Would Lowell School Committee endorse and campaign for 2.5% + Tax increase?
This latest story about a clash between the Manager and the Supt. has raised my worries that this City is on the road to be shaping up into an US (School Side) versus THEM (City side) or if you prefer US (City side) versus THEM (School Side) either way you look at this it isn’t good for the city.
The City under the current administration has in my view been very supportive of not just the School Dept. but in maintenance and repairs to the school buildings.
That’s not to say I haven’t disagreed with them on many things involving the schools. I lambasted them when 2 years ago they took back without a vote of the School Committee as required by law $300,000.
However the way this Supt. used almost all the “Free Cash” on Technology and the way he did so again without a clear understandable vote from the school committee was just as alarming.
We have seen a he said – he said back and forth between the Manager and School Supt. before. When it came to the “Free Cash” this year the city ended up with $527,000 because the present School Supt. and CFO didn’t understand the Circuit Breaker rules and the school budget is short $527,000
The Supt. stated that their was “an understandings with the City side to cover the $527,000 shortfall while the City Manager has stated NOTHING is “guaranteed” when it comes to the $527,000.
We have to bring an end to this and somehow get the Supt. and the City Manager on the same page!
The City on the recommendation of a former School Administration and School Committee has approved and invested in a High School Project that pegs the construction cost at about $250 million. Of that, Lowell is expected to have to cover about $55 million.
To Open up, staff and buy desk for 6 new Classrooms at the Rogers School to address the bubble in the middle school is estimated to cost about $400,000 WITHOUT any indication how much the cost for the construction of those classrooms would be.
There is a proposal on tonight’s agenda to look at the cost involved of buying or leasing a building to house the STEM Academy (rumors abound that the former St. Louis School is what the School Dept. is eying) and this Administration has talked about their desire to find a building and open an Autism School that could possible not only save Lowell in outside placement but also be able to open it up to students outside the community which would bring revenue into the school system.
There is also NO current contract for the UTL and then the rest of the unions would also want their contracts settled.
My concern is that if you look at the City budget the very low amount of “Free Cash” (last year under $1,000,000) and the Manager’s and City Council’s desire to keep the yearly tax increase well under the 2.5% allowed under MA. Law and Prop 2 1/2 without cutting services on the City side, the School Administration and the School Committee are going to have to be more realistic in their wants and needs or get the School Committee and the School Administration to advocate for the full 2.5% or more increase required to fund everything they are looking for.
I get frustrated that a School Committee member doesn’t ask why we just don’t use the Freshman Academy for the Stem Academy especially when you remember that the building was an Arts / Magnet school that my 2 oldest children attended. That would open space at the Rogers for many classes to handle the overflow.
Is it the best solution, probably not but it might be the best use of available facilities and the most cost effective and unfortunately like it or not it always comes down to finances and the School Dept. does NOT generate money..the city does through taxes and like other departments funds the schools along with the state which pays THE MAJORITY OF EDUCATION COST IN LOWELL!.
If the current school administration with the support of this school committee keeps pushing for the High School renovation, the Stem Academy building and a building for Special Education students (and don’t forget a pre-school program could be mandated soon by the State) then this Committee needs to come up with a final cost and ask the Manager to support a 2.5% – 5% tax increase and be willing to go to the public to fight for it!
Otherwise the back and forth we are seeing will grow and we will be in an us against them, fight.
Less police and fire protection to hire more teachers? A rise in taxes for more school buildings? larger class sizes or a larger tax increase? The Supt. and Manager arguing over and over about wants and needs versus financial constraints?
None of that will help Lowell and will only build up animosity and resentment among elected officials, neighbors and families. That isn’t what Lowell needs.
How do we get everyone on the same page?