Sunday Notes – Is Kirk St better than CrossPoint? What is the fiscal reality of a Cawley site?

One of the arguments I hear in supporting the Cawley location is the “possible” Economic Development Opportunity that could occur at the existing site. Looking at the City Budget approved early this month it shows the largest taxpayers in the city.

The number #1 is Anchor Line owners of Cross Point Towers. A complex of three tower buildings, 14 stories high, offering 1.2 million s/f of combined office, retail and shared amenity space, as well as 4,000 parking spaces.

At the present 2017 Commercial Tax Rate of $30.64 per thousand, based on their assessed value of $87 million they pay $2,685,047.54. Winn Development which has a very large collection of buildings pays $1,992,458

So explain to me how moving a school to Cawley adding $3.2 million to the Operational Budget for busing is an economic boom?

Furthermore explain how the supposed fiscal watchdog can say and write ” I see luxury condos bringing in excess of $4 million dollars of tax revenue that will offset the cost of a new facility where the LHS buildings now stand”

What is going to be built on Kirk St. that is worth $164,000,000? Even IF they paid what Cross Point pays over ten years that is $26,480,470. $3.2 million for busing is $32,000,000 in just ten years.

The largest taxpayer in the city pays slightly more than half of what the Councilor is claiming Kirk St. will generate. Where is he getting those figures?

Even with meal taxes added in at best , the city may be lucky to break even. Especially in the first ten or so years because any developers will be looking for a very substantial TIFF to develop that site.

Are you telling me the present High School which has Historic restrictions can match or come close to Cross Point? Does the so called fiscal watchdog really believe that after months and months of negative social media post and Boston television stories about lead,asbestos and a Board of Health saying the building should be closed that the City is going to sell that site for $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 which are one time funds.

Long term Parking Agreements are discounted so at best for the same number of spaces in the Ayotte Garage you would be looking at approx $300,000 a year. Still not meeting the busing cost.

Add $3.2 million of Operational expense for at the absolute best $2.6 million in “possible” property taxes? Not to mention the traffic nightmare you are adding to Routes 38 and 133 plus side roads.

Tell me how this makes any fiscal sense?

A 60% – 40% Split for Neighborhood Schools

Currently when a parent enrolls a new student in the Lowell School District they get to make 3 selections, we call it school choice. Only 59% of the time do they choose their neighborhood school. Meaning 41% of parents like having a choice including a STEM School or a school like the Pyne Arts Magnet School. Should we turn our backs on those families?

Should we tell them that 1 school is valued more than the other 22 and that the needs of 3,300 students is more of a priority than the other 12,000 students citywide?

What really is the total cost of Cawley?

It has been shown pretty clearly that the present Cawley 5 Story site calls for 7.75% tax increase.. $293 additional tax dollars per year to the “average” homeowner of a $253,000 home.

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.

Forgetting for now the cost of busing and figuring best case scenario that the City Council / City Manager can find a way to keep tax increases to the current 1.5% for the 2018-2019 , 2019-2020 , 2020- 2021 fiscal years, that is another 4.5% increase in taxes.

So before the school even opens Lowell will have raised taxes by 12.5% in 4 years minimally.

IF busing 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 which come out to a 10.5% Tax increase instead of 8%.

Then adding the required 1.5% operational increase for the next 3 years and Cawley is now a 15% tax increase to the “average” residential homeowner.

Remember that $3.2 price estimate for busing is a projected cost. John Decouteaux is an expert in transportation but even he can’t predict increases in fuel or minimum wage or health care cost four years from now. That $3.2 is a minimal cost increase.

If Lowell property taxes increase more than 1.5% yearly and/or residential home values/assessments increase that 15% figure will go up.

All of that is before the cost of any Eminent Domain to widen Rogers st. or Douglas Road or move utilities. Let’s say Lowell has to take 50 feet of Milan Pizza. The current land value is $242,400.00. Milan would be entitled to receive the value of that portion of land. However if they could show that that 50 feet eliminated their parking lot causing damages to their ability to maintain a sustainable business then a judge could order the city to buy the entire lot. Same for the Alexis Pharmacy property.

What is that cost going to be and can the city taxpayers afford that?

I’ve also been told that even though Rogers St. is state route 38 that it would still be the city’s responsibility to pay for widening and to pay for the cost of any traffic lights required to be added to Andover St.

Now let’s add in the cost to bring the current location which will have to stay open and functional for the next four to five years up to a serviceable point where a Board of Health won’t vote to embarrass the city and condemn it. Are we talking a Million or more no matter what location is chosen? Where is that funding coming from? It’s the city’s responsibility.

How can a City Councilor vote for Cawley when they don’t know what the final financial impact will be on the City Budget and more importantly the taxpayers? Don’t we owe are seniors some respect and consideration? With a low median income are we overburdening burdening our most vulnerable residents?

None of this is even looking at the probable lawsuits including the fact that since Lowell has no busing policy in place and is purposely making it more difficult for the low income and minority students who live closer to the existing site to get to a new High School they are possibly violating the desegregation agreement.

Where is the line item for School Maintenance?

The current School Committee under the recommendation of the Superintendent eliminated the Line Item for maintenance stating the city owns the buildings and are responsible for the maintenance.

There is no line item in the city budget dedicated to maintenance. This has been an issue for many years here in the city. We now have the opportunity to address it once and for all.

Option 2 versus Option 3
My suggested compromise of Option 2 with a dedicated $1.9 million annually for school based maintenance addresses this long time need. Looking at both options there really isn’t a huge difference.

If you look at Option 2 –
•Acreage 6.0 of 6.6 acres ,
•Gross Size 636.7k gsf (445.5k reno+191.2k add)
•Stories/Ht – Existing (63’), 1-5 Story (68’) Addtn’s

then Option 3 –
•Acreage – 7.4 = 6.0 of 6.6 acres +1.4 exp. lot
•Gross Size – 632.1k gsf (440.1k reno +192k add)
•Stories/Ht – Existing (63’), 1-5 Story (68’) Addtn’s

The Difference in total gross size and Acreage isn’t that far off. Since there is no acquisition or demolition cost for 75 Arcand required or no new building on that spot the cost is significantly lower.

The total estimated tax increase would be based on the current numbers 7.01% for Cawley and approx 2% for maintenance making it 9.01% and improving all 23 school buildings.

Busing and effect on Attendance Say Good-Bye to improvements made

I keep hearing we bus kids successfully to the Tech but have you looked at their drop. out and attendance rates? Can you tell me 100% that busing has no effect on this?


Lowell High School