Questions from TMM on the Warrant for Town Meeting

Questions – FY 2021 School Budget

1. Please reconcile the FY 2020 budget amounts used in the FY 2020 TM presentation compared to the FY 2020 budget amounts used in the FY 2021 TM presentation.
Please reference May TM minutes located on the website ( http://www.burlington.org/Final%20Minutes.pdf ), the amount voted by the Body for local education was $65,702,739.  Please also reference September 2019 TM minutes located on the website ( http://www.burlington.org/09232019TMMv3.pdf ), where the local education budget was reduced by $216,381. The total budget appropriation by Town Meeting for FY20 for local education is $65,486,358, as printed in the School's FY21 budget backup.

May TM 65,702,739

Sept TM -216,381

2. Salaries increased 4.3% - how much of this increase was attributable to new hires during FY ’20?
It is rare that a “new hire” filling a position that becomes vacant during a given year is replaced at the same step or grade under the respective bargaining unit’s salary scale.  Sometimes the delta on the new hires in a position result in a ‘savings’ over what was budgeted, and sometimes the cost to replace the employee is higher.  For example, if a teacher on Masters plus 15, step 3 takes a leave of absence during the year, the position is filled with a “new hire” on Masters, Step 5.  The difference between these two salaries is an additional $2,810.00 for the year.  With over 100 “new hires” during FY20; this number would take significant time to quantify. 

Questions 3 through 6 relate to the Budget Report as of April 30, 2020 (“Report”) and questions 7 through 11 relate to the FY ’21 Budget Document, both of which are found on the school’s website:
Questions 3-7 are not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

3. Tutors and Substitutes – in the Report it shows we spent the entire FY ’20 budgeted amounts. This implies tutors and substitutes were working through June 30, 2020. Please clarify.
This question is not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

4. Stipends –the total stipends equal $947k for FY ‘20 which includes athletic coaching and contractual stipends of $578k and $369k, respectively. Why are we paying a total of $516k from May through June 2020? This is the amount of the two stipends to be spent in May and June 2020 per the Report.
This question is not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

5. Per the Report, there is a total of unspent budget of $969k which is all personnel related savings. The Operations and Maintenance portion of the FY “20 budget is $7.5M. This budgeted amount is projected to be entirely spent through June 30, 2020. Why isn’t there some savings in operations and maintenance since the schools were closed the last quarter of the fiscal year?
This question is not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

6. Budget is the budget – I understand the Schools can transfer monies from one expense category to another category. However, It would be helpful to understand the actual results of each category. This could be achieved at a September town meeting after all the FY ’20 entries have been made. There is value in knowing the actual amounts and how they compared to the budgeted amounts per category. Otherwise, it shows that we spent exactly what was budgeted for each expense.
This question is not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

7. Transportation – can you explain what we are doing for the FY ’20 portion of the transportation budget. The Reports shows only a nominal positive difference from the budget. I know School Admin is working on this – can you give us an update?
This question is not related to the FY21 Education Budget on the June 2020 Town Meeting Warrant.  Questions regarding the current year’s budget activity would be best addressed at a School Committee Meeting.  The next School Committee Meeting is being held on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 7PM.

8. Operations and maintenance – comparison is difficult as the transportation FY ’20 budget amount in the Report is different than the FY ’20 amount in the FY ’20 budget. What is the correct amount we should be comparing FY ’21?
Please reference the Town Meeting minutes and backup as mentioned in the response to question 1 above. Transportation for FY20 was budgeted at 1,416,521

9. Accommodated – budgeted tuition for FY ’20 was $5,917,345. At a recent SC meeting, the SC voted to pay for the services as though there was no shutdown starting early/mid-March. I believe the position the SC took was to pay it in full and then try to negotiate for a refundable portion. What is the status of negotiating for some refund of the total fees paid?
The State’s Operational Service Division sets the tuition rates for these schools, they are non-negotiable. 

 10. Why is there no retirement planning in FY ’21? Historically, there has been $38k

FY20 was the final payment remaining of the 2002 & 2003 Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) assessment from Middlesex County Retirement System.

11. Salaries - $89,449 in negotiated salary adjustments. What/who is remaining to negotiate and what percentage is this to that current salary base
The Burlington Administrator’s Union and employees not covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  This is 2.5% increase to current base for those remaining to negotiate.



Chart on Elected official Insurance Costs


Questions on Employee Status during COVID by Joanne Frustaci:
The Town did not furlough any employees during this period. In order to keep Town operations functioning, all non-public safety (Police & Fire) town employees were either working remotely, coming into work, or a hybrid of both. These employees were receiving their regular compensation during this period. The supplemental insurance referenced would have been an added cost should the Town had decided to furlough any employees. The Town is self insured for Unemployment and  would be billed back for all of the costs for each employee.   
from Accounting
The School has also not furloughed any employees during the closure. School employees were paid their regular wages during the time of the closure; with the exception of a few groups-- such as daily substitutes.
Schools Business Manager

School Budget Questions - pending answers

Answer from Police for Article 7-3 Vests
Fortunately, we have not had any officers killed.  We have had some officers involved in car crashes in the past 7-10 years where they have been wearing the vests.  It has been proven time and time again that the ballistic vests protect against the impacts in crashes, as well as blunt trauma in fights and falls.
We have had ballistic vests for at least 20 years.  The mandatory vest policy came into effect in 2015.  Vests are mandatory for all line/operations personnel and must be immediately available for all support/admin personnel if they choose not to wear it.  We also offer the internal carrier worn under the uniform shirt and the outer carrier for officers choosing to wear it over the uniform shirt.
Attached is the estimate for the first round (46 vests).  The remaining 40 will be ordered for replacement after September through June 2021.

Matt Frost Questions on Finance - Click here 

Shari Ellis Questions - Click here
Here is the answer for the question on Article #32 - on the ISAC Committee
The intent is that there are 9 committee members, five town residents appointed by the Board of Selectmen, and four town employees appointed by their supervisory bodies (as defined in the town Bylaw). Terms are three years for all members (with the staggering of the first terms to allow 1/3 of the committee to be appointed at any year).
Town employee duties can change over time, and they may be reassigned to work in other areas and not be involved with information security.  For that reason, we felt that having the supervisory body be able to replace a member who is no longer focused on information security and have someone else who was step in was important.  We don't believe that would happen frequently, but we wanted the option in case it was needed.


Eileen Sickler Questions regarding FY 2021 Town Budget - See Below
Addition Questions asked
Answers in brown

1. Have we saved/spent extra money due to Covid-19 in the town including the school? If so, how much and in what categories?

Accounting - we do anticipate that there will not be a deficit in the total budget. However we do anticipate needing to make some shifts between budgets lines to cover overspending due to Covid. It is too early to estimate that amount.

2. John mentioned in the information session video there is $27m of revenue at risk? Is that local receipts and state aid?

Accounting - yes, that is the total of the $16.7M of local receipts and the $10M of state aid.

3. Do corporations pay their real estate tax quarterly in arrears? Is there any significant receivable on the books?

Treasurer/Collector - they are billed on a quarterly basis, not in arrears the same as residential. It is too early to tell about a receivable as the were just due on June 1.

4. Why are local receipts flat when it is highly likely there will be less than last year?

Accounting - the budget is flat, but the budget to actual is actually a $4.5M-$5M decrease. Last year we budgeted $16.1M and the actual collections were $21.2M.

5. What are the arbitrary expenses/capital items that can be decreased half- way during the year if we need to lower the cash spend, besides OPEB contribution?

Accounting - the plan is for the Town and School departments to take the summer to work on a tiered list of potential cuts should they be needed. The idea is to have a plan for different levels of cuts (ie $500k, $1M, $1.5M...ect) All spending categories will be reviewed. 

6. What percentage of the entire operating budget is payroll related? (payroll, taxes, health insurance etc.)

Accounting - for the Town side operating it is 78%, the School side is 86%, and in total it is 66%.

7. Are there any pending lawsuits and/or matters in arbitration?

Accounting - none currently

8. Why did health insurance expense increase 5.4% from last year?

Treasurer - the town is self insured and the claims increase was 8.8%.

9. Why did the commercial insurance expense go up 10% from last year?

Accounting - this was a bid year for us, and given our loss experience over the last few it was a little higher than expected. 

10. What is the percentage of the total amount of the top 10 commercial taxpayers compared to the total commercial tax levy base?

Assessor - the top ten taxpayers pay about $28.3M out of a total Commercial / Industrial levy of about $67.9M.

11. I believe you are estimating a free cash balance of $10m as of June 30, 2020 – is that right?

Accounting -yes, this is the estimated carry over amount that was not spent in FY20. 

12. The capital request form in the backup is terrific and a long time coming. With that said, why don’t all departments use this form?
Answer pending

13. Its’ difficult to tie amounts from the backup to what is being requested in the warrant. For
instance, Article 7-17 and 7-18

I was made aware that people were having difficulty viewing the backup material I provided. I have submitted new backups to Amy which are available on the Town's website. They are also attached below:
Wenger - Quote
In-Cord Quote
FY21 Warrant Articles

14. Some Articles such as 7-20 have stale dated quotes including the year 2017. Why is the quote three years old

The Music department had been interested in these items for a few years. Due to budgetary and higher priority needs the purchases did not happen. We had been in contact with the vendors, and notified that they would honor the original quotes. Quotes with updated dates were provided and attached.

 15. Article 7-27 needs more explanation/justification. Also, are the numbers from various vendors? Is there a formal quote somewhere?
The Department of Education updated the History and Social Science Framework in 2018.. This includes Civics, Geography, and World History. 3 different companies have provided written pricing estimates based on 900 as enrollment. A formal Quote would be provided, prior to purchasing, and would reflect up to date enrollment needs.


16. Article 7-28 – didn’t we pass this or something similar last year?
A warrant article was passed last year for HVAC engineering services at the High School.. That article is specific to HVAC at BHS. This article would expand the scope of work that an on-call Architect and/or engineer could work with us on. 

16. Article 7-28 – didn’t we pass this or something similar last year?

School Department - Answer pending

17. Financial Article 30 – how much surplus was there from the year ended June 30, 2020?

School Department - Answer pending

18. Town Revolving Accounts – does the description “Improvements” refer to Meadowbrook? If so, there were really no expenses?

Accounting - yes and yes. 


19. Plan Imaging and property file documents – no activity?

Accounting - that is correct. The entry to move the fees from the general fund to the revolving account has not been made yet. 

20. Affordable Housing – there were no revenues for the same period last year. How does this account work?

Accounting - this account is for the recording of the payments from developers for their affordable housing monitoring fees. There was no revenue last year because of the timing of the payments. This year includes a one time fee from Duffy Brothers for $195k, which is very rare. 

21. Sale of recyclable materials and sale of cemetery lots? At what point, can we transfer some portion of these balances to the general fund?

Accounting - transferring is not part of the plan. The recyclable materials balance is planned to be used to buy new toters when applicable, and the cemetery lots balance is planned to be used to offset the costs of equipment and/or potential cemetery expansion.