Monthly Archives: April 2016

Preview: City Council agenda (April 26)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: ATVs, JROTC, budget cuts. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • TIFs: There’s an Economic Development meeting at 5pm. Beforehand, there will be a Worcester Community-Labor Coalition rally outside City Hall calling for “local hiring requirements” and other conditions to be a part of any future special tax breaks (TIFs) on property development.
  • Boards and Commissions: Expected appointment of Shirley Konneh to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee; Lindsey Silva to the Commission on Disabilities; Jose Ramos to the Worcester Housing Authority; Donna Connolly to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
  • Elm Park Pond Water: Stephen Oliver has a citizen asking that “water in Elm Park Pond be drained and replenished with fresh water.”
  • Rydberg Terrace: Benjamin Parker has a citizen petition asking this become a public road.
  • ATVs: Billy Breault has a request that there be a new law allowing the city to seize ATVs and “dirt bikes” being driven illegally. Last week, a guy was arrested for riding an ATV around Crystal Park.
  • A Portrait of Mike O’Brien: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition asking that the Council invite former City Manager O’Brien to present a portrait of himself for display in City Hall.
  • Tobacco: The Public Health Subcommittee wants the full Council to vote in favor of slightly expanding the city’s tobacco regulation. The proposal would allow the city to yank tobacco permits from anyone who sells to underaged people. (This in addition to existing penalties.)
  • Citywide Crime Watch: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like a report on whether the police could reinstate semi-annual citywide Crime Watch meetings.
  • Manager’s Agenda: The whole “section 9” part of the Council agenda, the City Manager’s part, was late being posted this week, but now it’s up. I assume it was not posted so late as to require being postponed till the next meeting.
  • Boards and Commissions: Jacob Poplaski will be appointed to the Worcester Arts Council; Matthew Wally to the Parks and Recreation Commission; and Nghia Le to the Elder Affairs Commission.
  • JROTC: The Law Department is back with an opinion as to whether the Council can discuss expanding JROTC programs in the schools. The answer is: it’s under the School Committee’s control, but that doesn’t mean they can’t discuss it, and doesn’t mean the Manager can’t talk to the Superintendent about it.
  • Large Capital Transfers: $200,000.00 from Sewer Construction loan account to Infiltration/Inflow; $360,000.00 from Parks Building Rehab. loan account to Parks Building Rehab; $200,000.00 from Sewer Construction loan account to Sewer System/Stormwater; $171,000.00 from Union Station Garage to Parking Garages – Improvements, “to allow for payment of current and anticipated obligations associated with an upgrade of the fire alarm system at the Major Taylor Garage”.
  • Large Grants and Donations: Will file for a $292,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs; $200,000 firefighting grant from FEMA; $500,000 Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Supplemental Grant from the EPA.
  • Lots of Budget Items: The Council meeting will recess to a Finance Committee meeting, which will discuss tax assessments, bond ratings, etc.
  • Budget Cuts?: The City Auditor has a report on possible budget cuts. If the city doesn’t increase property taxes (current proposal is to increase them 2.5%), there would be a $9 million deficit. The report notes this would mean cutting something like 150 city employees. Currently there are 1901 non-school employees. 281 are funded by non-property-tax sources; 219 are only partially funded by these taxes; the remaining 1401 are funded entirely by these taxes. The lowest staffing level in recent years was 1760 for the 2012 fiscal year.
  • Join the Library Board: Carolyn Noah has resigned her position on this board. Now’s the time to apply to be on this board.

Preview: Worcester Education Meetings (Week of April 25)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

It looks like a bumper crop of school-related meetings this week:

Monday morning at 7:30, there is a meeting of the negotiations (with the superintendent-elect) committee. As those are negotiations, I’d assume they’ll immediately vote to go into executive session. As we’re now at six weeks and counting since the vote to appoint, one wonders what the hold-up is on the contract.

Monday night at 5, there is a Joint Education (City Council) and Finance & Operations (School Committee) meeting. It appears that the discussion is budget.

Tuesday at noon (erg!) there is a Governance and Employees Issue meeting. There are a few issues on that agenda: cell phones is on there, though I assume there will not be student or staff comment, given the time of day. The item on a major overhaul of WPS policy (looooong overdue) is also on there.

Also on Tuesday at 5:30 is an Accountability meeting. That has the amount of testing on the agenda. Also, the “Arrested Futures” on student arrests is on the agenda, which certainly warrants attention, as well as the October 1 student count.

And the full committee meets Thursday. They’ll be opening with the annual school choice hearing (Remember this means school choice IN; school choice OUT is allowed, at the state level). There are a number of recognitions, both happening and requested, plus all of the above subcommittees reporting out. There is no report of the superintendent. Ms. Biancheria, interestingly, is asking that a grievance be reconsidered.

Bill Coleman, adding the School Committee to his rounds of public petitions, is asking that a portrait of the new superintendent be installed in every school. I will leave the historical and literary analogies to others, but they do leap to mind, don’t they?

Mr. O’Connell is asking that the School Committee consider the Rise Act (which has passed the Senate; I assume they’d be weighing in on House action).

Mr. O’Connell is also requesting the update of a couple of policies–administration of medication to students and student activity accounts–from recent MASC updates. He’s also asking that they update their substance abuse prevention policies (which MASC hasn’t updated yet, as the regulations from DESE haven’t been issued yet).

The audits are coming! (not attached; I’m assuming you should look for them to turn up in F&O)

Mr. Monfredo is asking that the School Committee go on record supporting the Fair Share amendment.

The School Committee is being asked to set the dates for their budget hearings: there’s no backup attached; my best guess is June 2 and 16 at 4 pm.

Mr. Foley is asking that the Committee invited Treasurer Goldberg to talk about the $eedMA program of saving for college.

And there are donations! $100 from Worcester Refugee Assistance Project to Greendale Head Start; $1000 from Worcester District Medical Society to support the CPR project; and $10,000 from Digital Credit Union and the DCU for Kids Charitable Foundation for scholarships for graduating seniors.

Finally (but coming first) there is an executive session scheduled to reconsider the grievance (as requested by Ms. Biancheria above) and to update the committee on the superintendent-elect negotiations.

Executive session is at 6; the school choice hearing at 6:45; the regular meeting at 7.

On blogging: I won’t be there for the full meeting Thursday; I plan to blog the joint meeting Monday night.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (April 7)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, April 7. You can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent (and the big thing on the agenda) is setting budget priorities. It’s worth reading the backup for this (the PowerPoint you’ve already seen from the preliminary presentation in February). It lays out what you probably already know if you’ve been watching this: the increases in the budget ($4.6M) don’t come close to covering a level budget ($11M), never mind the increases the district actually needs ($11.7M at least!).

The meat of the message (from the memo) is here:

Given uncertainty as to student enrollment and demographics, the state’s foundation budget
inflation factor, adoption of the Foundation Budget Review Commission Report, fixed cost
increases, and additional contractual or compliance spending demands, it is likely that a
reallocation, reduction, and deferred spending on positions and non-salary items will be necessary
in order to have a balanced budget. This means that while some areas of the budget will see
increases, there will be other parts of the budget may also see a reduction of teachers, other
positions and non-salary spending.

So, pay attention. I’d further note that the time frame on all of this is going to be somewhat compressed due to the superintendent transition (just the fact that they’re setting priorities in April is late).

That’s the big one.

There are a few recognitions.

There’s a communication coming in from a citizen regarding the MOU between the schools and the police department.

There are several midyear resignations.

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior year payment for $3,536 for McKinney-Vento transportation for homeless students.

There are several requests for recognitions.

It looks as though the School Committee got an email on the Goddard Scholars program, as there are not one, but two items regarding expanding it.

Mr. Monfredo wants administration to create an early learning committee to consider lobbying for full-day preschool funding, discussing a two year kindergarten program, and “gradually advancing 4 year olds yearly, based on readiness” (and I don’t know what that means).

The vet tech program at Worcester Tech is getting a grant of $347,882.

There are donations of $500 for the Worcester Tech robotics team; $100 for the CPR project; and $1000 for the CPR project.

There is a Rice Square/Lake View sharing best practices grant coming in for $6658.

There is an executive session before the meeting for negotiations with the incoming superintendent (no contract as yet); collective bargaining (no group specified); and two grievances.

The policy handbook is going off to subcommittee.

I do not plan to be there; here’s hoping the press coverage is good!