Saturday, June 20, 2015

City capital budget on schools

In looking at the city capital budget regarding the schools, well, there's some okay news and some not great news.
Schools are right up front in the cover letter from City Manager Augustus to Council:

Okay, so we're off right away on the numbers here. This year, we have accelerated repair projects at four schools--Clark Street, Goodard, Union Hill, and West Tatnuck. That isn't nine schools. I've turned our list around every way I can, and I don't know where they're getting nine. These four make it thirteen schools in which we've had accelerated repair projects. Both of those may sound like quibbles, but they're easy to find--check page 126 of our budget [page 137 online]--and it shakes one's confidence in the rest of the information to have that wrong.

On to major renovation or rebuild:
Nelson Place of course broke ground last week; we've had survey work this weekend, and the work will really pick up this summer. As with all of our projects, this is majority funded by MSBA...

...which is the piece that's missing on the South High line: the feasibility study costs $750,000 total; MSBA will reimburse $600,000 of that, so the city will pay $150,000 of the feasibility study.

In total on those, the city is spending about $6 million; the state is funding over $20 million.

And for the actual capital spending, setting aside the state-sponsored major renovations?

Right. Half a million for a system of 25,000 students in 50 buildings. 
Put another way? We're spending as much on the entire school system as we are on Hope Cemetery renovation or tree planting, and not quite as much as we're spending on upgrades to the DCU Center*
In line items, that looks like this:

The $65,000 for Facilities will go for new radios (as you've heard us talk about during School Committee meetings more than once) and new equipment to the extent it can be squeezed out. That is the line item that basically is "everything else."
The $315,000, put together with some of our regular budget, will be the $425,643 of local match for the technology upgrades, leveraging not $1.8 million of Erate funds as it says in the capital budget, but $5.1 million (and again, I don't know where that other number came from).
The transporation line will buy a single new school bus and upgrades to the radios in the buses. As we've been on a three year, three bus replacement schedule, this year is going to be a real setback.

And that's it. No replacements for the aging facilities vehicles. No new plows or snowblowers or lawn mowers. No replacement of HVAC systems. No replacement furniture. No work on athletic fields or sound systems for theaters or repaving of parking lots.

And that's it, really. It isn't that we don't need repaved parking lots at the Senior Center or a sound system for the library or new plows for the DPW. The schools, though, need those things, too, and because the city has it that the match for MSBA accelerated repair has to come out of the $3 million that has been the hard and fast figure for some time for schools, it doesn't. And it won't. We simply can't do that out of $500,000.

And that's really a problem. And it can't continue.

*No, that isn't saying I disagree with any of those. It's a useful sense of perspective, however.

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