When the Education reform act came into being, part of the design in figuring dollars contributed by individual cities and towns toward net school spending is done with what is called chargebacks for maintenance of effort.
Simply put it means the City can “charge back” to the School Side of the budget for services they provide to the schools over and above the “cash contribution”. While there is no actual transfer of cash, a dollar amount is credited to actual cost that counts toward the cities meeting or exceeding Net School Spending.
In the past two weeks I’ve had the chance to ask municipal officials outside of Lowell about these and the cost associated with them and much to my surprise the responses I received were that the City is very fair with these charges.
One individual who I contacted sent me this explanation.
First of all, all the chargebacks are outlined in an agreement between the school and city administrations, and that agreement is blessed by DESE. Everything is above board. That is a public document, and you should be able to get it. The chargebacks are real expenses that can either be 1) substantiated by invoices, or 2) are allocations based on a predetermined formula.
I was also told by a Lowell City Official that the bulk of the agreement was drafted by the School Administration at the time and has been reviewed and updated over the years. It has to have the School Committee’s approval. All of these “Charge backs” have to be reported to the State in what is called a schedule 19
I have posted about chargebacks before and I asked for and received a copy of this agreement along with a 5 year look at these chargebacks.
One of the line items is for Snow and Ice removal, which had many parents wondering why the city charged to clean streets for kids to get to school. IT DOESN’T ! According again to someone who reviewed the agreement –
Snow removal from school lots – the budget for snow and ice is in DPW. The square footage of surfaces that DPW plows and treats (road miles x 5,280 x average road with + square footage of all parking surfaces) is calculated. A portion of this road surface is school parking lots. The percentage of the area that represents school lots is multiplied by total snow costs to get the amount charged on Schedule 19 to the schools for snow removal.
The city can and does charge to clean and salt PARKING AREAS at schools, NOT the Roads and Streets around the 23 schools. Charges are made Per that agreement signed by the School Administration and approved by the School Committee it is reported on the schedule 19 as being 4.5% of the entire Snow and Ice budget.
However, the City doesn’t always charge that 4.5% listed on schedule 19. For example last year the City spent over $5,000,000 (Five million dollars) in Snow and Ice removal cost. If they had charged the 4.5 % that the Schedule 19 states then the cost would have been $225,000 instead it charged around $180,000.
The actual agreement between the Schools and the City has a formula based on total square footage and that could have worked out to be lower than the 4.5% so the city charged the lower of the two. Because there is no actual cash associated, when and if the City gets reimbursements from FEMA or the STATE , there is no credit adjusted for the schools cost.
This year the City has budgeted $1.350 Million if they use all of that and don’t go over the Chargeback would be around $60,750 and an adjustments to the next budget would have to be noted.
That’s not to say I and I’m sure others would argue that a couple of the other chargebacks need to be looked at and explained because the school side does need more of a cash infusement.
MIS – The city chargeback for MIS is $594,054.00 and the School Budget shows another (again roughly) $636,669.00. That’ a total of $1,230,723.00 We need to look to make sure there is no duplication of effort.
“Administration” – NOT the Management but the support staffing – The School Budget shows roughly $2,810,968 in Administration cost along with a City Chargeback cost of $1,411,394.00. That’s a total of $4,222,362. Are we sure there is no duplication of effort here?
One item that is NOT a chargeback but is a cash deduction is $100,000 for Parking. Back when I went to LHS (Class of 1980) and before the Field house was built, we used to park in the empty lot there. When the School Administration was up at the Rogers School and so was the Family Resource Center , parking was free. When they realized they needed to move it was in fact the Lowell City Council who urged strongly that they relocate back in the downtown.
Since by law you can’t charge for Transportation and I’m sure can’t use a chargeback for Parking, maybe the City would consider dropping all charges for Parking??
If you go through a line by line look at every city dept. there is no other City Department that gets charged for Parking. Police, Fire, Election, Legal, Inspectors, MIS, Manager’s Office, Auditors, Treasurer , Assessors, HR , DPD all have personal at City Hall and have FREE Parking for the employees , so why not the School Dept?
In a $300,000,000 budget $100,000 isn’t a great deal but it could pay for a teacher or a couple Para’s.