Sunday Notes December 13th 2015

1st Row, L - R - Kimberly Scott, Mayor Rodney Elliott, Kristin Ross-Sitcawich 2nd row, L - R - Steve Gendron, David Conway, James Leary, Connie Martin

1st Row, L – R – Kimberly Scott, Mayor Rodney Elliott, Kristin Ross-Sitcawich
2nd row, L – R – Steve Gendron, David Conway, James Leary, Connie Martin

THANK YOU Dave Conway , Rodney Elliott , Jim Leary , Kristin Ross-Sitawich and Kim Scott for your service to the children and community of Lowell. This week will be your last meeting has a member of the Lowell School Committee. While we don’t always agree on issues, I have witnessed first hand the amount of time, the volume of work and the hardship to your families that is required when you take on the role of a School Committee member. It isn’t done for the money, it’s done because you all wanted to help make the system better for the kids. While we agree to disagree on many things, there is no denying your willingness to serve and to do what you consider best to try to make things better. Many aren’t willing to make the commitment of time, energy and effort you 5 have. Thank You for your Service.

Fun with Numbers

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 1.13.19 PM

The City Manager stated the other Night that in 2015 The City exceeded Net school spending by $1.1 Million yet the DESE website shows just under $300,000? Which is it?

More Fun with Numbers

This comes courtesy of the Lowell Live Feed Forum on Facebook by Joe Smith who is a great numbers guy. So it isn’t just me who thinks what is coming out of City Hall needs a much clearer explanation!

Tax increases in the past 2 years exceed what is planned in the budget. For FY2015 the planned increase was 3.5%, but the average residential tax bill increased from $3272 to $3480, a 6.3% increase. Now for FY2016 the planned increase was 1.5%, but the average residential tax bill increased from $3480 to $3599, a 3.4% increase.

Joe also points out the following: This time it was noted that the percent of total valuation in the City that is tax exempt is 25%. Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) may mitigate this deficiency, but likely only account for a small percentage of the tax loss. The City should include this information in subsequent budget documents so that the people will know what properties are tax exempt, and how much PILOT, if any, these organizations are contributing to the tax base. A little light on the subject may prevent further erosion of the tax base.

Speaking of the Budget – I called this one early on, the city figures if they present the information in glossy style and picture they can win awards and you won’t notice the numbers aren’t correct has JOE pointed out!

In this week’s Council Packet a notice of information – Distinguished Budget Award FY 16 Let’s give them a round of applause!!!

This week there is much information in the School Committee Packet, here are a few important items I think are worth sharing.

Need for Modular Classroom

In response to a motion by members Leary and Gendron, the Supt. submits a report showing the real need for modular classrooms beginning in the 2016/2017 School Year (Next Fiscal Budget Year)

Although the motion states for a contingency plan for the 2017-18 year, this report contains a recommendation for the 2016-17 school year as the grade 5 classrooms in our middle school will be impacted in that year.

Projected 5th grade middle school class sizes for 2016-17:
Morey grade 4: 95 students
Bailey grade 4: 96 students
Daley grade 5 total: 191 students/32 avg. class size

McAvinnue grade 4: 104 students
Pawtucket grade 4: 95 students
Wang grade 5 total: 199 students/33 avg. class size

Murkland grade 4: 95 students
Lincoln (Zone 1): 72 students
Moody (Zone 1): 15 students
Stoklosa grade 5 total: 182 students/30.5 avg. class size

Greenhalge grade 4: 93 students
McAuliffe grade 4: 96 students
Robinson grade 5 total: 189 students/31.5 avg. class size

Reilly grade 4: 110 students
Lincoln (Zone 2): 41 students
Moody (Zone 2): 36 students
Sullivan grade 5 total: 187 students/31 avg. class size

Shaughnessy grade 4: 94 students
Washington grade 4: 46 students
Butler grade 5 total: 140 students/28 avg. class size

Additionally, each year we need to account for pending transfers and wait-list numbers,which historically account for about a 5% turnover. These projected numbers for 2016-17 cannot be absorbed in our current facilities.

Director of Operations, Brian Curley, has supplied some preliminary numbers for modular classrooms. Initial delivery and installation costs are projected in the vicinity of $36,000 per classroom. The monthly rental would be $950 per classroom. With the current numbers, I am recommending that a minimum of one additional modular classroom be added to the Daley, Robinson, and Wang. (GN That’s an additional $139,000 for 3 classrooms for 10 months). A $16,000 price tag would also be incurred for the teardown and removal for each classroom at the end of the lease.

Mr Curly goes on to say : Additionally, we may need to consider reassessing the Stoklosa and Sullivan classroom assignments. I would also like to point out that modular classrooms may need to be a topic of discussion as it relates to the Rogers School for the incoming 5th grade class for the 2017-18 school year. The Rogers will be at full capacity once four new 4th grade classrooms are added for the upcoming 2016-17 school year.

News that will sadden Soon to be School Committee member Bob Hoey!

Greater Lowell reports there are currently 77 Lowell residents on their wait list.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) authorizes Chapter 74 (Vocational-Technical) programs at the high school level. The state will not authorize a new or competing Chapter 74 program in a high school for a city or town that is a member of a regional Vocational-Technical high school district.

FOOD Glorious Food

In the School Committee Packet this week there is a report in Response to SC member Kimberly Scott’s Motion of 10/21/15 regarding School Lunch Services. I plan on publishing the entire report tomorrow but here is the beginning which shows the response to a recent survey taken by the school system.

The records show that the 2009-10 school year was the last time the Food Service Program was operated in-house. In the 2009–10 school year, the student population was 13,331,approximately 2.5 million meals were served, and there was a deficit of $193,164.

Since Aramark has managed the program, the number of meals served has increased to approximately 3.2 million, and the cafeteria revolving fund had a positive balance of $2.0 million as of June 30, 2015. The student enrollment was 14,075 as of October 1, 2014.

At the elementary grade level, the results of the survey indicate that 90% of the students said that the quality of the food was “Just OK” to “Really Good”. At the middle school level, 78% of the students said that the quality of the food was “Just OK” to “Really Good”. At the high school level, 88% of the students think that the quality of the food is “Just OK” to “Really Good”.

THANK YOU to EVERYONE who contributed, bid on an item, called in a donation or pledge or helped us in anyway at yesterday’s record setting 2015 WCAP/Salvation Army Radiothon. Donna’s Donuts, Top Donut, Arthur’s and anyone else who sent us coffee and food. The FIREFIGHTERS of Lowell, Dracut, Tyngsboro and Tewksbury who raised over $17,000 in their boot drive. The ENTIRE COMMUNITY of the Merrimack Valley helped us reach a record setting $150,000 plus dollars.

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