Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Do your homework

Remember how we've had this problem with Secretary Peyser not doing his homework before weighing in on school spending?
Worcester now has its own version. It seems the Chamber of Commerce would like to assist the Worcester Public Schools in closing their projected budget gap this year. They're doing this not by contributing more themselves, not by advocating for the state do to more, not by interesting themselves in the work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (for example), but by...offering some cost savings suggestions.

None of which bear out.

To take these in order:
  1. Health insurance: the non-unionized Worcester Public Schools employees already do pay the same contribution rate as the City of Worcester. The rest is subject to collective bargaining (and, thus, Worcester School Committee negotiations). So, moot point.
  2. Net metering: the Worcester Public Schools will participate in net metering as soon as the city installs what is needed to do so.
  3. School and athletic field maintenance costs: Those would be the school maintenance costs that we're underfunding by $13 million a year due to the undercalculation of the foundation budget? And athletic field maintenance (as our sports teams know to their sorrow) are not separately maintained; the same staff maintains them as part of their work, as best they can, with limited time and material. Not only is there not cost savings here: more should be spent here, even by the state's current calculation!
  4. RFPs for landscaping and athletic fields: already being done (with limited success) at Foley, and I suspect we'd all have something to say about our schools becoming billboards for the rest. Also, advertising doesn't bring in much, as districts have found elsewhere.
  5. Single permitting: we should probably bring the Parks Department up to full strength--they've been cut for years--before we give them more to do. As neither WPS nor Parks has someone who does permitting fulltime, there's no cost savings by single streaming this.
  6. Budget task force: suggestions are always welcome, in my experience. It would be good to do your homework first, though.

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