My view on additional school funding!

To be 100% clear…the following view is that solely of myself and in no way do I represent my fellow school committee members or the Administration

Part of Manager Murphy’s letter explaining cash contribution reduction.

I understand we are scheduled to appear before the Council to address the Manager and I understand the City Council can’t add funding but I do want the new Manager and Councilors to understand what I see as a structural flaw in the city’s formula for the School Dept.’s cash contribution.

The proposed total cash contribution of $15,736,053 includes cash to fund transportation and adult education. The balance of the cash will go towards the FY2019 school operating budget. Because of the increase in transportation cost, that reflects a net decrease of $3,137,355 from the FY2018 city net cash contribution.

To be clear there are many financial issues that need discussion regarding charges paid by the schools that by law should be paid by the city. Doing so with a combined Council and School Finance subcommittee with the City Manager present would be the best way to address them in the future. In my opinion this late into the budget season, I’m not looking for a bailout, or increased funding. I’m only asking you to fund a higher CASH contribution than what former Manager Murphy had recommended. That was my thought when making the motion.

THE ED Reform foundation budget formula requires the city to fund $47,390,803 in total education support while the State funds $149,786,272 totaling $165,522,325 for Lowell Public Schools.

Former Manager Murphy is recommending a cash contribution of $15,736,053 for Lowell Public Schools. When you remove the $9,600,541 transportation cost and adult ed cost of $486,274.00 that works out to be approx. $5,649,238 or roughly 11.5 % of operational cash available to the school department out of the city’s required $47,390,803

Including the transportation cost in the cash contribution figure is willfully misleading the taxpayers because they are almost never told of that. Transportation by law is the responsibility of the city, something the Sun and others completely ignore when reporting the cash contribution, cash for transportation takes away funding to supply direct service to the students.

Ed Reform didn’t address transportation because the State used to fund that in a separate line item in the State budget. However for many many years because the state no longer appropriates money for transportation reimbursement, the transportation cost have been rolled into the cash contribution of the city to the school department depriving students of needed services. Again a reminder that transportation does not count to the city’s required NET School Spending. Transportation has risen and with the requirement to also fund Charter School Transportation that cost is now even greater. This year alone it will be $9,600,541

The past 2 years after some heavy lobbying from the previous Manager the Charter School on Middlesex St. contributed $400,000 to assist with busing for their school. Just weeks ago the city and school department were informed that they would no longer do that.

I understand the City is going to be asking the citizens for another 7% – 9% tax increase in the next few years to build/renovate a high school so keeping tax increases now under 2.5% is a goal of the Council and Manager. I also understand that several city union contracts must be addressed this year and that we can’t and should not close any more fires stations, reduce DPW staff who have worked hard at trying to maintain our city buildings or lay off police.

Somehow we do need to find at the very least another $500,000 in cash instead of in Maintenance of Effort or Chargebacks or whatever term you want to use. I’m not asking for any ADDITIONAL Money…I’m asking you to just increase the cash contribution of the cities required Net School Spending by decreasing the maintenance of effort by the same amount. Minimally $500,000 to cover the deficit and up to another $500,000 to support Adult Education.

When you take out Chapt 70 funding and transportation, Lowell property taxpayer dollars in cash contributions to the schools is $5,649,238 for the operational budget. That is roughly 6.5% of property tax dollars.

As an elected official it is embarrassing to have to explain that the budget was somehow constructed with the idea that is was acceptable to kick $500,000 in contracted sick leave buy back money down the road and that cutting Lowell High School by close to a million dollars including clerks and guidance counselors who deal directly with students was acceptable.

As mentioned earlier if we don’t receive additional funding for more than just the deficit, we will have to find more cuts, beginning with Adult Education.

The cost of Adult Education which the City and/or School Department is NOT LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE for, has climbed over the years and while it is an outstanding program is does NOT count to the required NET SCHOOL SPENDING of the city. Legally we are bound to educate grades K-12. Right now the projected cost for Adult Ed in 2018/2019 is $486,274.00

I have already stated that without more funding I would vote to eliminate that program and now that money would have to be used to cover the deficit and we would still have a large amount of layoffs.

Regardless of what the Sun says, I believe Library Aides are very important to a students understanding of not only reading but also of learning how to research material, how a library is used and how it is a great place to get items printed, use a computer and learn solid study habits. That is taught and reinforced in our middle schools. It may be to late if the students first exposure to a library is during their High School years.

If you go to LHS or the City Library you see how many of our older students use these locations. If like me you have gone on tours of Colleges for yourself or with your child , you know they always take you to their Library to show it off because so many students spend a great deal of time there. I understand times are changing and we may not be able to keep all aides but we could possibly keep 6-7 and get them to agree to cover multiple schools.

I believe if we are forced to cut adult education because the city can only find $500,000 we can still save some Library aides and other items that directly deal with students. We would do that with a few more Administrative cuts at the Central Office. I will recommend to my colleagues to cut the following.

Director of Accountability (-1) $127,228 (Pos created after last budget, paid from Grant funding that could be used for Social Worker proposed to be cut)

Coordinator of Research and Testing (-1) $112,319 (Person for past 4 months has been used filling in as an acting Principal)

Internal Auditor(-1) $31,182 (No value to pos I can find)

General Counsel/ Collective Bargaining -$41,809 (reduce back to just Labor Counsel, City has multiple lawyers and they have to also cover schools)

By eliminating a line item which adds 3 clerk positions that had been empty do to retirement at Central Admin (-3)at a proposed increase of $97,886 It frees up money to save direct support positions. Those cuts would result in a total of $410,424.00 with the opportunity of using these funds to restore the following:

Library Aides (+6)
School Clerks at LHS (+2)
Clerk Schedulers – LHS (+2)
LHS Guidance (+1)
Social Worker (+1) district wide

I Thank You in advance for your consideration and time.

Gerry Nutter