Saturday, March 6, 2010

A difficult budget process continues…

Recent Select Board meetings have been been primarily focused upon making some difficult decisions about needed town government cuts for the upcoming FY2011 budget. The uncertainty about state aid to Longmeadow (estimates vary from 0 to 15% cut) has only made the process more difficult.

Proposed budget cuts for Storrs Library, Longmeadow Adult Center and other town departments will likely impact town services and quality of life in Longmeadow. I listened to the SB meeting this past Monday (~ 3½ hours) and observed that there was great disagreement within the SB as to how to achieve the required cuts.

In addition to proposing some additional cuts, Town Manager, Robin Crosbie also identified a number of new revenue sources to help bridge the gap that included:
  • Fee based curbside trash collection ( save ~$570,000)
  • Implementation of the new 0.75% meal tax on local restaurants (estimated increase in revenue ~$65,000)
  • Reinstitute School Choice (this source can be initiated only by the School Committee)
  • Proposition 2½ Override
    Every 1% override would add $382,000 to town revenue and cost individual property owners $0.18/ $1000 or ~$64 for average $350,000 house. The SB was not recommending an override at this time but considering it as a possible option to bridge the expenditure/ revenue gap.

I applaud the SB for their open and honest discussion of the FY11 budget and their desire to reshape the entire town’s operations (including the school department) onto to a more sustainable path. One of my recent posts included an LCTV video clip of Rob Aseltine explaining the financial problem confronting Longmeadow both short term and long term.

At this point it appears that the Town Manager with the help of the various department heads has selected and prioritized a larger than required list of cuts that could be made to achieve the targeted budget. One note of interest is that the FY11 budget appears to be a “moving target” given the uncertainty of state aid. At this week’s SB meeting, it was agreed to use a 10% (vs. 15%) cut in state aid in developing the FY11 budget. It is likely that the exact amount of state aid to Longmeadow will not be known until well after the FY11 begins.

The selected video clip from this week’s SB meeting is Rob Aseltine expressing his dissatisfaction with the level of personnel cuts included in the latest budget revision (referred to as the March 1 budget).

There are some important meetings this coming week….

Monday, March 8
Joint meeting between School Committee and Select Board to discuss FY11 Budget
7 PM at Longmeadow School Committee Room

Tuesday, March 9
Budget Public Forum- draft FY11 budget- presented by Town Manager, Robin Crosbie7 PM at Longmeadow High School/ Cafeteria

I would urge town residents to attend the March 9 forum and provide input to our town leaders for prioritization of the needed budget cuts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Longmeadow High School-A Principal’s Perspective

As a resident, parent and administrator in Longmeadow for nearly twenty five years, I would like to share my thoughts on the high school building project. This will be one of the largest projects in the town’s history, and the focus must be on our children and the importance of their education.

When considering a long term, viable building solution, we must remember that we are creating a facility that will serve not only as an educational institution but also as the environment where our children will learn the necessary life skills to become successful contributors to their communities. It is, therefore, essential that we focus on the attributes of a high quality/high-performing school.

A high-performing building should be designed logically to fully support all facets of the educational Program of Studies and to support the values and priorities of the community.. It must provide appropriate classroom, office, meeting and collaborative spaces that accommodate a variety of teaching and learning styles. These spaces need to be flexible to adapt to teaching strategies that will address 21st century learning expectations. It must be appropriately sized and equipped to support our widespread student participation in co-curricular activities such as athletics, music and fine arts. Proper design must include outside views, bright well-lit classrooms, and an efficient, comfortable heating and cooling system.

The building will also serve the greater community. When equipped with attractive public spaces, such as an auditorium, library, cafeteria, gymnasium, fitness center and thoughtfully laid out athletic fields, people will be drawn to the facility. The entryway to the building will have display areas that highlight student achievement. Artifacts honoring the community’s heritage along with student artwork and murals will adorn the walls. Academic and extra-curricular accomplishments will be celebrated and spaces will be thoughtfully constructed so that everyone feels “at home.” The exterior spaces will be equipped with ample parking for staff, students and guests, yet encourage alternate means of transportation by providing bike racks and sidewalks.

The strength of Longmeadow High School has always been the intellectual ability of our students and the determination to excel that they bring to school each day. When this desire to learn is combined with effective instruction and supported by a modern facility, we will have the formula for success.

This is an exciting time for our community! The decisions to be made in the coming months will affect young people’s lives for generations to come. The final planning process will require vision and determination. As residents of Longmeadow, we need to choose wisely with an affirmative vote. With a project of this magnitude, where the stakes are high and the window of opportunity open only briefly, there is little room for error.

By Larry Berte- Principal, Longmeadow High School