Dr. Maestas' 2017 Report of Unfunded/Underfunded Mandates
Download PDF of Dr. Maestas' Report: Plymouth Unfunded/Underfunded Mandates Update 2017 with Addendum
This report intended as an update to the initial report published in 2014. Although there has been a great deal of discussion about the need to fund items within this document, there has been very little movement at the federal and state Levels. This document was prompted by the increasing demand to quantify the cost of the unfunded/underfunded mandates that are significantly impacting school districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and around the country. As we prepare our annual school budgets, this topic is often brought to the forefront of conversation. My expectation is that this report will provide background as our budget process is deliberated and as schools and communities across the Commonwealth are advocating for changes to the current Chapter 70 funding formula. Many entries in this report are based on actual budgeted costs with the exception of specific areas that are identified as incalculable and would require a daily log of time and resources expended to accomplish identified tasks.
This report was updated with the support of my administrative staff, as they were able to supply pertinent information on their respective programs.
Attached as an addendum is the annual Superintendent’s Checklist (modified for our District for School Year 2016-17 from the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.
ESTIMATED COSTS FOR
PLYMOUTH PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Chapter 70 – Plymouth, like every Massachusetts school district, must provide free and equal (appropriate) education to all students from kindergarten through grade 12. The cost of providing this education is partially funded through Chapter 70 aid. The state has failed to address the adequacy of Chapter 70 aid for Plymouth, which has ranged from 10 percent to 15 percent of actual new school spending over the past 10 years.
In FY07, the state changed the funding formula that was intended to equalize the funding across all Massachusetts districts. That has not been the case in Plymouth. Over the past five years, Chapter 70 aid has risen, but not at a proportionate rate due to weaknesses in the formula that underfunded Plymouth compared to most other Massachusetts communities.
The state recognized this underfunding, but has not closed the gap between what Plymouth should receive and what it actually does receive under Chapter 70. As fixed costs and unfunded mandates are escalating, the formula for determining Chapter 70 funds is not increasing proportionally. The trend of budget escalation and deficiency of Chapter 70 support is causing cities and towns across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to rise and appropriate significant funding to keep pace with increased budgets. We are fortunate in Plymouth that our community has supported these increases, but our taxpayers are weary and the future of this trend cannot be sustained.
Regular Education –While Chapter 70 aid to Plymouth has risen significantly over the past 10 years; the additional requirements placed on the district by the state have grown substantially more. For example:
- Time and Learning standards have been established, lengthening learning time with associated costs when implemented. Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) frameworks have also been established, requiring new areas of educational preparation and subsequent activity. The cost to implement these new standards and frameworks is an incremental cost for all teachers and building administrators. Approximately $120,000 in curriculum revision and professional development specifically focused on CCCS expended in the last two years.
- Assessment, analysis, data management, remediation adjustments and associated district reporting have been expanded tenfold (10X) beyond what was known to reform planners. The attached file entitled Superintendent’s Checklist from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) identifying reports that a school district is responsible for completing and filing is an example of this progression. Ninety percent of these management and resource activities have been added since 1993, and this list is constantly increasing. The cost of completing all these tasks is easily estimated to be a full-time support staff position with full benefits at $86,000. With increased demands on the staff currently in place, these requirements have caused a backlog of work, creating an atmosphere of an overwhelmed nature within support staff in buildings as well as at the district’s central office.
2017 Update on Chapter 70 Legislation - Although there have been attempts to address the Chapter 70 funding formula, no progress has been made towards addressing the contributions that are made to cities and towns of the Commonwealth. The slight increases demonstrated on the chart above are adjustments in the budget allocation and/or a result of a formula adjustment. The increase projected for the 2017-2018 school year is a result of the Plymouth Public Schools adding a district-wide, full-day kindergarten program.
Special Education - The cost of providing assessments, evaluations and specialized instructional services exceed the funding provided by federal and state sources. In addition, non-instructional services within the review and appeal processes, such as arbitration, mediation, hearings, etc., result in extraordinary costs to the district. The personnel, administrative and technology costs inherent in the delivery of appropriate services are exorbitant. Individual Education Plans dictate where a student must go to school, requiring outplacements and special education transportation. While our district special education administrative staff has done an admirable job of developing programming that promotes the least restrictive environment, the needs of some of the students call for them to be placed out of the district.
Perhaps the most volatile and unpredictable of the unfunded costs for special education is the total cost for out-of-district tuition for students whose needs cannot be met within the district. “Circuit Breaker” funding is intended to supplement the local budget. The threshold for Circuit Breaker eligibility is calculated by the state average per pupil expenditure multiplied by four (foundation budget). Districts are reimbursed a percentage above the foundation amount. Reimbursement rates have fluctuated over the last five years from 40 percent to 75 percent and are determined by the state. Out-of-district costs and reimbursement rates continue to be the most unpredictable cost in special education and, without appropriate oversight and funding, could leave the town vulnerable to catastrophic unforeseen costs. The funds expended for the 2016 fiscal year for special education placement costs have totaled $6,661,912, while state reimbursements have fluctuated from $1.1 Million to $2.3 Million.
Special Education transportation costs have also continued to rise due to maintenance of vehicles and fuel. Transportation is not a service that can be claimed through Circuit Breaker or Medicaid. The district is solely responsible for these costs. The total expenditure for transportation of special education students for FY16 was $2,328,891.
Section 504 Services (Federal) - School districts are required to provide students with disabilities accommodations that will assist in their learning. This may include any disability that is not covered by special education. Teachers must accommodate all needs written into a student’s 504 Plan. State and local options are constrained. With approximately 300 students in the Plymouth Public Schools with 504 Plans, approximately $2,000 is budgeted annually for 504 supplies and testing.
In addition to supplies and testing, 504 Plans require the following personnel:
- .25 Student Support Services Director $28,875
- .25 Student Support Services Secretary $10,500, and
- One School Psychologist $17.062
The approximate total needed for this staffing is $56,437 plus benefits.
Massachusetts Chapter 222 implementation and sustainability - Chapter 222, a new state law that mandates changes in school discipline, went into effect on July 1, 2014. One of the biggest concerns with this law is the requirement that school districts and charter schools must provide alternative educational services for students suspended or expelled from school—and pay for the associated costs.
The new law also addresses attendance and dropouts. Chapter 222 requires that schools notify parents if a child is absent from school and specifies that schools notify parents if no acknowledgement from a parent is received regarding the absence within three days. This mandate is staff intensive and creates additional requirements on overwhelmed support staff.
In addition, public schools will be required to meet with parents of a student with five or more unexcused absences in a year to develop an action plan to improve his or her attendance. As part of this program, schools are developing in-school suspension (ISS) programs that will provide educational programing to students that fit the model of in-school suspension as opposed to the traditional out-of-school suspension (OSS). Implementation costs for this program are significant. The Plymouth Public Schools is developing this program in order to address the requirements of the new legislation. The estimated cost for implementation includes:
- Four ISS Supervisors: $168,000, plus benefits
- Estimated annual tutoring costs: $20,000-$25,000 (based on 813 OSS days for students who were suspended for more than 10 days in 2016-17)
- Finding a physical location for the program - teacher desk, student desks and chairs, phone, supplies and materials, etc.
- Additional costs - Attendance tracking and taking in students who were long-term suspended from PSHS/PNHS
The implementation of this mandate on the Plymouth Public Schools will cost $282,299.
School Transportation – State law requires that school districts provide transportation to all students (public, private and charter) in grades K to 6 who live two miles or more from the school. Transportation for students in grades 7 to 12 is not addressed in the mandatory regulation. However, even though the state refuses to mandate this level of transportation, the reality of having no transportation for grades 7-12 in a community the size of Plymouth is unrealistic. The state does reimburse regional school transportation. However, even though Plymouth is the size (104 square miles) of many regional school districts, there is no reimbursement for regular local student transportation. The cost of school transportation in Plymouth for FY16 was $4,592,806. As the 2017 fiscal year is the last year of the contract, the school department has negotiated a new contract for fiscal year 2018 and beyond.
Administrative–Coordinated Program Review (CPR) – The time, effort and resources allocated to the preparation for and a visit by DESE staff to conduct a review is incalculable. Subsequent reports and development of Corrective Action Plans require hours to months of clerical, professional and administrative time. CORI checks for staff and volunteers add to clerical and administrative time. Emergency evacuation plans add to expenses in the form of training time, signs, posters and other means of alerting.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Office of District Reviews and Monitoring: Comprehensive review that involves district-wide faculty. The groundwork for this review takes months of precreation and submission of documentation to the DESE. The DESE conducts cycled district reviews that assess district systems. These reviews are conducted according to Chapter 15, Section 55A of Massachusetts General Laws. Although we do not have a quantifiable monetary cost for this requirement, the school district is expected to provide all required documentation in multiple copies and unquantifiable hours in preparation.
Title I Requirements – Although grant funds are provided to districts, the costs associated with delivery of services and the reporting and documentation requirements often exceed funding.
Response to Intervention (RTI) Training – This requires the district to provide training for instructors who must then instruct a majority of staff members in techniques to de-escalate student crises. Associated costs are incurred to hire substitutes for classes whose teachers participate in training. By the end of 2017, approximately $45,000 will have been spent initiating the development of Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS) at each school. Math and Literacy Coaches at the elementary and middle schools who directly support RTI as well (at approximately $220,000 per year) should also be included in this discussion.
Preschool Requirements – Districts must provide integrated (ratio of regular and special education) settings for all students in accordance with the regulations of Early Education and Care (EEC). The requirements for assessment, evaluation and provision of services are costly. Five full-time positions with full benefits at $83,000 per position, or $415,000 in total, are required to provide these services. In addition, new regulations require the public schools to participate in “transition planning conferences” for all students serviced by Early Intervention three months before their third birthday. This totals approximately 35 extra special education meetings with parents and Early Intervention staff. EEC regulations also mandate observing students in their natural environments; e.g., home or child care setting. This calls for staff to travel to observe potential students in an environment that, in most cases, does not resemble a school setting.
2017 Update: The Plymouth Public Schools is the recipient of an early childhood education grant. We have been notified that the grant will the longer be available for the 2018-2019 school year. This will be a significant loss for the program and, ultimately, will cause the program budget to increase to maintain the same level of services.
Anti-Bullying – The bill defines bullying, in part, as “the repeated use by a perpetrator of a written, verbal, or electronic expression, or physical act or gesture … directed at a victim that causes physical or emotional harm or damage to the victim’s property; places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; [or] creates a hostile environment at school.’’ If principals determine that the bullying constitutes a criminal act, they are required to report the incident to law enforcement.
The determination that must be made in reported bullying cases involves a timely and thorough investigation. The implementation of this legislation is in the best interest of potential victims. The time necessary to investigate matters is significant and requires additional resources. Current structures in staffing have not been adjusted to accommodate this increased demand.
More access and time is needed to address the technology/online component to bullying. Investigations require knowledge and familiarity with different technologies and social media outlets. Additionally, it requires more time to investigate because of the limitation of access district schools presently have with technology and the various social media outlets. Lastly, the demands of the new legislature require more resources; e.g., counselors, police, courts, etc.
2017 Update: Now three years into this legislation, we have realized that this requirement involves a significant amount of time and resources to accurately address the law as intended. Although the provision is time and resource intensive, we believe that the incidents of bullying behavior have declined in our district. As mentioned in the initial citation on this provision, it is difficult to monitor all the resources employed when an incident is reported. There are many cases that have been reported that require a detailed investigation and, in some cases, can take an administrator large parts of the day to complete. Administrators have numerous daily scheduled commitments. When a claim is logged, a principal will move a claim of bullying to the top of their priority list.
State Concussion Regulations – Annual training is required for all nurses, athletics and coaching staff, parents and student athletes. The training program is free, but costs $2,000 or more in staff salaries. All students trying out for a sport must undergo ImPact Testing (computerized neuropsychological testing). Athletes who suffer a concussion injury must repeat this testing to be cleared in order to resume activity. The high school athletics departments administer this testing ($600 per school per year for $1,200 total). Time estimated in managing concussions in the health offices is approximately 18 hours per week, which translates to $29,000 annually in nursing time alone. Meetings often include athletics trainers, teachers, guidance counselors and that time should also be considered a factor. A conservative estimate would be $75,000 annually, plus the cost of ImPact testing.
Foster Care and State Wards – Districts are required to educate students who have been placed by the state in foster care and state ward settings. If a student has special needs, the town is responsible for that student’s education, even if the student is enrolled in a day or residential school that is not in town. Districts are also responsible for the transportation for the student. (NOTE: The local district is only responsible for regular day/vocational education of these pupils. When a student in foster care requires a special education out-of-district placement, according to their IEP and depending on the placement and move-in date, the district may be responsible for some or all of the tuition for that year and subsequent years.) The budget for this requirement is included within the McKinney-Vento budget below.
McKinney-Vento Legislation (Federal) – This recent federal law requires that schools accept any homeless student who wishes to attend the public schools. The law, referred to as McKinney-Vento, also requires a school district to transport any homeless students living in town to the schools in their former home district. In FY16, Plymouth expended $412,000 to transport displaced (homeless) children to their home schools. This figure varies greatly as the expenditures are based on a population of students that is difficult to predict. In recent years, the Town of Plymouth has received reimbursement for a percentage of the expenditures on McKinney-Vento transportation. In FY14, Plymouth received $194,032. This reimbursement model is a relatively new concept and was introduced by the Commonwealth Auditor Suzanne Bump following her state report on unfunded mandates in 2012. Prior to FY14, these costs were paid entirely by the school districts. There were several years where the district covered all expenses. The unreimbursed cost for McKinney-Vento responsibilities is $267,800. At the present time, the school district is receiving approximately 35% reimbursement on expended funds in this area. The significant increases that we have experienced in the past two years is a result of the new requirement for school districts to transport children who are residing in foster placements.
English Language Learners (ELL) – This provides required ELL services to all students not fluent in English. Specially certified teachers must provide this service. In addition, ELL services require specific educational materials and testing, which are to be provided by the district. In an effort to provide sufficient English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction to ESL students during the 2016-2017 school year, Plymouth Public Schools has done the following:
- The district hired an additional 1.0 FTE ESL teacher in January 2014.
- The district hired an additional 1.0 FTE ESL teacher in August 2014.
During the 2014-2015 school year, the district modified the delivery of ESL services by designating anchor schools (three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school), which will significantly decrease and/or eliminate travel time of ESL teachers to different school buildings and increase their availability to students. The district has also made all possible adjustments to current ESL teacher schedules to meet DESE requirements.
All classroom teachers who serve ELL students in their classrooms must have 10 hours of training each year until fulfilling a requirement of 50 hours. All communications sent to the homes of all students (not just ELL) whose parents do not speak English as their first language must be translated into their native languages. ELL training is required even when only one (1) student in the district is an ELL student.
The estimated cost for new staff, staff trainings and certification as well as all translations in 2014 was estimated $200,000, plus benefits.
Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Teacher and Administrator Endorsements – Over the four years, Plymouth Public Schools has hosted (or will host) three regional SEI Teacher Endorsement courses and one SEI Administrator Endorsement course. At least one additional SEI Teacher Endorsement course was required in 2015-16. The costs associated with these unfunded mandated trainings are difficult to quantify. Costs include substitute teacher coverage, administrator planning and coordination, technology support planning and coordination, custodial assistance and SEI Instructor supplies and materials. A modest estimate to implement this program and sustain it is $22,000 yearly.
Home Schooling – The district must monitor and document all home-schooled students. This includes identifying families and reviewing detailed home-schooling plans for compliance with state guidelines. Though school districts are required to provide this oversight, there are no funding or reporting requirements to or from the state. While this is a small number of students (almost 100), management still requires:
- .25 FTE of a support person $10,500,
- .25 FTE of the School Attendance Officer $15,750, and
- .25 of the Student Support Services Director $27,500.
The approximate total needed for this staffing is $53,750, plus benefits.
Next-Generation MCAS Testing – The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is in the process of upgrading MCAS to better measure the critical thinking skills students need for success in the 21st century. The new test, informally called "Next-Generation MCAS," will build upon the best aspects of the MCAS assessments that have served the Commonwealth well for the past two decades. The test will include innovative items developed by PARCC, along with new items specifically created to assess the Massachusetts learning standards.
Next-Generation MCAS will be designed to be taken on a computer. The plan is to phase in computer-based testing (CBT) so that computer-based tests are fully administered statewide in 2019, with many students participating as well in 2017 and 2018.
With the implementation of the Next-Gen MCAS assessment system, schools are expected to implement online testing environments for test administration. The cost and resources to implement this model will be assessed and updated at the close of the 2104-2015 PARCC testing cycle. Cost to be determined.
Open Meeting Law – All meetings of a governmental body shall be open to the public and any person shall be permitted to attend any meeting. The new Open Meeting Law (OML) requirements must be met by each governmental body and there are several governmental bodies within the school system. Those include the School Committee and any official subcommittees (e.g., Advocacy, Strategic Plan, Policy and Technology), plus each school has a School Council (12 buildings within Plymouth) that must comply with OML.
The new requirements include posting meeting notices along with the agenda, where previously our mechanism for fulfilling the OML requirements was a simple paper – noting the date, time, location, and the name of the committee – being stamped for date and time at the Town Clerk’s office and tacked to the bulletin board in Town Hall. The Town Clerk’s office has implemented the software platform explained below for online viewing of meeting notices and agendas on the town’s website.
Costs associated with School Committee meetings have been reduced by adopting a paperless meeting platform—Electronic School Board (ESB), which also includes a tool for posting the agenda for the public’s 24/7 viewing (Electronic School Board carries a $4,500 per year maintenance contract). The Town Clerk’s office in Plymouth has implemented NovusAGENDA software to serve the same purpose for OML requirements for all Town committees, and is now the means for posting public meeting notices. The cost of the software is unknown to the school department. However, the costs associated with implementation of both software programs (ESB and Novus) are in the man-hours for administering the program and training personnel.
Public Records Law: The Public Records law has been updated and there are some changes that impact all municipalities including school districts. Requests for public records has been and will continue to be a function that public entities manage. The change in the law requires municipalities to perform these services for no charge up to four hours. If you are a municipality with a population under 20,000 residents, there can be no charges for up to two hours of time. The change in this law has increased the workload on existing staff members without the ability for reimbursement. The monetary impact has not yet been realized as a result of this required change that took place in January 2017. Once the data is acquirable after the first fiscal year, it will be included within subsequent updates.
Curriculum Frameworks – It is a constant task to write new curricula to conform to the state curriculum frameworks. The state revises and updates frameworks on a regular basis. This work must be done after school and during the summer. Instruction hours must and should provide, at minimum, 990-900 hours of instructional time.
The newly drafted science standards will require the Curriculum Coordinator to develop a transition plan, design and provide appropriate professional development, and rewrite/redesign curriculum. Staff will also have to participate in professional development and curriculum rewrite/redesign. Instructional materials will need to be purchased to support drafted standards. In most cases, this is a shift in time and resources from one area to another. In other cases, this requires the addition of professional development monies to pay staff per hour for curriculum development. The purchase of supporting materials at elementary and middle school levels is approximately $500,000. The last adoption at K-6 was $250,000 in 2005.
The cost to purchase middle school and high school math textbooks aligned to the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) is approximately $250,000. The cost to purchase the 2015 Revised Elementary K-6 Program aligned to CCSS and supporting materials was $100,000.
Individual Student Success Plans (ISSP) – This requires administrative, teaching, secretarial, guidance, and technology investments (including but not limited to intervention programs in ELA and Math) to ensure that students receive additional support services addressing individual student needs as a result of statewide assessment mandates (MCAS).
Instructional support and resources such as texts, workbooks, and online instruction are examples of areas that require increases in expenditures. The resources necessary to support this model district wide are estimated at $30,000.
Curriculum Requirements – The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks requires that districts provide additional instructional staff (e.g., health teachers and guidance staff) to ensure that all curriculum areas are addressed. The periodic review and alignment of every curriculum area necessitates substantial investment in time (committee review, curriculum development, printing and dissemination of curricula) and resources (texts, consumable items, and online access). This will require the district to commit the equivalent of 4 FTE’s: $200,000.
The College Board requires Advanced Placement (AP) classes to have textbooks that are less than 10 years old. The replacement of current AP science class textbooks for one course district wide is approximately $9,000. There are currently three AP science courses: $27,000.
The estimate for the revision/alignment to CCSS of all math curriculum documents and assessments (summer curriculum work) is $10,000.
Out-of-District Vocational and Agricultural Education – School districts must allow students to attend out-of-district vocational and agricultural schools when programs are not offered in the district. In Plymouth, the majority of out-of-district placements are to schools that provide training in agricultural occupations. Unlike the charter school reimbursement, there is no apparent reimbursement for vocational placement even though the vocational student, like the charter student, is counted in the Foundation Budget of the sending district. In addition, school districts are required to transport these students to the schools of their choice. There is only partial (up to 87 percent) reimbursement for vocational education transportation. The cost for tuition and transportation (after reimbursement) expended in FY17 for three students is $68,084.
Staffing – Professional Development – With the enactment of Education Reform, all teachers and other professional staff must be recertified every five years. The district must provide professional development required for re-certification, with no cost to the individual employee.
Highly Qualified Staff – This mandate ensures employment of and reporting on highly qualified staff members and requires a substantial investment of time and money at all school levels. In many cases, there is insufficient guidance for districts that enable administrators to assist teachers and professional staff to meet the requirements established by DESE. (For example, appropriate licensure and completion of a designated number of courses is required for teaching assignments for which licensure may not exist at this time.)
Teacher Mentor Program – School districts in Massachusetts are required to implement and maintain a teacher mentor program. This program must be available to teachers for a two-year period. The cost to provide mentorship to new staff is estimated at $45,000.
Special Education Tutoring – Plymouth Public Schools is responsible for tutoring students who are not able to attend school for a variety of reasons (e.g., mental health hospitalizations, medical hospitalizations, discipline). FY14 costs for tutoring of special education students who were not able to attend school was $63,498.
Grant Percentages to Private Schools – School districts are required to give a percentage of grants funded under the No Child Left Behind Act to all in-district private schools (including faith-based schools) whether or not their students attend the schools. The percentage is based on total school and district populations. The district must provide reading services from its Title I grant to all schools within the town that students attend if the schools meet certain criteria. The estimate of grant funds being diverted to non-public schools pertaining to the Title I set aside is:
- neglected/delinquent youth $11,288
- homeless students $2,000
Student Information Management System (SIMS) and Education Personnel Information Management System (EPIMS) – The state requires that each district have software in place that will allow districts to report data on all students and staff in a format compatible with the state databases. This process has been very time consuming and costly to districts for training and updates.
With EPIMS, the labor and technology costs of providing the information to DESE are significant. Many hours are required to collect and verify information, upload it to DESE, and continually review to ensure accuracy. Administrative costs are incurred to complete the Teacher Quality Improvement Plan (TQIP) and update information. In addition, significant time is spent communicating with teachers and administrators to ensure validity of reporting. With respect to SIMS, it must be recognized the reporting requirements consume significant administrative hours and require extensive technology fund investment in terms of hardware (administrative computers) and reporting systems (student software programs).There are multiple reports required during the course of the school year. The estimated staffing impact for SIMS and EPIMS is approximately two FTE’s with benefits: $236,486. Although there is a central point of data collection, each building has significant data reporting requirements that are crucial to the integrity of district data. The district-wide data support at the building level across the district is estimated at $241,500, including appropriate benefits.
Reporting and Auditing – The district must provide timely reports to the state throughout the year. There is a financial end-of-year report that takes a great deal of time to prepare. An outside auditing firm must review this report each year, which is an expense paid by the town.
Student Activity Accounts – These funds are required to be kept in accounts under control of the Town Treasurer and funds are deposited in an agency fund. Each school has accounting practices that allow the school to keep a small amount of cash to pay bills as needed. The accounts are reimbursed through a system that requires them to complete a form for reimbursement and attach the documentation. This is sent to the Business Office for verification and then sent to the Treasurer’s Office. An outside firm, at a minimum of once per year, audits these accounts. The Town Auditor also performs a yearly audit on these accounts. Although this allows for more accountability, it adds a great deal of time to the workload of existing staff to monitor and process the transactions. Currently the cost to audit these accounts is $10,000.
Technology – Each year, the district must have an updated Technology Plan. An annual report must be sent to the state indicating how the district is using technology to teach, how much is being spent and what the district plans to spend in the future. There are technology benchmarks that must be met by students at each grade and all students must meet state defined technology proficiencies by the end of grade 8. The development of technology plans (incorporating professional, administrative, and community personnel), the recommended student to technology (computer) ratio, and the ratio of technology personnel recommended for districts, directly affects school budget development. The estimate for the cost of compliance with the district’s Technology Plan is approximately $10,000, which includes administrative time developing the plan and additional hours from building and district leadership.
Every five years, districts must also rewrite their District Technology Plan. This effort requires research and planning by many involved. The estimated cost to develop the plan is approximately $23,000. This estimate includes man-hours from the technology department to research and write the plan. It does not include hours put in by building and district leadership.
Building Maintenance – Districts have a requirement to spend a minimum amount to maintain buildings and are required to pay “union scale” on projects for repairs and maintenance when done by an outside contractor. The following is a list of annual inspections and tests required by the state for maintenance of buildings: boiler inspections, air tank inspections, fire alarm tests, fire suppression tests (kitchens), fire extinguisher tests, elevator and chair lift inspections, stage rigging inspections, Integrated Pest Management Plans including community notifications, fire sprinkler tests, and asbestos inspections.
Buildings and Grounds Annual Mandated Inspections and Certifications – Below is a detailed description of Plymouth Public Schools annual expenditures for building maintenance and inspections required by government regulatory agencies. The Town of Plymouth Board of Health, Water and Sewer, Fire Department and Building Inspectional Services are also required to perform annual inspections and certifications for all school buildings as related to their jurisdictional responsibilities. In addition, the school department performs all scheduling and appropriate recordkeeping of certifications and permits required by local, state and federal governing agencies and absorbs all associated clerical and manpower costs.
Of note is that the information provided is related to facilities maintenance and, therefore, costs related to special education, transportation and other items associated with curriculum mandates are not included. Consequently, all of the town’s departments would need to provide costs for inspections, and associated permitting and clerical costs should be added in order to obtain total costs.
- The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires six-month periodical inspections and reporting, as well as a three-year intensive inspection and reporting to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), for all assumed asbestos-containing materials in all school buildings - $11,900.
- The State Department of Public Safety requires annual testing and certification of all elevators and a five-year certification and inspection for all handicap chair lifts - $2,000.
- The State Fire Marshall requires elevators equipped with a "Fire Recall" system (smoke and heat sensors tied into elevator emergency operation) are tested annually. This necessitates the Department of Public Safety, an elevator company technician and the fire alarm technician to be present for the annual inspection performed by a certified company and the Plymouth Fire Department - $8,592.
- The State Fire Marshal requires all school buildings to be equipped with proper fire suppression systems; both Ansul and portable fire extinguishers must be inspected, upgraded and certified annually, as well as fire alarm testing - $24,320.
- Inspection, collection, recordkeeping and disposal of grease collected in grease traps for school kitchens and inspected by the local Board of Health is required by DEP - $4,625.
- DEP requires "Source Registration" for buildings with boilers emitting more than 10 million BTU's into the atmosphere. Since Plymouth High School falls under this category, annual boiler certification and emissions testing must be performed at all schools and Source Registration filed annually for the high school. This is done with the annual boiler cleaning contract. It costs an extra $2,350 to test pressure vessels.
- The Department of Public Safety and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board, along with and as required by the American with Disabilities Act, requires annual inspection and removal of "Architectural Barriers." Therefore, a long-term plan involving improved handicap access installations, appropriate signage and ongoing efforts to maintain and upgrade school buildings to maintain accessibility to all schools is done as needed. At a minimum, Hedge and Nathaniel Morton Elementary Schools will need modifications in order to be in compliance with ADA.
- DEP requires annual inspection and testing of drinking water, drinking water backflow devices and associated equipment. The Plymouth Public Schools, in cooperation with the Plymouth Water Department, provides a licensed plumber to perform water sampling. The Water Department absorbs the cost for private testing agencies to perform analytical testing performed by an independent laboratory and files test results with the DEP annually. This work is done by the Plymouth DPW. Additionally, it costs $1,832 to test backflow prevention devices and $4,609 for well water testing.
- The State Fire Marshall requires a certified inspection company to inspect all existing underground fuel storage tanks—those not in use to be removed and those that are in use every three years. This is minimal as there is currently one underground storage tank.
- The DEP requires annual testing and reporting of monitoring wells located at the Plymouth High School site where a fuel release occurred in the 1980's. This is done as part of our $95,000 wastewater treatment contract.
- The Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs in conjunction with the Department of Agricultural Resources requires a monthly inspection plan and annual reporting related to the use of pesticides in schools titled, "Integrated Pest Management" or IPM - $11,039.
- The federal government requires annual inspections and certification for playgrounds located on school property to be performed by a certified playground inspection company. Gym inspections are conducted by Athletics Directors. Playgrounds are inspected by Head Custodians.
Average Estimated Buildings and Grounds total: $166,267.
In addition to all of the items listed above, the school department complies and works in conjunction with the Plymouth DPW on storm water discharge regulations set by EPA and DEP guidelines that impact every building, sidewalk, or parking project by adding 30-50 percent of the total project cost, solid waste disposal, recycling, energy conservation, monitoring of lead paint and radon gas as required. There are many costs associated with maintaining equipment that is regulated by all governing agencies on an annual basis. An average cost can be provided for those associated costs if needed.
Indoor air quality guidelines and upcoming DEP enforcement regarding PCB's in caulking pose what may prove to be an unforeseen and extreme expense with harsh fines if found to be in violation of new testing requirements.