Using the 2017 numbers and the information that a 1.5% increase of the levy would result in $1.9 million in additional revenue. The tax impact on a $253,908 home would be approximately $56.82.
The present Cawley 5 Story site calls for 7.75% tax increase.. $293 additional tax dollars per year to the “average” homeowner.
Adding in field replication ($1.97M) and infrastructure ($3.85M) are one-time costs that would increase Cawley 5 to approx. $155.82M. The average tax increase would be 8.0% and approx. $304 a year instead of $293.
So those increases are not so hurtful to the taxpayer when you include them as one time costs which are bonded.
Busing however is a recurring operational cost, estimated at about $3.2M It cannot be added to the debt service, the city would have to raise the taxes over and above the cost of the new school.
If $1.9M increase taxes by $56.82, than $3.2M would be another $95.70 a year.
When that is included, the increase to the average single family property would be $304 for the HS at Cawley + $95.70 a year for busing = $400.00 additional cost per year for the Cawley 5 option.
That’s $119.00 more a year than the Downtown site, not to mention the traffic impact from the Hunts Fall Rotary all the way out to the Lowell/Tewksbury Line on Rte 38 and 133.
It also is a 5 story building not a “campus” setting in my view and we would still need 2 other communities (Tewksbury and Chelmsford) approval and a final okay from a State Agency.
By selecting the Cawley Site this City Council is committing to fund the school departments operational budget with an increase of $3.2 million dollars for High School busing.
By law the City Council / Manager appropriate the funds to the schools, however they cannot by law dictate or mandate how the School Committee distributes the funds and they cannot mandate the School Dept or School Committee to rezone the city and change starting times.
The majority of the current School Committee has supported the downtown location and have given no indication they are willing to rezone the city to make Cawley work. In fact the Administration suggested they hire an outside transportation consultant because they didn’t want to listen to John Descoteaux, their own expert, who wisely is leaving the employment of the School Dept. because he is treated so disrespectfully.
By supporting Cawley this City Council is supporting and in fact promising they will fund the cost of busing at the current estimated cost without the re-zoning. The Administration has to base the cost on the worse case scenario.
There is NOTHING in MA State Law that requires the School Dept. to bus High School students so if the City doesn’t provide the funding for transportation there is NO WAY to force the School Committee to offer it.
If you look at the last few fiscal years, budgets are getting tighter and tighter.
In the present day City budget, the city is operating with a 1% excess resulting in its “Free Cash” of around $1,000,000. The MA. DOR recommends 3% – 5%.
The City is using reserve funds to balance the current budget, in 2015 the city of Lowell had $12 Million dollars in the “Rainy Day / Stabilization fund. In 2017 Connor Baldwin the CFO stated to Councilor Jim Leary during the budget hearing that the current “Reserves” or Rainy Day Account currently is $10.6 Million Dollars.
The state of MA is currently around $400,000 – $500,000 million dollars short for the 2016/2017 fiscal year that closes on June 30th. The Federal Gov’t has already talked about cutting Title I funding and other educational grants or reducing them, including the CEP program which Lowell utilizes.
Not only is the City already using $2,000,000 in reserves to fund the budget but because of the OPEB – Other Post Employment Benefits responsibility, we find out that the city’s liability exceeds its assets.
The city “owes” the school dept. $250,000 for the upcoming 2017/2018 School year based on the budget hearings. In addition the schools may lose 3 Resource Officers that the Supt reassigned the salaries back to the city.
Can the taxpayers and City afford the Cawley Option? Why hasn’t a City Councilor who supports the Cawley site asked the Manager for the total cost with these additions added in? Shouldn’t they and the taxpayers know the real total?
If 3 of the current School Committee candidates get elected they also support starting High School Busing now which would mean in the 2018/2019 Fiscal year they would be looking for another $1,450,000 or another roughly 1.2% increase.
Of the 5 existing Committee members who are assumed to be running for re-election, none have voted to act on re-zoning, none have committed to supporting whatever location is chosen and none have asked the City Council to pledge to pay for the transportation cost if Cawley is selected.
Fiscally, I still think Option 3 is the best choice. Especially if we are able to enact the “Nutter Plan for Maintenance”
Instead of increasing taxes 8% plus another $3.2 million, why not increase the cost 7.42% plus $1,900,000 to be used for MAINTENANCE AT EVERY SCHOOL?
IF you rotated $100,000 a year among 12 schools to decide what needs to be fixed and repaired that’s $1.2 Million. Use $280,000 to give a 10 month bus pass to the 1400 students who currently walk, leaving another $500,000 a year to be used for regular repairs of water fountains, banisters, stairs, bathroom toilets / sinks, holes in wall, broken light figures. etc.
That way we would not only have a combination New and Renovated LHS but 23 middle and elementary schools that are now more adequately maintained.
If elected and the Cawley site is chosen against what I think makes the most fiscal sense, I will support and even encourage rezoning, changing the start time of most middle and elementary schools and speaking at City Council meetings reminding them that they, the City Council chose the Cawley site and must provide the additional money for transportation.
However, the taxpayer and those in need the most will be hurting and so will the 23 other schools in this city.