This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Escalating High School Cost Raises Concern

While it was initially reported that the bids for the high school construction were in line what city official expected, additional items outside the bid amount have driven the estimated cost to nearly $83 million. That's nearly $18 million more than the original estimate of $65 million. Today's Salem News lede story "New BHS: Can City Afford It?" details some of the concerns.

Mayor Scanlon announced the current price tag at Monday's City Council meeting, and admitted that paying for the project "just got harder," but still says the cost is "within our reach."

He believes that the state will pay a higher percentage of the cost than originally budgeted (55% vs. 50%), although any state money is still not officially committed.

The News poses the question "If the city was going to struggle with a $65 million price tag, how can it afford an $18 million increase?"

And City Councilor Don Martin, who voted against the original plan, says "It will be the most expensive public facilities project in the history of the city" and that it "has the potential to be a huge money pit."

Still Martin concedes that since the city has already spent over $4 million on design and other work that it would be difficult to halt the project at this point. "It could be stopped but you end up eating what you spent... I don't advocate stopping it."

The City Council must approve the project, but Scanlon says that must wait until he knows the exact reimbursement from the state.

What's more, Scanlon also wants to build a $5.8 million stadium along with the high school. This amount is in addition to even the $83 million figure, but Scanlon hopes to finance this with private donations, and state money.

Meanwhile another group is gathering signatures in an online petition to Save Hurd Stadium.

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