Monday, March 21, 2016
I value the education my children and I received from the Framingham Public Schools. My father worked and was dedicated to this school district for a long time and has an elementary school named in his honor. When my children went to school here I was an active parent serving as president of town wide PTO. Today, I work in public education, both as a principal of a small middle school and as assistant superintendent of the District. Both personally and professionally I value public education. If a charter commission is approved, school governance is an area that is going to be of critical importance in the debate.
There is much talk about city government and in a traditional city environment the Mayor could theoretically be chairman of the school committee. I have professional colleagues that work in such circumstances and from their experiences I can see it is dramatically different than what I have experienced professionally or what we see here in Framingham. So if some form of city government is proposed, how this issue is handled might be make or break in terms of getting a new government approved.
Although I do not instinctively look favorably on the mayor as chairman scenario, it is also not that I do not want the schools to be accountable. We have to find a way to makes schools accountable both fiscally and educationally, while simultaneously allowing for educators to be the primary leaders of our schools. I do not propose to know the best solution today. I will continue to have an open mind if elected, but this is an area of real concern to me in arriving at an acceptable proposal. I do not think it is necessarily a city versus town issue, but it must be a focal point when the commission starts its work.
Much of the discussion I have heard at forums or read online has dealt with the Town Meeting and executive aspects of government. These are critical areas. Only a handful of candidates at best have talked about schools. I hope we can talk a bit more about it before the campaign ends. School governance is also a very critical component of a proposed government.
Friday, March 18, 2016
I attended my first Framingham First forum last night. There were a few residents there and one resident was concerned that his taxes had doubled in recent years. It reminded me of a question I keep hearing , namely will a change in government impact taxes? I believe it can.
Twenty five years ago when I was a member of the finance committee we were responsible for building the entire town budget. With the adoption of the CFO act in 1996 that task is now done by the town administration. Overall this was a welcome change and the right way to do things.
The current problem as I see it is vetting the budget proposals made by the administration. Town Meeting is just too big to do this effectively on every issue. Town Meeting may be able to handle the big issues at times, but a handful of small issues (i.e., a new administrative position or a new software package) add up to big money, often just as impactful in dollars as one big issue.
Town Meeting is advised by a multitude of committees that theoretically review these aspects of the budget and offer guidance. However, any one budget item may have four or five overview committees reporting with different perspectives and widely varied recommendations, further mudding the waters. A complex discussion with 216 people in intimate detail is difficult to achieve.
From my current role on a much different finance committee, I feel we have missed opportunities to save money over the last couple of years. Had we taken those opportunities we would have in turn lowered taxes. The ability to seize these chances lies with adopting a legislative branch of government that can understand and effectively scrutinize town spending. Our current structure can't do this efficiently and effectively as the financial machinations are too complex. Budget overview is a great example of why the current structure is costing us money.