The following is a press release.
FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Public Schools (FPS) and the Framingham School Committee have launched a planning and outreach effort around the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget development process. Over the next six weeks, stakeholders will have the opportunity to learn about and offer feedback on the District’s plans before a vote on the FY22 budget proposal by the School Committee is scheduled for March 31, 2021.
“The FY22 budget is among the more complex school budgets that we have built in recent years,” said Superintendent Robert A. Tremblay. “Apart from the innumerable and tragic impacts of COVID-19, school department fiscal planning and spending in FY21 was turned upside down. Looking ahead to FY22 and beyond, our focus is sharply centered on reintegration of our students and staff back into school buildings and addressing a wide range of student academic and mental health needs, all of which are symptomatic of a global pandemic.”
“The District had the foresight to develop and roll out a multi-year Strategic Plan that continues to be the driver for responsible and intentional school department spending. Funding aimed at academic enrichment programming, including summer support for students, serves to remediate the many learning gaps that have and will continue to emerge as a result of our district’s sudden pivot to remote learning last March and is a priority in this budget. In addition, the need for increased mental health support for students is imperative and spending in this area is not only appropriate, it is mission-critical. Our FY22 budget package will reflect these and many other student-centered spending priorities,” said Tremblay.
“It is time to team up, learn from the public, take initiative, and enact an impactful budget for the summer and next school year,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the School Committee, District 4. “We have kicked off the annual planning process with a focus on renewal and recovery for our students, families, educators, and entire community. Throughout the process we will continuously track and plan for the available federal, state, and local resources, balanced with our commitment and advocacy for student achievement, employees, public health, and social and emotional supports.”
The district is beginning the outreach about the budget process in partnership with organizations such as Parent Teacher Organizations, the Framingham Teachers Association, the Framingham Special Education Parent Advisory Council, Framingham Families for Racial Equity in Education, the Bilingual Parent Advisory Council, the Dual Language Parent Advisory Council, and more.
The budget process will also include discussions and alignment on funding from the Commonwealth’s Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Passed in 2019, the SOA implements the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission and includes other provisions to benefit public schools over the next six years. The main focus of the legislation is to invest in evidence based areas to improve student outcomes within subgroups who are not achieving at the same high levels as their peers.
The FPS and School Committee’s submitted budget will include a SOA implementation plan after engaging with stakeholders, building on current programs, and ultimately proposing to invest in evidence-based initiatives to deepen success. It has to be noted that Framingham will only receive $279,090 in new Chapter 70 funding which includes the implementation of Year 1 of the SOA. In comparison, when SOA was first to be implemented pre-COVID-19, Framingham was set to receive $7.1 million.
The FY22 budget process began earlier this school year with school principals and department directors working on individual budget sheet requests. All requests and all costs must be associated with the District’s Strategic Plan. Together with the Business Office, multiple meetings have occurred with school principals and directors to go through expense requests (office supplies, professional development, instructional supplies, etc), additional salary requests and any new position requests they may have for FY22. The District continues to work on crafting the FY22 budget and seeks input before the formal presentation to the public and School Committee on March 17.
“The message from me from the beginning of the budget process back in December was to please keep in mind that the revenues that fund the school budget and all other City budgets may not be at ideal levels for the 2021-2022 fiscal year,” said Lincoln D. Lynch IV, Executive Director of Finance and Operations. “The thought process behind my comments to principals and directors was directly related to a potential dip in City revenue due to the pandemic and a decrease in our enrollment which affects Chapter 70 aid. Chapter 70 aid, which is the program that provides state aid to K-12 schools in Massachusetts, uses District enrollment as a major factor in the calculation and a 346 decrease to our student enrollment due to the pandemic only provides minimum aid to Framingham. A significant number of business officials, including myself, expect and hope that the Chapter 70 calculations will factor in our October 1, 2019 enrollment instead of the October 1, 2020 which is included in the current Governor’s House 1 budget. Per the House 1 budget, Framingham is projected to receive only $279,090 in additional Chapter 70 aid for a total of $57,034,315. To put this in perspective, we received $5,793,045 in additional Chapter Aid this current year, FY21. The hope is the calculations change as the FY22 budget moves through the State level through the House Ways and Means then to the Senate Ways and Means and eventually to the Conference Committee. I will continue to follow the budget process closely as it will directly impact what we are able to do and how far we can move our District forward.”
During recent School Committee meetings members and FPS presenters have discussed the COVID-19 impact related uncertainty and expected cost drivers such as:
- A resurgence in enrollment in 2021-2022 as both 5 and 6 year olds enter school;
- Chapter 70 funding for FY22 may reflect the lower than expected enrollment of the 2020-2021 school year versus the actual higher 2021-2022 enrollment;
- Out-of-District special education costs and possible legal expenses to provide educational services as provided in student Individualized Education Programs remain as another uncertainty;
- All six collective bargaining agreements expire during the summer of 2021 and are in the process of being renegotiated, historically with Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLAs);
- Summer programming options, particularly for students who are at risk for retention and for students who have had limited engagement with school are a priority item for the District;
- Lost in-person learning time, mental health supports, and other pandemic-related impacts requiring additional funding in the next school year and/or post pandemic.
To recap the current Fiscal Year, the School Committee and FPS in March 2020 instituted a hiring freeze for any position not supporting teaching and learning, legal compliance and school operations supporting students which continues on to this day.
Additionally FPS extended the initial March 2020 operational supplies review process, instituted furloughs, and achieved contract negotiations goals (such as reducing stipends while remote, and cost avoidance of $2.3M on special education testing) as part of the continued effort to intentionally save funds.
By slowing spending that was not directly supporting students, the District was able to help balance the FY21 budget and plan for FY22. During recent discussions, School Committee members and FPS noted during the last budget process as part of the current FY21 operating budget agreement, after an original initial $5 million reduction, the School Committee and FPS in partnership with the City Council no longer pursued extending the Central Office lease at the Perini Building annually saving $555,000, and made additional cost cutting measures for a total additional annual savings of $832,500 in order to direct resources towards the classrooms and protect multiple educator positions from budget cuts.
The School Committee and FPS worked cooperatively and collaboratively with the Mayor, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Procurement Officer, City Council Chair, and City Council Vice Chair to renegotiate the current transportation contract with Durham School Services due to COVID-19 impacts. While the projected transportation savings are still short of the anticipated expenses for COVID-19 safety measures and potential extra bus runs scheduled for the February-June timeframe to comply with physical distancing and public health requirements, the contract renegotiation greatly helps the overall fiscal picture. Multiple memos on the current Fiscal Year and school finance and operations can be found here.
FY22 Planning Schedule
At the next series of School Committee meetings, FPS and members will review FY22 budget proposals. A public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for March 17, 2021. Additional meetings are scheduled and all offer public participation opportunities on February 26, March 3, March 17, and March 31. All School Committee meetings offer members of the public up to two or three minutes to speak at the start of any meeting, an additional option during the budget review portion, and a third additional opportunity available at the end of meetings if requested. Public comment rules can be found here.
A final vote on the school district’s budget submission to the Mayor is scheduled for March 31, 2021. All School Committee meetings are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and can be watched live on The Government Channel on local cable, on Facebook Live on the FPS Facebook Page, on Zoom, or by audio through the phone, with video recordings available online by the next day. Those interested are also welcome to email ideas to the School Committee and Superintendent. For agendas, meeting materials, and email addresses, visit the School Committee’s website.
The following meetings are expected at this time. Additional School Committee Subcommittee Meetings are expected as well. Check the website for confirmation, and for the specific listings for when FY22 agenda items and public comment are scheduled.
February 18: School Committee Finance & Operations Subcommittee Meeting, 5 p.m. (Zoom and Facebook Live only)
February 24: School Committee Meeting, 7 p.m.
March 3: School Committee Meeting, 7 p.m.
March TBD: FPS Budget Workshop and Listening Session
March 17: School Committee Meeting, Annual Public Hearing on the FY22 Budget Proposal, SOA Implementation Plan Presentation, 7 p.m.
March 31: School Committee Meeting, Vote to Submit the FY22 Budget Request to the Mayor, 7 p.m.
After the School Committee’s submission, per City Charter, the Mayor will review the request and send a budget proposal to the City Council by early May for their review, consideration, and votes before the end of the Fiscal Year June 30.