Monday, May 16, 2011

School Roof Repairs On City Council Fin. Comm. Tonight

By Lisa E. Crowley
BrocktonPost
BROCKTON—The City Council Finance Committee will meet tonight to discuss and possibly approve borrowing $7.2 million, or a 20 percent share of a $36 million roof repair project for eight of the city’s schools—a move that could trigger a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion override in the future.
City Councilors will be presented with a plan from School Operations Director Michael Thomas for the school department to repair eight school building roofs under the Massachusetts School Building Assistance Bureau’s Green Repairs program.
Thomas said the state has approved Brockton to repair roofs at Raymond, Davis, Downey and Hancock elementary schools, North, East and West Middle schools and Brockton High School.
East and North Middle schools would also receive new boilers.
Thomas said the state will pay for 80 percent of the repairs and Brockton would be responsible for 20 percent, or about $7.2 million—a figure that would require officials to absorb the amount in the city’s annual budget, or seek a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion override to pay for the loan.
“I don’t know what is going to happen tonight,” Thomas said. “We’re in tough economic times, but it’s a good deal for the city and the work has to be done. If we wait 3 or 4 years the work will still have to be done and we pay 100 percent,” he said.
The money has become available as a part of the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
City officials must approve the spending by May 25 when the state building agency must approve the funding for its more than 130 school projects on the list.
If Brockton rejects the repair project another school system will be able to take the money for its own projects.
Thomas said initially state officials gave Brockton approval for four schools, but late last year added four more to the project.
John “Jay” Condon said he has sent a memo to the City Council outlining the city’s current and future budget and what kind of impact absorbing $7.2 million would have on services during the life of the loan.
“I can’t say it won’t have an effect,” Condon said.
Because officials are still putting together next year’s budget , Condon said it is unclear how much of an effect another $7.2 million roof project will have.
He said he believes it will “squeeze future budgets” and a debt exclusion might be necessary to pay the loan.
Historically, Brockton voters have rejected overrides, whether they are debt exclusions which increase taxes until a construction project is paid off or a so-called regular Proposition 2 ½ override for annual services and salaries that becomes a permanent tax.
Condon said while the green program is an excellent way for the city to repair severe problems at the schools—including North Middle School which has been unable to use its auditorium after it was condemned 2 years ago by the building department.
However, the city has absorbed numerous construction projects--about $25 million--over the past 10 years, including renovating the libraries and rebuilding and renovating five schools, including the Mary E. Baker School and the Angelo Elementary School.
Condon outlined payments for five school projects and library expansion and renovations already on the books and being absorbed within the limits of Proposition 2 ½:
*$17.5 million for school rebuilds—15 percent to be paid by the city or about $3.2 million;
*$10 million for school projects—15 percent to be paid by city, or about $1.5 million;
*$7.82 million for George School project—100 percent to be paid by the city;
*$485,525 for planning school projects—100 percent to be paid by the city;
*$1 million for school projects—100 percent to be paid by the city;
*$2.745 million for land acquisition for school rebuilds—100 percent to be paid by the city;
*$5.5 million for library projects—100 percent to be paid by the city;
*$3.025 million for library planning and land acquisition—100 percent to be paid by the city.
Condon said those figures make him hesitate that the $7.2 million can be absorbed for long within the confines of the budget.
The payments on the school building and library projects mature, or are fully paid as follows:
*$17.5 million, or $3.2 million 15 percent share in 2017;
*$10 million, or $1.5 million 15 percent share in 2020;
*$7.82 million in 2031;
*$1 million in 2021;
*$2.745 million in 2019;
*$485,525 in 2020;
*$5.5 million in 2021;
*$3 million in 2021.

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