business
The next meeting of the FinCom will take place on April 28, 2014 at the Municipal Center. It will be a joint meeting with the Board of Selectmen.

A motion was made to approve 3/31/14 Meeting Minutes.
Szczepan/Allam 5/0

Approval of the 4/7/14 FinCom Meeting Minutes will be delayed until the next meeting on 4/28/14 to give members ample time to review.

At 8:00 PM, having fulfilled the meeting agenda, a motion was made to adjourn the meeting.
Szczepan/Allam  5/0

Minutes respectfully submitted by:
Larry Sposato, FinCom Clerk