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User: ACutter
Name: Andrew Cutter


Rank: Novice
Joined: 2012/01/31
Last Visit: 2016/03/09
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PostQuestions for SB and BC Candidates Posted: 2016/02/24 9:01am  Reply with quote

Under the Candidate night thread, the below questions were asked:

Questions for any SB candidates who want to join in-
1. Do you support leveling, if you do at what graders, and how can it be implemented at GMS?
2. The loss of revenue can't be stopped, and spending will continue in the schools for obvious reasons....but how would you move forward in trying to get the best education for our students while addressing the declining revenue and enrollment?
3. Can you name 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses at each of our schools that you'd like to highlight and work on?


For the BC candidates who want to join in-
1. What cuts did you support or disagree with in the budget this year?
2. Same question as above
3. Where do you feel your responsibility belongs to as a bc member....the taxpayer, the students, the elderly? How do you meet all their needs?
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User: ACutter
Name: Andrew Cutter


Rank: Novice
Joined: 2012/01/31
Last Visit: 2016/03/09
Posts: 41
Post Posted: 2016/02/24 9:01am  Reply with quote

First and foremost: As with any elected member, the responsibility is to all in our community. It unrealistic to meet everyone's needs but what I can promise you, is continuing to use the information at hand to make the best decisions possible. I would encourage you and other community members to actively participate in the budget committee meetings and share your thoughts/concerns. The few times there were community members participating at the committee meetings, I found it very useful to hear those opinions.

Regarding your questions:

As you often hear in the budget committee meetings, it's a bottom line budget. Ultimately, the budget committee works hard to understand the proposed budgets presented by both the town and school. The committee then evaluates needs vs wants through discussions with both sides coupled with historical cost analysis on the line items. The committee uses this information with the goal to present an operating budget that meets the needs of the town and school district balanced with the cost/tax burden to the taxpayers. You are correct on the loss of revenue at the State level and the resulting impact on our budgets. It continues to be a balance act of meeting the needs of our community. Once the budgets are voted on, it doesn't necessarily matter how that ~5MM for the town or ~20MM for the school is broken out. The BOS and School Board manage to the bottom line of what was approved.

Regarding the school budget, I believe the reductions in Special Services, Conf/Travel as well as Salaries/Benefits were the correct decisions by the budget committee. These are areas of historical underspend and the budget committee actively monitors these accounts to balance the needs of the district/community without over allocating dollars that inflate the budget. The budget committee goes through the school budget page by page (100+ pages of line items) and reviews/analyze accounts within each of the respective areas of the budget. One area I disagree with the BC on are some of the reductions made to Building & Grounds. This has been an area of the budget that has been put to the side given increasing costs in other higher priority areas. In my opinion, it's time to start being proactive about repairs and maintenance, not reactive. Another area I would have carefully looked at is Technology. A couple of years ago, the BC was presented with a district with Technology plan which I felt was important to the district and still feel it is important. Where are we with the implementation of that plan, is our technology in line with the needs of our teachers/students and does our Technology plan effectively prepare students for higher education are questions I would ask which would help me make an informed decision if we are properly funding technology in the budget.

Regarding the town budget, there are not may areas of excessive over budgeting. The main areas of this budget are personnel administration, police, fire, road maintenance, and solid waste. I agree with the majority of the changes made in the town budget this year. One BC vote I do not agree with is the vote on Article 20 regarding the Pipeline. I feel it is critically important for Litchfield to remain an active part of the coalition with other towns.
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/02/24 9:22pm  Reply with quote

Thanks Andrew for answering the questions. If you send me your email, on here or pm, I can pass it along to the Lea so you can get the survey.
One more question- did you agree or disagree with Selectman Byron adding in additional monies at deliberative for the town wages? should it have been specified when the wage schedule was presented?
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User: Cooch41

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Post Posted: 2016/02/24 10:53pm  Reply with quote

Quote:
1. What cuts did you support or disagree with in the budget this year?


As a current Budget Comm member and as Chair for the last 2 years -I supported all the changes made to both the Town and School District Budgets. Both Budgets are fair and reasonable.


Quote:
2. The loss of revenue can't be stopped, and spending will continue in the schools for obvious reasons....but how would you move forward in trying to get the best education for our students while addressing the declining revenue and enrollment?


This is the school Boards Role to address revenue and enrollment challenges. This is not a budget comm role. As revenue's decline, cuts will have to be made if school leadership does not come up with alternatives to revenue. I believe enrollment will rebound and we are already seeing signs that is happening.

Quote:
3. Where do you feel your responsibility belongs to as a bc member....the taxpayer, the students, the elderly? How do you meet all their needs?


The responsibility lies across all of the citizens and requires a balance to create a fair budget. You can't cut just because the elderly are on a fixed income nor should you add because students need to be educated. You look at every line and prioritize budget requests based on needs, wants, tax base, economy, goals and plans.
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User: ACutter
Name: Andrew Cutter


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Post Posted: 2016/02/25 8:22am  Reply with quote

When originally presented to the town, I do not believe the wage plan schedule was as transparent to the actual plan details as it should have been. It is what it is and this is outside the scope of what the BC is involved with.

I was one of the few at deliberative that was actually against moving the 30k into the operating budget. I voted this way not because I do not believe or support the salary adjustments, but because I want to see the salary adjustment plan passed and having clear transparency into where the funding will come from. My personal opinion is by increasing the proposed budget another 30k, there is greater risk that the voters will vote down the operating budget article and vote in favor of the default budget. This will result in the BOS finding the extra 30k in the bottom line budget (which as previously mentioned is fairly lean to begin with) to fund the wage schedule plan and avoid RSA 32:10 (No Means No law) in the event the separate wage plan implementation article is voted down which I highly doubt would have been given the high percentage of support last year (the 2015 article passed 717/403).
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User: Cooch41

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Post Posted: 2016/02/25 9:28am  Reply with quote

Sorry Kathleen - I missed your additional question.

I do support the motion to add the $30,000 into the budget and was one of those opposed to taking it out of the Budget in the first place. We elect BOS and School Board to hire, fire, and create the compensation details to hire and keep employees. In my mind that includes creating salary schedules and compensation standards for employees. I think it is good practice to put those initial schedules out for public approval at the ballot but except for unions there is no legal requirement to do that.

The BOS developed the schedule several yrs ago but held off on funding the changes due to the economy. Last year it was clearly stated it was a 3 years funding process both in discussion and on the ballot. But it was also clearly stated in discussions that this in no way obligated the budget comm to support it in future years so the comm as a whole was correct in its decision-making process of choosing to support or non-support.

My personal opinion was in favor of the funding because I do think citizens were informed and did approve an article that stated it was a 3 yrs process. Once a schedule is on place and functioning - I think it becomes part of the budget and then the question becomes is the Bottom line of the budget a good number or not.
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/02/25 9:17pm  Reply with quote

Thanks Cindy for joining in and answering!
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User: ACutter
Name: Andrew Cutter


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PostLEA Questionnaire for SB and BC Candidates Posted: 2016/02/26 3:37pm  Reply with quote

Attached are my submitted responses to the LEA Questionnaire.

It is my understanding that responses from all BC/SB candidates are being consolidated and will be posted through some online channel next week.



LEA Questionnaire_ACutter Responses.pdf
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User: Cooch41

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Post Posted: 2016/02/26 9:19pm  Reply with quote

Good idea Andrew. I wondered how it was going to be presented. I will try to upload my answers as well.

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Post Posted: 2016/02/26 9:32pm  Reply with quote

Not sure why it won't let me upload but I will cut and paste.

What do you feel are the district's strengths and weaknesses?


The Litchfield School district's strength is people; its employees, volunteers, and parents who make the system run smoothly, effectively educate the students to their highest potential, and make sure it's a caring place where student needs are met.

Its weakness is in communicating to those residents without a direct connection to the schools about the successes, programs and activities that go on within each school.

What do you see as the budget committees role in education ?


The Budget Committee does not have a direct role in local education nor should it. The school board and Superintendent are responsible to lead the district and provide direction through policy creation, district goals, hiring of staff, system wide planning, educational and co-curricular program development and approval to meet the educational needs of local students.

The Budget Committee does however, have an indirect but important role through the budget it creates and recommends. The Budget Committee should recommend a budget based on the needs and goals presented by school leadership. School leadership should provide back-up data, clear planning, cost justification, and spending priorities to the budget committee to use in its budget development process. The budget committee then analyzes the information and must also take into account the tax base, economy, and overall spending across both Town and School district budget requests. The goal is to create a budget that will successfully pass the voters to allow the district to meet its educational needs.

What is your vision for education in the community? How does it support the economy and quality of life in the community?

Education is the cornerstone of society and our schools are the focal point of a small community such as Litchfield. This vision would include well run schools where students are challenged, learning is exciting, and the potential of each learner is realized through talented and caring professionals in a safe and nurturing environment. All citizens would feel connected to and involved in curricular, co-curricular and enrichment opportunities. Volunteers of all ages would be integral and provide a variety of support outside the budget which would help keep budgets reasonable. The involvement and awareness of community members would foster a greater feeling of ownership so budget requests would be understood and supported. Successful schools and reasonable taxes would have a positive impact on home values making Litchfield a more desirable community for people to live in.

How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?

The Budget Committee really doesn't have a role in engaging the community to improve public education. That is the School Board's role.

The Budget Committee does have a role in advocating for the budget and in trying to get maximum support for the proposed budget. The Budget Committee should justify and explain through as many avenues as available what is in the budget so voters can make an informed decision to support the dollars being requested. Currently that is through open meetings, frank discussion, Budget Hearing and Deliberative Session as well as local papers and news outlets.

What in your background leads you to believe that you would be an effective budget committee member?

I have over 20 years of school budget experience as a long time Litchfield School Board member who was involved in detailed budget development, including goal setting, program development, policy creation, etc. I spent 2 years as Litchfield School Board chair; several years as vice chair; 6 years on the NH School Board's Association also serving as President; and several years as the School Board's representative to the Budget Committee. The last 4 years I have served as an elected member of the budget committee and the last 2 years as the Budget Committee Chair. I am organized, detail oriented and work to keep people focused on the task at hand. There is no one who currently has a better understanding of school budget development than I do.

What are three budgetary priorities that, in a perfect world, you would accomplish during your time in office? How will you go about achieving them?

Budget Priorities relating specifically to the Litchfield School District are the responsibility of the School Board and Superintendent to accomplish.

Priorities specifically related to the Budget Committee include continuing to improve collaboration between the school district and budget committee. The flow of information has greatly improved this year and I would like to see that continue. More transparency helps it to be a more collaborative process even when there are philosophical differences.

Additionally, I would like to see continued and improved training and/or budgeting workshops. Last year the Budget Committee arranged a budget workshop to understand roles and responsibilities. The School Board was invited but chose not to attend. This workshop helped budget committee members get their questions and concerns answered so the budget process could run smoother. Education of any new members plus keeping veteran members current is important. I would also encourage the school board to take advantage of any workshops so both groups have the same information.
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/03/01 8:51pm  Reply with quote

Here are responses of candidates to the LEA survey:

Attention Litchfield Voters! In the absence of a candidates night, the LEA is hoping to inform the voters about the school board and budget committee candidates. The LEA recently surveyed the candidates. Over the next six days, we will be posting the survey results and statements from the candidates who responded. Please take the time to read about your candidates and don't forget to vote on March 8th! Feel free to share this info. First up, school board candidate Christina Harrison:

Thank you, Litchfield Education Association, for the opportunity to state why I am seeking a position on the School Board. I stay active in our schools by volunteering as a member of the GMS PTO, LMS PTO, coaching the LMS First Lego League Team, and as a GMS Library aide. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education and Psychology. My two children attend school in the district. Prior to my job raising my children, I was a 1st grade teacher. I believe my varied experiences make me an ideal candidate for school board. I know a great deal about developmentally appropriate practices and ideal learning environments. I know the ins and outs of running a classroom, and the ever-increasing requirements placed upon teachers in today's educational system. I have been a resident of Litchfield for 16 years, and I have observed the work of many school boards. When making important decisions about school policies, staffing, and future investments I will be able to consider how all stakeholders students, teachers, and taxpayers will be affected by each and every decision.
I am looking forward to learning more about our schools and continuing to do what I can to help support our students, teachers and families and maintain a high standard of education here in town. As a parent I have been very pleased with the education my children have received thus far at GMS and LMS. Both of my children love school, and we have been fortunate to have worked with many amazing teachers and administrators in our district. I see enormous potential in our schools, and I believe that Litchfield School District is fully capable of improving our rank as one of the highest-rated schools in the state.
As a potential school board member, I have three main goals:

1. To provide our students with a safe environment in which to learn. This includes evaluating our capital assets for ongoing maintenance and improvement plans. Teachers and administrators can best perform when their classrooms, school buildings and grounds are well cared for. The warrant article requesting funding for a comprehensive assessment of all three of our school buildings is an important first step. Once we have a complete objective view of the buildings' structural integrity, and the systems therein, we can begin the process of being proactive with our facilities. I agree with the school board on the need to house all of our students within brick and mortar buildings for safety reasons. I would like to see GMS Kindergarteners and LMS 5th Graders moved out of the portables. As we increase our reliance on technology in the classroom and out, we need to be sure our school buildings are well fitted with the equipment teachers and students need to maximize the benefits of our rigorous curriculum.

2. To improve communication among the school district and residents of Litchfield. I have always been active as a parent and volunteer, but this past year, attending most school board meetings, I came to realize that what goes on in the classroom is only one aspect of education in Litchfield. In order to increase parent involvement, I believe we need open pathways of communication between the school board, administrators, teachers, parents and residents of Litchfield. School board members are elected by voting taxpayers, and to that end all residents in town should feel welcome to share ideas and resources within our school district. I plan to work for you to make sure you are well-informed of what is happening in our schools, and hope to foster more dialog about the direction in which we want our district to go. As a school board member I plan to use social media to keep parents and families in town aware of what is going on at the school board level. I want to hear from everyone what are YOUR thoughts about the issues our schools are facing? What do YOU wish to see in our schools? How can the school board make decisions that reflect the wishes of our town, parents, and teachers to benefit our students?

3. To support all learners so that they can meet higher educational standards for post-secondary success. With the adoption of Common Core standards our students are rising to the challenge of more critical thinking, creativity, communication, and problem solving. These are important life skills our children will need to be successful in life beyond school. It is important to remember that while our competencies and benchmarks may be standardized children are not. Students come in all shapes and sizes, have varying abilities and challenges, learning styles and interests. Good teachers understand that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to education doesn't make sense. We have wonderful programs in place to assist learners who need more support to meet grade-level expectations. Our support staff and paraprofessionals need to continue to be well-trained in modifying lessons to meet these students' needs. An area in which we can improve is in providing more opportunities for students who exceed school expectations so that we can be sure all students have the opportunity to progress and enjoy learning. One way to address this issue would be to look into programs for accelerated learning, or a specialist who would serve the highly capable students in our district. I would also love to see more academic based co-curricular student activities. We have many first-rate programs in Litchfield for our student athletes, but when it comes to clubs and groups that focus on STEM, the humanities and the arts, we are hard-pressed to find funding and volunteers willing to coach and mentor. By adding funding to these programs at the elementary and middle school level, and encouraging parents to share their time and talents, students can delve deeper into the subject areas that interest them, resulting in a love of learning and deeper understanding.



Attention Litchfield Voters! It's day 2 of sharing candidate responses. Today's response is from Brian Bourque, who is running for School Board:

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

The biggest strength to our district today is our teachers and administrators. We have opportunity to grow our platform with technology. Additionally, there is an opportunity to improve communication and transparency between the board, the faculty and the public.

The primary role of the board is to set policy and provide direction to the current and future needs of the district. We are also responsible to ensure the Superintendent oversees the district in the manner that is in the best interest of the students and district community overall. We also have a responsibility to ensure that long term goals and vision are set. The board also is responsible to ensure that the administration presents a fair budget to the budget committee that is representative of the needs of the district both short and long term.

My vision includes ensuring we increase faculty retention in all three schools as well as provide opportunities for our teachers to influence curriculum while still maintaining state and federal mandated standards. I am particularly proud of the improvement made over the past several years in our results around standardized mathematics testing and would like to see this as well as other STEM improvements continue. I would also like to see a stronger focus on meeting the needs of our more gifted students at a younger age level to help improve overall student growth. I have worked diligently for the past 3 years on the school board as the budget committee representative to balance the needs of the district and tax payer. It is my intent to continue to strive for every dollar possible for education.

Should I be re-elected, communication is a prime focus for the coming years. We simply must be more transparent as a board wherever possible and encourage more involvement from the community and the faculty. Community involvement and transparency is a personal and school board goal.

I have served at the pleasure of the community for the past 3 years on the school board with 1.5 years as the chair. I feel the knowledge that I have gained over that period of time has given me invaluable experience as to the needs and wants of the school district overall. Additionally, I am the proud parent to 4 children in the school district across all three schools who I believe are receiving an exceptional education. Finally, my prior experience as a manager for nearly 30 years gives me great insight into people, budgets and attaining long and short term goals.

My future priorities for the district include improved technology based education, greater communication and transparency and retaining top talent.
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User: Chris

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Post Posted: 2016/03/02 4:09pm  Reply with quote

Thank you for posting that Kathleen,
Do you know the reason why The LEA is releasing these one by one, day at a time, instead of releasing them all at once for public view?
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User: Cooch41

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Post Posted: 2016/03/02 9:13pm  Reply with quote

Next Installment tonight (just posting - not promoting):

Attention Litchfield Voters! Up next, the budget committee statements. Our first candidate statement is from Shana Dodge.

My name is Shana Dodge, and I would appreciate your consideration for a seat on the Budget Committee.

I am a fiscal conservative who values financial responsibility. My intention in running for this position is to bring those values to the Budget Committee, while remaining open to all ideas brought forth to the committee. I do believe that education should be high on the list of priorities in this town, but I will not be a rubber stamp for all things school-related. I will consider all proposed spending (town and school) with a judicial eye and will always try to be in touch with how the townspeople feel about spending issues and act accordingly.

I believe that the quality of our educators is a great strength that we have in this town, and I would like to see us retain the talent that we have. We need to trust our teachers to make decisions for their classrooms and listen to their ideas. One area that I feel is lacking is programs for the higher-achieving kids in town; we need a program or programs to help them achieve their highest potential.

One of my goals as a committee member is to foster an amicable relationship between the school board and budget committee. Checks and balances are important, and the budget committee should provide critical analysis of the school budget, but the perceived animosity between these two groups that is palpable at current town meetings is not productive. I'd like to see what could be achieved when these two groups work together. I will work to foster good relationships within the budget committee itself as well as with members of the school board so that we can work together to accomplish great things for the town.


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User: Cooch41

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Post Posted: 2016/03/02 9:18pm  Reply with quote

I assume by the fact that they have moved on to Budget Comm candidates, it means they do not have a statement from John York....?

And Chris - I think by releasing one at a time, it gives people a chance to read and absorb each candidates comments before moving onto the next.
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/03/03 8:25pm  Reply with quote

I'm surprised John didn't provide a survey. I'll ask that on the Lea board for verification.

Here is the next one:
Attention Litchfield Voters! Tonight's budget committee statement comes from Jennifer Bourque. Please read and share!

First, my sincere thanks to the LEA for the opportunity to address this group. Here is a recap that I hope includes the majority of the questions set forth.

Specifically as it relates to the school district, I think that we are currently short sighted in regards to our budgeting process and our priorities. While recognizing that we must be fiscally responsible, we must also stay relevant and make concerted effort to grow in all of our offerings. I hear continually the discussion around declining enrollment. While I recognize, this is a reality, I also recognize in my own business that at times, you must spend money in order to achieve the desired result. The district is comprised of a strong core group of individuals who truly have the best interest of the student at heart. But in order to deliver on the educational promise, they need resources.

The budget committee role in education should be to ensure that the decisions made are not only in the best interest of the tax payer but also fulfill long term goals. We are an ideal community for young families but without proper investment and long term vision, we will not attract these families and will continue to see declining enrollment.

As a parent with four children in all three schools in the district, I regularly engage other parents in regards to their concerns as well as their compliments as to the current state of the district. In regards to the budget committee specifically, I will be challenged to make sure I keep all tax payers in mind when making my decisions. That being said, the budget committee is under represented currently with individuals that have children in the school district and I feel as though I can accurately represent this groups' interest while still being mindful of the total taxpayers concerns. Ultimately, we cannot continue to save our way to growth. In order to increase enrollment, we must be more attractive to young families which means being competitive with technology, ensuring we retain quality staff and having top notch facilities.

I have worked for the past 20 years for the same retail organization. I have had direct top and bottom line responsibility for a $120 million business. These skills are absolutely transferrable to a town budget environment. I have a unique understanding of the budgeting process while also having a realistic approach to what is needed in order to encourage long term growth. The skills that I utilize day in and day out will serve well in a budget committee environment. In my professional life, I am required to make real time business decisions that impact a large scale business while still recognizing the impact that this has on our brand and our people. Additionally, as a single income family, I am extremely mindful of the impact that tax increase has on our community. It is my intent to balance that need with the overall needs of the district.

My priorities as a budget committee member include ensuring a fair and equitable budget is presented with a mindful review of tax payer concerns combined with the need to provide more resource to our educational community. I also would strive to find a better balance and relationship than what exists today between the budget committee and the school board and board of selectmen.
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Post Posted: 2016/03/04 7:46pm  Reply with quote

I double checked and the LEA attempted to contact John without response.

Good luck to the candidates on Tuesday.
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Post Posted: 2016/03/04 7:53pm  Reply with quote

Here is today's post. Thanks Cindy!

Attention Litchfield Voters! Please read below about Budget Committee Candidate Cindy Couture. Also, look back this weekend to hear about more candidates! Voting is this Tuesday!

What do you feel are the district's strengths and weaknesses?
The Litchfield School district's strength is people; its employees, volunteers, and parents who make the system run smoothly, effectively educate the students to their highest potential, and make sure it's a caring place where student needs are met.

Its weakness is in communicating to those residents without a direct connection to the schools about the successes, programs and activities that go on within each school.

What do you see as the budget committees role in education ?
The Budget Committee does not have a direct role in local education nor should it. The school board and Superintendent are responsible to lead the district and provide direction through policy creation, district goals, hiring of staff, system wide planning, educational and co-curricular program development and approval to meet the educational needs of local students.
The Budget Committee does however, have an indirect but important role through the budget it creates and recommends. The Budget Committee should recommend a budget based on the needs and goals presented by school leadership. School leadership should provide back-up data, clear planning, cost justification, and spending priorities to the budget committee to use in its budget development process. The budget committee then analyzes the information and must also take into account the tax base, economy, and overall spending across both Town and School district budget requests. The goal is to create a budget that will successfully pass the voters to allow the district to meet its educational needs.

What is your vision for education in the community? How does it support the economy and quality of life in the community?
Education is the cornerstone of society and our schools are the focal point of a small community such as Litchfield. This vision would include well run schools where students are challenged, learning is exciting, and the potential of each learner is realized through talented and caring professionals in a safe and nurturing environment. All citizens would feel connected to and involved in curricular, co-curricular and enrichment opportunities. Volunteers of all ages would be integral and provide a variety of support outside the budget which would help keep budgets reasonable. The involvement and awareness of community members would foster a greater feeling of ownership so budget requests would be understood and supported. Successful schools and reasonable taxes would have a positive impact on home values making Litchfield a more desirable community for people to live in.

How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?
The Budget Committee really doesn't have a role in engaging the community to improve public education. That is the School Board's role.

The Budget Committee does have a role in advocating for the budget and in trying to get maximum support for the proposed budget. The Budget Committee should justify and explain through as many avenues as available what is in the budget so voters can make an informed decision to support the dollars being requested. Currently that is through open meetings, frank discussion, Budget Hearing and Deliberative Session as well as local papers and news outlets.

What in your background leads you to believe that you would be an effective budget committee member?
I have over 20 years of school budget experience as a long time Litchfield School Board member who was involved in detailed budget development, including goal setting, program development, policy creation, etc. I spent 2 years as Litchfield School Board chair; several years as vice chair; 6 years on the NH School Board's Association also serving as President; and several years as the School Board's representative to the Budget Committee. The last 4 years I have served as an elected member of the budget committee and the last 2 years as the Budget Committee Chair. I am organized, detail oriented and work to keep people focused on their role. There is no one who currently has a better understanding of school budget development than I do.

What are three budgetary priorities that, in a perfect world, you would accomplish during your time in office? How will you go about achieving them?
Budget Priorities relating specifically to the Litchfield School District are the responsibility of the School Board and Superintendent to accomplish.

Priorities specifically related to the Budget Committee include continuing to improve collaboration between the school district and budget committee. The flow of information has greatly improved this year and I would like to see that continue. More transparency helps it to be a more collaborative process even when there are philosophical differences.
Additionally, I would like to see continued and improved training and/or budgeting workshops. Last year the Budget Committee arranged a budget workshop to understand roles and responsibilities. The School Board was invited but chose not to attend. This workshop helped budget committee members get their questions and concerns answered so the budget process could run smoother. Education of any new members plus keeping veteran members current is important. I would also encourage the school board to take advantage of any workshops so both groups have the same information.
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/03/05 8:47pm  Reply with quote

Can someone clarify article 10 on the town ballot? I thought Frank Byron added the money for the wage increase into the budget already? If this is true why are we voting on whether to approve giving the wage increase if the action was already done? Why wouldn't we just vote on whether to raise that money as a warrant article? Or am I reading this wrong?

Also an any budget committee members give opinions on the Tax cap warrant article? Or anyone else that wants to join in?
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User: Bill Spencer

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Post Posted: 2016/03/05 11:04pm  Reply with quote

Kathleen

Re Article 10. There is no longer money being appropriated under this article as a result of the amendment. But because it was on the warrant must still go to the voters.

Re Tax Cap. As I understand it, because the BOS did not hold a timely public hearing on this after the deliberative session, if approved, it will have to be re-voted on to make it legal. HLN failed to post the hearing even though the request got to them in time. As far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. The $175,000 cap is way off the mark. If I had made it to the Deliberative session (I had a medical issue), my number would have been $50,000. So, if it passes, we can see unofficially as we prepare next year's budget, what a $175,000 cap would do. Then next year, we could vote to officially accept it with a more realistic number. That assumes the article passes this Tuesday.
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User: Chris

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Post Posted: 2016/03/06 9:50am  Reply with quote

RE: Tax cap. A tax cap, if approved is really a spending cap. That is important because every citizen, every taxpayer can better associate with, and relate to a spending cap, as that is what they have to adhere to every day, in both their personal budget as well as their business budget.

First, if implemented as written, it won't make a difference, or at best, may be a very tiny hurdle to overcome that $175,000 number. Other than one or two anomalies, that dollar amount increase is the usual dollar amount increase annually. As Bill said, and I agree, $175,000 is too high a number.

Another reason why a spending cap is basically irrelevant, is because the "cap" can very easily be over-ridden at the deliberative session. We all saw just how easy it is to get a simple majority at deliberative to add more money, (in that case it was to add non-union pay increases to the budget). So to over-ride a spending cap, all it takes is getting the right amount of people that agree with over-spending the cap to attend deliberative, and the "cap" is overruled for that budget year.

So for those that don't agree with controlling spending by your local government, you can still vote for this for the following reasons;
1. the maximum amount of the cap is what our "normal" increases in spending really is.
2. It can very easily be overruled for those that want more spending than what the cap allows.
3. This does not, in any way, affect the school budget, so any increase in spending in that budget can be proposed without any hurdle to overcome.

Now for the reasons to vote in favor of this spending cap.

Because it sends a message. Even though the message, given the circumstances I listed above, has very small, dull and rotten teeth, it does have ~some~ teeth. Its basically a speedbump, or a hurdle. Something all those you elect to spend your tax dollars will have in the back of their mind when they decide on how and on what they spend your money.

Finally, the voters of Litchfield send their governing bodies and budget committee members very mixed messages. Last year, regarding this tax cap warrant, when the voters were asked if they wanted this proposal for a tax cap to be presented on a warrant for implementation, the voters with a great majority said "yes". One could only assume that meant the voters wanted restrained spending and limited tax increases, especially given the fact there is zero population growth in Litchfield, and no additional services.

Even with that majority for a tax cap last year, the same voters still vote for increases, more spending and they still vote for the same people, as well as new people that basically promise to further propose more and more spending and tax increases. Very mixed messages?!

I am curious to see how this warrant goes at the ballot. Some are quick to blame the governing bodies and budget committee for huge spending increases each and every year, yet the voters keep allowing them to do that.

Any other opinions on this spending cap warrant?
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User: kfollis

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Post Posted: 2016/03/06 9:31pm  Reply with quote

Bill and Chris thanks for replying. That's what I thought. In Mass I believe a 2 1/2% cap was used. as for warrant article 10 it'll be interesting if the article fails but the BOS/deliberative voters already essentially "passed" it. I hope you're feeling better Bill.

Here is another BC response:

Attention Litchfield Voters! Get to know the last of the budget committee candidates, Paul Mallory.

My name is Paul B. Mallory. I am running for election to the Town of Litchfield's Budget Committee. I have been associated with this area for almost 30 years, having met and married my wife Donna (Makowiec) in the United States Air Force. We have raised 2 sons, Jesse who has graduated from Southern New Hampshire University and Zachary who is scheduled to graduate from the Boston Conservatory in May of this year. We have family members that are multi-generational residents of this Town. Donna and I have resided in Litchfield for the past year. Many residents indirectly know us as the people that bought the Nelson House across the street on 3A from Passaconaway, which has undergone construction and is in the process of further renovation. I am running for the Budget Committee because I have always been interested in Politics and Finance. My direct background was in the capital markets area of the investment industry. I worked for 24 years at Raymond James Financial, with over 20 of those years spent in the Institutional Fixed Income area as a salesperson. I am now finishing a two year personal sabbatical and although I am unsure of my vocation, I know where I reside; here in Litchfield with my family and new friends (some of which I have not yet met). I believe this town is "Our" town, and that Litchfield's growth, development and direction should be shown through the consensus of the townspeople and businesses. Communication, Fiduciary Responsibility and Good Citizenship are three tenets that I feel are part of that consensus. I am running for this committee because I felt it would be a good step to be directly involved in those beliefs.
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