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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

State Approves $80.2 Million Cap for HS

11/25 UPDATE: The Massachusetts School Building Authority yesterday officially approved raising the cap on reimbursement of the High School project up to a maximum of $80.155 million. (note: if you read this post last night, we had listed the figure at $81.155 million, which our source, the Beverly Citizen, had incorrectly reported. They have since corrected.)

The Salem News also has the story.

This figure is short of the $81.5 figure that Mayor Scanlon had hoped for, but still amounts to about $46.8 million, (according to the Salem News; The Citizen reports the figure at $45.2) that the State will pay toward the project.

If the school is certified as a "green school" (as is the plan) upon completion, there is an additional 2% reimbursement available. That may account for the discrepancy between the two newspapers.

This move clears the way for a final vote by the City Council, hopefully on Monday night, in time for the December 3rd deadline to sign the contract.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Both High School Low Bidders Disqualified

UPDATED 11/21: The Salem News reports today that BOTH of the low bidders on the high school project have been disqualified. Yesterday's Beverly Citizen had reported only that the lowest bidder, Brait Builders, had been bounced from the project. [see Comment below from the Citizen]

Brait was disqualified by the state Attorney General's office because it "didn’t have enough experience with projects the size of Beverly High School to qualify it to bid on the project."

The next lowest bidder, a joint venture of J & J Contractors Inc. and SMI of Lowell, was disqualified because the joint venture was formed too late in the process.

CTA Ventures Inc. of Boston, the 3rd lowest bidder with a bid that was $1.3 million higher than Brait's, now becomes the lowest qualified bidder.

Mayor Scanlon says he will now move to sign a contract with CTA. The additional funding will come from the money included in "contingency costs" within the current $81.5 million dollar budget.

“It would simply leave less money for change orders and surprises,” Scanlon said.

The City Council is still awaiting a written confirmation from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), on the final amount that the state will pay toward the project, before taking a final vote on the appropriation.

The Salem News report today also states that the MSBA is scheduled to meet on Monday, at which time it should make the exact reimbursement amount official.

The city has until December 3rd to sign a contract.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hayes Estimates $750,000 Gap for FY10

The Beverly Citizen has posted some more specific early estimates on the FY10 budget. Dr. Hayes will present this to the School Committee tonight at their meeting at the Memorial Building.

According to the report, the estimated budget gap for FY10 is $750,000 with a 3.1% increase in spending. Some more excerpts from the story:

The gap represents the amount anticipated expenses will outpace expected revenue at current staffing and program levels.

The gap, as projected, will likely result in cuts to school programs, Hayes said.

“We’re making pretty broad assumptions in some cases,” Hayes said, noting one of the largest unknowns would be the terms of new contracts with the school district’s seven unions.

All of the numbers were his best current estimates, Hayes said, noting the numbers were reviewed during a recent meeting between him, school director of finance and operations Joan Liporto, city finance director John Dunn and Mayor Bill Scanlon.

The anticipated budget gap is close to the anticipated drop in state education aid, known as Chapter 70 money, of 7 percent. Hayes is counting on $6.75 million from the state government, down from $7.25 this year.

The School Committee will meet tonight in the meeting room at the Memorial Building (room 164). Finance and Facilities meets at 6:30, followed by the Committee of the Whole at 7:30.

11/20 UPDATE: Today's Salem News reports on the meeting. The Committee has asked Dr. Hayes to create a budget that accounts for the $750,000 in cuts. He'll present it to the board in December.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First FY10 Budget Meeting

The School Committee will meet this Wednesday to discuss the FY10 budget forecast. The meeting will include a recap of the budgeted amounts for FY09 and the forecast for FY10, employing some assumptions and projections.

For those that want to follow the process closely from the start in what is sure to be another difficult budget year, this is an important meeting to attend. We will report regularly on where things stand with next year's budget.

The meeting will be at held this Wednesday, November 19th in the meeting room at the Memorial Building (room 164). Finance and Facilities meets at 6:30, followed by the Committee of the Whole at 7:30.

The school committee meeting schedule for the rest of the year can be found here.

School Committee contacts can be found here.

11/18 UPDATE: Today's Salem News reports some early budget figures:

Hayes put together his predictions, which are more of a guesstimate at this point. But the bottom line is the shortfall (yes, there's still a shortfall) looks like it's under $1 million, and much of it reflects an anticipated 7 percent decrease in state aid.

It still means making cuts, but probably not closing a school. And Hayes said he budgeted conservatively. So although it could get worse, it could also get better.

The article also, we believe incorrectly, reports that the budget meeting at Memorial is tonight. As far as we know it is tomorrow night, as reported above.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Question 1 Defeated

Most of the Boston media have declared that the Income Tax repeal effort has been defeated. The story is here. The current margin is roughly 70-30.

You can follow the actual results here.

UPDATE: Beverly voters defeated the repeal effort by more than a 2-1 margin. NO: 13,510; YES: 6,637

Monday, November 3, 2008

Question 1's Impact on Beverly

Beverly schools stand to lose nearly $10 million a year in state aid if voters approve Question 1, and eliminate the state income tax in tomorrow's election. This, according to a town-by-town breakdown on the Vote No on Question One website. After seeing what a $2.5 million budget gap caused last year, we can only imagine what would be in store, if $10 million disappeared from the schools' annual budget.

While Eliot Margolis & his Citizen's for Fiscal Responsibility group strongly support the measure, most truly responsible voices from all sides of the political spectrum say this is a reckless and dangerous proposal.

Just a sampling of voices against this proposal:

The Beverly Citizen
The Boston Globe
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
The Boston Herald
The Salem News
Mary Grant

We encourage everyone to Vote tomorrow, and to Vote No on Question 1.