Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Discussions about the the ridiculous tax evaluations alot of homes received during this recession. (Great timing). Also, any discussions about taxes at all.

Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby Josh Lyman on Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:36 am

As long as government runs school systems or anything else for that matter, there will always be waste, corruption, and greed.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby concerned_as_usual on Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:28 am

U8,
You keep saying the private schools and the Tech fully fund the teachers and maintenance and that is why they are in good shape and why our schools are falling apart.
My point is I along with many others feel we are fully funding maintenance and the school department choose to spend it elsewhere.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby concernedmom on Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:52 am

I'm sorry but I'm getting alittle tired of people comparing the entire Tewksbury school system with that of the Tech or any one private or charter school. It really is comparing apples to oranges. The TPS and it's budget is responsible for seven buildings, not including the Center School. The Tech, one. The TPS's need several Principals, admin staff, nurses and so one. The tech not quite as many. See where I am going with this. I'm sure there is waste but if you're going to make comparisons perhaps it would be wiser to compare TPS's with Willmington, or Billerica, or Andover Public Schools.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby U8Coach on Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:11 am

The school department does not choose to fully fund special education or No-Child Left Behind. They are mandated to at the expense of maintenance and regular ed as well as cuts in extra curricular programs which are vital.

The truth of the matter is that there is not a signle budget item in town being fully funded. The money simply is not there. Maintenance allocations are down at the Police, Fire, DPW, and schools. The Town Hall has been neglected for years and only through the CPA have some repairs been made.

We have a beautiful library which is understaffed and it will be open a mere 40 hours per week. Does that mean we should not have built it?

I understand that you are against the new High School. Clearly you think the school department is wasteful. Did you come out this strongly against the new Police Station, Senior Center, or Library when they were proposed? Did you perform a fiscal review with such intesne scrutiny before making your decision? Have you been to a school committee meeting to voice your concern or ask where the maintenance money is spent each year?

Times are tough. My family and I are not immune to the recession, we are feeling it as are our neighbors and friends. The difference is that I choose not to live in a recession and think only about the next six or twelve months. The new High School is part of the big picture for Tewksbury. Ten years from now when the ballot vote for $100 million fails because the taxpayers cannot foot the bill, the voters will be wondering what was in the kool-aid ten years ago when we could have built the same building for $40 million.

Forget all that for a moment and consider this:

How long will the current High School be usable? Let's say for the sake of argument ten years. It may be more, it may be less. If the maintenance is not funded to the level it needs then it will certainly be less.

In ten years if the town decides to build a new high school, what will be different?

The cost will be $100 million instead of $40 million.
Salaries, healthcare, and pensions will be 10-20% higher in every town department.
The majority of funding from the State for local aid and lottery money will still go to the poorest cities and towns (if you want to know whwere they are look at the election demographics from last week: They all voted for Coakley).
The recession will either be over or the town will have gone into receivership and the financial situation stabilized.

Does that sound like a better environment in which to try and build a new high school? I know this is far from an ideal time to move forward with this project, but it is the best time and the window will soon be closed. It is up to us as taxpayers, parents, and voters to resolve issues of staffing and maintenance at town meeting or local board meetings and not use those issues as scapegoats to derail this project.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby Lilbigmouth on Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:39 am

U8, I think it is going to be a tough sell. Time will tell All the facts need to be laid out before the vote. I have an open mind but still need to be convinced.
1- How much will this cost taxpayers per year
2-Is this # based on appraised value of each homeowner or will it be tha same fee
3-Show us what the plan is to keep this school filled with the teachers it needs
4-Show us how the school dept plans to maintain it
5- If the $$ figure set aside for maintenance is not entirely used, can it be raided by the school dept for other non maintenance uses

These are just a few quick questions that need to be answered first
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby concerned_as_usual on Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:43 am

I am absolutely for a new HS. My concerns are once the school is open can we staff and maintain the school. If we add new arts rooms can we staff it. If we add more classrooms will they go unused? Will the countdown on things breaking going un-repaired start the day we open?
To answer your questions I voted YEs for library, Yes for Sewer project even though I was connected No for Police, Fire, Senior Center.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby U8Coach on Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:44 am

Lil,

it is a very hard sell. I look at the consumer market and the fact that people went nuts for Cash for Clunkers last year. Why? Because people looked ahead two or three years and if they knew they were going to need a new car they figured that with low interest rates and the cash incentive that it was the right time to buy. To my way of thinking this is a similar circumstance. I don't have an extra $300 per year burning a hole in my pocket but I like the idea of paying $300 per year for 20 years instead of $700 (these are not actual figures, just something to throw out there).

To be perfectly honest, I am also motivated due to the fact that my children will be able to attend the new High School and so they will directly benefit from this project. I accept the fact that this is not the case for everybody. We are often told that we need to think of these projects as a community and not by individual interest. I did not benefit from the $100 million sewer project where my house was already connected. I am far too young to use the Senior Center. Hopefully it will be maintained so that it will still be a beautiful building when I am retired and want to attend events there. The furniture and technology at the High School will be long gone before my children attend TMHS. A new high school is in our future, we should control the "when" and the expense as best as we can.

I am on the record here and at different meetings asking many of these same questions about maintenance and staffing. They are a concern but those are issues that can be handled through our normal local town meeting and budget process. I wholeheartedly agree that those costs need to be part of this discussion.

Concerned: Thank you for going on the record and being honest about where you stand. The more input we have during the next six months the better informed the voters will be when it comes time to make this decision.

The answer to these questions is simple: Yes we can staff and maintain the new HS. The issue is where do we divert the funds from and will it be from inside the school budget or from elsewhere in town? All the intentions in the world do not change the fact that special education, pensions, and healthcare are crippling the school budget (et. al.)and they are all issues which are beyond our control at the local level.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby qwilson on Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:56 pm

1- How much will this cost taxpayers per year
SOMEWHERE FROM .60/$1000 to .70/$1000
2-Is this # based on appraised value of each homeowner or will it be tha same fee
I used .65 to give you an idea
$100K Home = approximately $65
$200K Home = approximately $130
$300K Home = approximately $195
$400K Home = approximately $260
$500K Home = approximately $325

3-Show us what the plan is to keep this school filled with the teachers it needs
I don't understand why people think we are having trouble keeping teachers. Tewksbury reduced pay by 5%. Reading goes half day every Wed. Many other communities went the route of layoffs. There are plenty of qualified teachers out of work in the Merrimack Valley. Keeping teachers is not a concern. I'm all for new blood.
4-Show us how the school dept plans to maintain it
GREAT QUESTION THAT I WILL GET THE ANSWER TO AND POST IT HERE.
5- If the $$ figure set aside for maintenance is not entirely used, can it be raided by the school dept for other non maintenance uses.
I consider this the interesting dilemma we face in Tewksbury. We don't want an override and we are not interested in spending more money. I got that and most of the time agree with it. However the fact that we choose to fund our town on a bare bones budget means things get cut. I tried to post the budget on this site but it won't allow me to post an excel or pdf....if someone can help, I'll post it and you can tell me how to spend the money.

At the end of the day this is all healthy discussion. The new school is a no brainer. If you had an opportunity to buy a house for .40cents on the dollar, you'd do it. This is a good deal for Tewksbury. Are there other issues we face, absolutely. Once I get the debt exemptions on the books in a format I can post, I'll do that also so you can see what money is owed.

Things are bad...but we actually got some good news the other day. We believe we will be level funded by the state next year (NOT CUT).....it also appears they are going to allow us to pay back the pension liability over 40 years instead of 20 (not positive of length of time but this is very good news).....we have factored in the dump cleanup and yes it will cost us a lot as a town every year.

Keep the discussion going.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby dougsears on Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:28 pm

$84,173,174. -- total cost for New High School -- best and most recent guestimate
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby concerned_as_usual on Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:08 pm

Doug,
It is good to see the price is holding close to what the estimates have been for awhile. Is there a way to hold the line on costs once the construction starts? Is there a way to put deadlines on the project? How do we finance over runs? Doesn't seem to be any control on the sewer project and would hate to see the school go the same way.
Thanks for the info to all. Again I am all for $300. a year for a new HS as long as opening and running the school and up keep are in the plan some how.
BTW...I have 0 kids in the system but I understand how important this is for the town.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby Lilbigmouth on Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:24 pm

I also have 0 kids in system but if all the facts are layed out for the townspeople , it will be an easier sell. Of course I will vote yes if all the questions I have get answered. It is great to see 2 selectman posting info on here. All voters will not be able to attend all the meetings relative to this. But I can assure you there will be a large turnout when the vote happens. Once all the logical questions have answers, the powers that be should somehow get a list out to the voters to educate them. To my knowledge, this has not happened in the past. I blindly voted yes for police,sewer and senior center. In hindsight, I should have gotten more information before I voted but the economy was roaring.That is not the case now. Mr Wilson, I think that the current teacher/student ratio is higher now than it was in the past because of previous layoffs. Please correct me if I am wrong.
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Re: Putting their hand in our pockets...again

Postby qwilson on Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:31 pm

Lilbigmouth wrote:Once all the logical questions have answers, the powers that be should somehow get a list out to the voters to educate them.... Mr Wilson, I think that the current teacher/student ratio is higher now than it was in the past because of previous layoffs. Please correct me if I am wrong.


I agree that we just need to get the information to people. I don't believe this project needs selling, I believe that residents just need to be informed. When they get in to the details most will realize this deal is one that can't be passed up.

You are correct about teacher/student ratio. It has gone up due to teachers retiring and those jobs not being filled. With a tight budget for FY11 this will be the case again. The redistricting/restructuring is going to help save some money and also level class sizes due to economies of scale but fiscally things are tight. It is important to remember that the money for a new school does not impact the annual operating budget for the school. These will come out of two separate buckets.

I also owed an answer about maintenance.
#1 (and I think this is very important).....two outside agencies after viewing the school said that it was well maintained. As a matter of fact we received additional reimbursement points because we had done a good job maintaining the building.
#2 With less people maintaining the schools it will be great to have more efficient equipment as that will allow them more time to take care of other issues.
#3 The existing HS, Wynn & Ryan all have preventive maintenance plans which they adhere to.
#4 The Ryan was completed, 10 year ago.....go take a walk through and I think you'll be impressed with how new it still looks.
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