State regulation in Massachusetts permits regional schools, including local vocational-technical schools, to establish a Stabilization Fund for capital projects. The governing statute is Massachusetts General Laws c.71, §sixteen G½. Not all nearby colleges have tried to create such a Stabilization Fund. This article is written to help folks that desire to try. From my experience, the system is straightforward but can also be long and frustrating.
Here are the necessary steps to follow:
1. Educate Yourself. Read the regulation. Talk to others who’ve gone via the process. Ask questions. Contact me. Reach out for your professional affiliation. The Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) and Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) are high-quality resources. Talk together with your School Business Manager to make sure the 2 of you’re united in this. You want to march collectively. Make sure that everyone is aware, right from the very start, that it is not smooth to use cash from the Stabilization Fund. Any money located into the sort of Stabilization Fund should most effectively be used for capital initiatives and will only be used by a vote of -thirds of the local School Committee. It is not a piggy bank to be opened at will using the School Business Manager or Superintendent
2. Educate Your School Committee. If you have got a Finance or Budget Subcommittee, that might be the satisfactory region to start. Talk with the Subcommittee chair first to make sure there is the least general aid for the idea. Then carry it to the overall Subcommittee. Make a presentation. Let them ask questions till they can not think of any more significant. (The questions are the same ones you’ll listen to from city and town officials later.) Once you have a sturdy consensus on the Subcommittee, ask that organization to recommend the overall School Committee.
3. Seek a Vote from Your School Committee. Once you’ve got the guide from the Subcommittee that handles cash subjects, placed the object on the Agenda for the entire School Committee. In the assembly package deal, encompass a memo outlining the reasons why you’re in search of to set up a Stabilization Fund. In the message, address any foremost concerns that were raised at the Subcommittee level. Remember that it’s far enormously probable that your memo will find its manner into the palms of Mayors and Selectmen in your district. Make sure it’s far strictly genuine. Make positive all later correspondence for your member groups makes use of the same or very comparable language.
4. Notify Your Member Communities of the Vote. After your School Committee takes a vote to set up a Stabilization Fund, the amusing is just starting. Now you want to mobilize help in a majority of your member communities. If you have got nine member groups, you enjoy superb votes from five of them. If you have 18 member communities as I did, you want a favorable option from 10 of them. The first step is to inform the Boards of Selectmen and City Councils for your district of your School Committee’s vote. Make certain Mayors and Town Managers are notified, too.
Here’s a part of the letter we sent to our 18 member groups:
“On January 2, 2013, the District School Committee at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School voted to establish a Stabilization Fund by the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws c.71, §sixteen G½. The regulation calls for that district communities be notified and vote to approve the movement of using the School Committee. The Monty Tech School Committee requests that a piece of writing be positioned on an upcoming Town Meeting Warrant/City Council Agenda searching for approval to establish the Stabilization Fund.
We endorse the subsequent wording:
That the Town/City of the vote to approve a Stabilization Fund in step with Massachusetts General Laws c.Seventy-one, §sixteen G½ for the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District.
5. Educate Your Member Communities. Use the letter to member communities as an opportunity to explain why you’re making your request.
We introduced this:
“Stabilization Funds are not unusual in the course of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and within the towns and towns for the duration of our vicinity. Most, if now not all, of our 18 district communities have utilized Stabilization Funds for many years. Monty Tech desires to set up a Stabilization Fund that allows you to help deal with its many capital desires. As you could understand, the district maintains and regularly updates a Five-Year Capital Plan, which identifies our faculty district’s primary structural and system needs. While we do our very quality to hold college facilities and system updated and stretch every dollar via the use of faculty and scholar hard work, we have discovered that funds allocated for capital initiatives in our annual budget are not sufficient to satisfy the district’s wishes.
We agree that putting in a Stabilization Fund is fiscally prudent.”
6. Expect Questions, Rejection, and Delays. The school district is made of 18 member groups, along with two towns and 16 towns. In some of the groups, we had been invited to speak to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Financial Advisory Board, or City Council. In others, we heard not anything. In those cases, I guess our letter explaining the Stabilization Fund turned into sufficient. The elected officers in the one’s communities absolutely voted to position the matter on the Town Meeting Warrant. In five of the Towns, however, not anything happened in any respect. They both intentionally left the Town Meeting Warrant’s matter – or honestly forgot to put it on. We entertained a long series of questions in one community, and I accompanied up with a letter further clarifying our position.
7. Expect Some Unfair Questions and Comments. We heard several unfair questions during our conferences, some of which appeared designed truely to get us dissatisfied. They by no means did. But you want to be ready. The period of this text prevents me from going into notable detail. However, the questions fell into five primary categories: the ability length of the Stabilization Fund, concerns approximately unmet capital wishes at municipal college districts, claims that approving a Stabilization Fund could routinely bring about multiplied exams to member groups, tips that a Stabilization Fund is something “new” or “unique,” and claims that the vocational college appeared so accurate it didn’t want any capital upgrades. Finally, we heard the extraordinarily unfair and inflammatory phrase “slush fund” tossed around greater than as soon as. Be organized to deal with these issues. By analyzing the law and noting the intense barriers placed on a Stabilization Fund usage, you should be ready.
8. Don’t Give Up. When we began the approval manner at Monty Tech, the first vote from a community turned into a rejection. To make matters worse, the voice changed into unanimous. And it changed into our second-largest community. The Budget Subcommittee chair and School Business Manager took the defeat badly. I became dissatisfied with the direction but knew that we had 17 other probabilities of getting 10 votes in our desire. In any other network, we confirmed up for a Town Meeting on a Saturday morning to discover that the Finance Committee had voted not to recommend approval. Again, I changed into disenchanted, however not defeated. When allowed to talk to Town Meeting, I thanked the townspeople for continually supporting our college and reminded them that their Town had a Stabilization Fund. Their municipal college district had the threat to faucet now and again. We did not. In the quit, Town Meeting voted solidly in our want, over the metropolis’s Finance Committee’s objections.
9. Celebrate Your Success. In our case, the School Committee voted 17-1 to set up a Stabilization Fund. That vote befell on January 2, 2013. Our ninth and 10th astounding votes from member communities were secured – separated in time through simply two or 3 minutes on the night of June 18, 2013. We failed to pop open any champagne precisely. However, we did congratulate each other on reaching achievement. We noticed it as another small step to improve our capacity to respond quickly to short- or medium-size capital wishes in our school. It’s a small step that you, too, can take with some planning and some paintings.
10. Spread the News and Help Others. Though no longer required by the statute, we notified the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of the vote taken through our School Committee and the names of the ten communities that supported us, and the dates they cast those votes. I also testified in Boston on a bill that would simplify the manner Stabilization Funds are created and responded to questions from one or other districts looking to set up a Stabilization Fund.
Steven C. Sharek is a veteran college administrator. He has served as an Assistant Dean of Academic Services at Southern New England School of Law (now UMass School of Law – Dartmouth), as a Superintendent-Director at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, and as a Cluster Coordinator and Communications/Grants Manager at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School. He holds a B.A. In English, Master in Education, and Juris Doctor. He has been an energetic member of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA).