.

Meeting Newton’s Needs - Without Raising Taxes

Our Analysis and Evaluation of Alternative Sources of Funds to pay for new infrastructure spending instead of $11.4 million in increased override taxes.

By Traute Marshall, Robert Marshall and Joshua G Norman

No one disputes that Newton has real needs. But has the administration tried to meet them imaginatively - without automatically reaching yet again for a tax-override? Our group, “Moving Newton Forward – with Fiscal Responsibility,” thinks the city can indeed meet its needs, while living within its means – and thus remaining economically affordable and ethnically diverse. Here's how it looks to us:

Tax hikes proposed by the Mayor change the current 2.5% annual tax increase to a combined 2.5% + 4.3% override rate, for a total increase of 6.8%. That means most
 Newton residents would see their taxes rise between $500 and $750
 annually.
 As an alternative, MNF has identified three areas where the city could save:
 
Repurposing CPA

The Community Preservation Act, an override passed in 2002, funds affordable
 housing, historic resources, open space, and recreation land. CPA generates
 about $3.1 million every year, of which $2.44 million come from Newton 
taxpayers and $.62M comes from the state. If Newton citizens voted to re-purpose 
the CPA override into a “Community IMPROVEMENT Fund,” it would supply $2.44 million annually for infrastructure repairs. Such repurposing of CPA funds for ten years would eliminate our backlog of
 neglect.  If the pro-override group was willing to invest time and money in a special election to increase people's taxes, we think that there should no problem with that group engaging in a similar effort to end CPA and repurpose the CPA moneys into the general fund.
 
Naming Rights
 
According to the Newton School Committee, selling naming rights to private companies could generate $6 million over three years. Is it tacky 
to put advertisers’ names on school buildings? Maybe, but it’s fiscally smart enough for
sports arenas, theaters, museums, and university buildings to sell
 names. Tellingly, Alderman Baker and Former Alderman Lipsitt insist on more tax increase
 overrides, while opposing raising money through naming rights. Which would 
you prefer?

Reimbursement for Out-of-District Students

Newton educates over 500 students whose parents are not Newton taxpayers/residents. The students fall into two groups. 91 are children of Newton teachers who do not reside, or pay taxes, in Newton. Teachers receive this benefit, worth $17,000 per child, as per their collective bargaining agreement.
 Is it fair to ask Newton taxpayers to subsidize teachers who choose to live elsewhere while benefiting from Newton schools? Even with a state subsidy per student of $2K and even adjusting for 13 Newton kids attending other public school systems that their parents work for, this benefit adds $1.2 million of costs to 
the Newton school system annually. The superintendent argues that Newton must compete in this way with other wealthy suburbs. We wonder if it is really that hard to attract teachers to Newton schools?
 
Additionally, more than 400 Boston children attend Newton schools through the METCO program. METCO allows Black, Asian, and
 Hispanic students from Boston (roughly 60, 20 and 20%) to study in Newton schools, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR PARENTS' INCOME. Think of the METCO students 
as filling an entire Newton school! Because 36% of METCO kids are in special
 education programs (versus 20% for Newton’s general student body), further expenditures are required to support them.
 
How expensive are non-resident students? The Newton Schools Committee reported that in Fiscal Year 2013 Newton will enroll 538 non-resident students.  Newton received $2.1M in dedicated state aid for METCO and incurred about $0.7M in METCO transportation costs. Newton also received $1M in Chapter 70 state aid, as well as federal aid for METCO kids in Special Ed/IEPs ($141K), EDCO aid for hearing impaired children ($106K) and $79K for special education students "tuitioned in" to Newton Public Schools.  That amount hardly offsets the annual Newton per-student cost of $17,000! And that cost does not take into account depreciation on new school buildings that the override supporters want ($417K) or the interest expenses associated with new buildings and infrastructure ($251K) Here’s the math: $10.26M in gross costs. Deduct the net aid of $2.9M, and Newton absorbs a total cost of $7.36 million. Meanwhile, the city of Boston is not asking its residents for an override. Newton is.
 
Despite our rising enrollment and crumbling schools, we do not advocate ending METCO. Rather, we ask that native districts of all out-of-district students pay their share of the costs.
 This request is more than fair when you consider that when Newton sends its children to other districts -typically for residential special education programs - we pay
 full fare. For example, the City paid $12.5 million in 2011 before state aid to send 167 Newton-resident students to non-Newton institutions.
 
In short, Newton has options other than tax overrides. We just described three. Others would be: vigorous support of commercial development, reducing non-teaching staff, implementing more computer-based instruction 
in the schools (which would improve learning quality), and outsourcing and competitive bidding for services such as custodial services.
 
Moving Newton forward affordably isn’t rocket science. Fiscal responsibility only takes imagination, a focus on savings, and respect for Newton students, taxpayers, and employees.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:09 PM
You say "If Newton citizens voted to re-purpose 
the CPA override into a “Community IMPROVEMENT Fund". The CPA fund is a state run program for specifically designated purpose. As far as I know, there is no way for Newton citizens to vote to change those purposes. The link you provided was about a community choosing whether or not to become part of the CPA program, not re-purposing the program.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:18 PM
The naming rights proposal put forward by the Newton School Foundation was a one time fund raiser to fund technology in the schools, not a reliable annual revenue stream. Could they raise $6 million in three years, it's possible I suppose. I think that number is pretty much a "dart throw". The real answer is "we wouldn't really know until we tried". In any case, its a one time windfall not a bankable long term financing plan for school construction.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:27 PM
For METCO, you say "Rather, we ask that native districts of all out-of-district students pay their share of the costs". The "native districts" do not pay the city of Newton for METCO, the state does. Wishing the city of Boston would just open their checkbook for Newton does not qualify as "a plan".
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Jerry, last we checked, there was a proscribed process in which a community could end CPA. Our Research Director spoke to Jeff Seideman and he has been on record with regards to either ending CPA outright or ending CPA and having an offsetting debt/capital exclusion for the $2.44M that CPA accounted for in FY 2012. http://www.massaudubon.org/PDF/advocacy/CommunityPreservationActSummary.pdf
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Yes, Newton could certainly end participating in the CPA if we so choose. Yes, we could also vote for an override or debt/capital exclusion to fund schools ... but I thought you were arguing against that. In any case, we can't vote to "re-purpose the CPA".
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 05:45 PM
As for naming rights, we were citing the projections from your allies at the Newton School Committee and the Newton Schools Foundation. http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/newton_schools_foundation_03_26_12_0.pdf When we consider that a small town high school in Upstate New York raised $489K recently from a dance-a-thon, we believe that it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Newton Schools Foundation to project $6.35M net over three years. Maybe we should replace the people in the Newton Schools Foundation with those guys, they seem to be more successful at fund raising than the NSF. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/n-y-high-school-raises-489k-marathon-dance-fundraiser-article-1.1278666?localLinksEnabled=false
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 05:51 PM
If Boston and the home districts are unable or unwilling to pay their share of our costs of educating their children in our well-regarded school system, then we cannot provide services to them. Boston derives an annual value in excess of $7.5M from reduced education expenses associated with educating their children in our highly-regarded school system. If they do not agree with us, then they are duty bound to educate those children themselves or send them to another district. If they do agree with us, then they need to pony up at least $7.5M annually. http://www.movingnewtonforward.org/resources/Out-of-District%20Model.xlsx
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I'm afraid that whatever the connection is between a charity dance-a-thon in up state New York and a proposal to sell naming rights to a school in Newton is lost on me.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 05:55 PM
We are arguing against keeping CPA and having a Proposition 2.5 override. Your people are arguing for keeping CPA and having a Proposition 2.5 override. The tax hikers at BNF could have easily made a campaign in which they advocate for ending CPA and offsetting it with a capital/debt exclusion to fund infrastructure. But we are most certainly not crossing that bridge until we come to it.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 05:59 PM
There's not a shred of evidence that I can see, that convincing Boston to voluntarily write a check to Newton for $7.5 million is even remotely possible. In that case, as you say "then they are duty bound to educate those children themselves". If that were to suddenly happen tomorrow, it would not change the need for the override. The school budget would not drop by $7.5 million and we would still have pressing needs for school construction.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 05:59 PM
They raised $489K over the course of one weekend. http://www.centredaily.com/2013/03/04/3524201_ny-high-school-raises-489k-with.html The Newton School Gift Fund only raised ~$400K last year. We think that the trustees overseeing the Newton Schools Foundation may want to look at hiring those people in Glen Falls for fundraising cause they seem to be better at it. http://www.newtonma.gov/civicax/filebank/documents/46185
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 06:05 PM
If Mayor Warren and his Team really cared about their fiscal fiduciary duties to the city of Newton, they would give Mayor Menino and Superintendent Johnson 3 choices: 1. Boston has to educate the 404 METCO kids in Boston Public Schools. 2. Boston has to find another suburban district that will take the 404 METCO kids 3. Boston has to write a $7.5M check every year to keep the 404 METCO kids in Newton Public Schools. If the state withdraws its $3M in METCO and Chapter 70 aid for those kids, it will need to write a $10.5M check.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 06:10 PM
"Your people are arguing for keeping CPA" I'm not sure who "you people" are. I haven't argued about keeping the CPA and I haven't heard or read any other proponents of the override arguing for keeping the CPA. The CPA is a distraction that you're somehow trying to introduce into this discussion. I think there are some good points that your group has raised but they are mostly overwhelmed when you make stuff up, muddy the water, and float various forms of wishful thinking as a viable alternative plan.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Jerry, you wrote a post advocating for the three extravagantly expensive overrides. http://newton.patch.com/blog_posts/trees-blizzards-and-overrides so when we say "your people or you people", we maybe should have said "override supporters such as yourself". Thank you for the word-smithing lesson. That was real sporting of you. "when you make stuff up, muddy the water, and float various forms of wishful thinking as a viable alternative plan." We are not making things up or muddying the water. That seems to be the province of override supporters. One of them called Bill Heck a racist for seeking full reimbursement of METCO expenses. We are not floating any wishful thinking either. We don't pay taxes in order to enable Boston to save $7.5M in the form of reduced education expenses by educating their schoolchildren in our school system. Unless the items we addressed in our post are resolved to our satisfaction, then we will remain opposed to any attempt to override Prop 2.5. We oppose these three overrides because As for the pro-override crowd and CPA, when we suggested the idea of following the proscribed process to end CPA and free up CPA funds for infrastructure, pro-override supporters were dismissive of the idea. They don't have to explicitly say that they want CPA and the overrides because their actions have implicitly shown voters that is what they are after. In any case, now you are trying to split hairs here.
Really? March 04, 2013 at 06:36 PM
You're not muddying the water??? You compare a well-established (30+ years), annual event that raises money for local charities (the students select individual recipients, who actually attend the event, including a child battling a brain tumor, a family that lost its house to a fire, the local food pantry) with a brand new effort to raise corporate funds for a PUBLIC SCHOOL. (Private fundraising for public schools is a new concept, and not a well-established or supported one.) That's muddying the waters.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 06:44 PM
No hair splitting going on, at least not from my end. Yes, I unabashedly and very publicly have been a supporter of the overrides. What I took issue with you saying ""Your people are arguing for keeping CPA". Neither I nor any other override supporters I've heard argued one way or another about the merits of the CPA. All of the issue you've been raising - CPA, METCO, naming rights have only been raised in the context of stopping the override - not on their own merits. You say " Unless the items we addressed in our post are resolved to our satisfaction, then we will remain opposed to any attempt to override Prop 2.5". What you clearly don't say is that you would support the override if those issues are addressed. I think that's where my personal frustration with Moving Newton Forward arises from. CPA, METCO, Naming Rights - they are all worthwhile issues to debate, discuss and come to decisions on. In your hands though they seem to be just tactical playing cards in the service of stopping an override that you don't want.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 06:58 PM
We have a lot more reasons to oppose the three overrides. These are three of our biggest points against the three overrides. We resent the fact that we have been asked "where should the city get the money to pay for these projects if the overrides fails". It's not our job to do so, it's the responsibility of the Mayor, his Executive Office Team Members, the School Committee, the Board of Alderman and other applicable senior leaders in the city departments. If they are unable or unwilling to make tough fiscal choices because they lack the willpower to do so, we have thoughtfully stepped in to provide areas that they need to address. If these issues were resolved to our satisfaction, this would result in up to $12M annually being freed up for the laundry list of spending programs that override supporters demand without having to resort to a Prop 2.5 override. Anyway, we're never going to convince each other of the merits of our position.
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 07:01 PM
>> Anyway, we're never going to convince each other of the merits of our position. At last, we agree ;-)
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 07:07 PM
"compare a well-established (30+ years), annual event that raises money for local charities" Well it seems that those people have had good, successful experience in raising money. Bottom line, the folks in Glen Falls have been more successful at fund raising than the Newton Schools Foundation. Period, end of discussion. "brand new effort to raise corporate funds for a PUBLIC SCHOOL" Who said anything about corporate funds? Can you tell me what would be the problem if Peter Guber and Jim Corsi donated money to Newton North and they rename the baseball field the "Guber-Corsi Field"? Or if there is a problem with John Krasinski donating money to Newton South and they rename the Auditorium the "John Krasinski Theatre for the Performing Arts"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton_North_High_School#Notable_alumni "Private fundraising for public schools is a new concept, and not a well-established or supported one." The Newton Schools Foundation has been around for about 28 years. We would think that they would have gotten it right by then. http://newtonschoolsfoundation.org/about/about-history.html
Traute Marshall March 04, 2013 at 07:58 PM
"The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government's size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering" (George Will) "The same can be said for the city of Newton liberals." (Traute Marshall)
Jerry Reilly March 04, 2013 at 08:11 PM
In the same vein .. conservatives have the conviction that there is no connection between the government services they desire and the taxes that they pay.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Jerry, we don't desire providing a $7.5M annual value to Boston by educating their kids in our school system.
Suzanne Rourke March 04, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Hooray, Traute & George!
Really? March 04, 2013 at 09:34 PM
"Period, end of discussion." Well, that's one way to end a discussion, but it's hardly persuasive. You compare apples to oranges and declare yourself the winner? The missions are completely different, and the mission matters. Never mind the fact that the 2 organizations you are comparing have actually raised about the same amount of money (NSF a little more) over their lifetimes - you clearly don't like to let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite. Sure, the naming rights concept would include the possibility of a large check from a wealthy individual, but the big targets are the corporate sponsors. And while there have been some significant deals made by public school districts for naming rights at football stadiums and other sports venues, this is still a very new concept.
Moving Newton Forward March 04, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Really?, that's the best you can do? Is that, really? "the 2 organizations you are comparing have actually raised about the same amount of money (NSF a little more) over their lifetimes - you clearly don't like to let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite." Last we checked, Glen Falls was a small town in a small micropolitan area whereas Newton is the pre-eminent bedroom and school community in Greater Boston. Last we checked, Glen Falls wasn't as wealthy as Newton and yet they do a better job with fundraising than the Newton Schools Foundation. Newton's past & present Aldermen like Lisle Baker, Vern Vance and Brooke Lipsitt want to raise money through overriding Prop 2.5 while vehemently opposing money raised voluntarily through naming rights.
Really? March 04, 2013 at 11:07 PM
MNF - pay attention. They weren't raising money for public schools. They were raising money for families in their community in desperate need. Many people - including in less affluent areas - believe in helping their neighbors in need. Not as many people - even affluent areas - believe in privately supporting public schools, because historically that's not how it's been done. This is new, since 2.5.

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