- Eliminate free first-hour parking in the garage.
- Please respond to total cost estimate to repair all items found to be of issue at Bridge St based on report presented at 3/12 School Committee.
- Has any thought been given to combining administrative functions for Northampton Public Schools and Smith Vocational?
- Why was the budget for Northampton Public Schools available last year in detail and the budget for Smith Vocational not detailed?
- While Smith Voc does great things with students, is it fair that they are not being cut the same way as the other schools in Northampton?
- Schools seem to mail alot of paper to parents. Wouldn’t an email broadcast program be more efficient?
- In addition to a "wage freeze" for FY2010, has Mayor Higgins approached the city's labor unions seeking further wage concessions?
- Have salary reductions been considered for non-union employees?
- There is much rumor circulating about the closing of Ryan Road School. Simply put, do you intend to close Ryan Road or any other school ?
- What is the across the board percentage salary decrease (combined with other projected budget duts) that is needed to close the budget gap?
- With spaces like the Calvin, Academy, & Fairgrounds, would a city wide fundraiser work? Weekend concert series?
- In considering the savings of closing a school, have you thought what we may lose if some move to another district as a result?
- Raise revenues more with a ticketing blitz to catch drivers on cell phones, DUI, speeding in residential neighborhoods - double the fines!
We could look at doing this, although it would be a blow to the downtown retail and restaurant community which is already suffering from the effects of our national economy. However, the funds collected at the parking garage go directly into the Parking Reserve Fund, which is used to do all the maintenance and repairs on the garage and in city parking lots. The money does not go into the city's General Fund and therefore it would not affect the FY2010 budget gap.
Please respond to total cost estimate to repair all items found to be of issue at Bridge St based on report presented at 3/12 School Committee.
At this point there are no firm estimates for the items listed. Work has been done to further clarify the exact nature of some of the items. The next step would be to identify the scale and scope of an item that needs to be addressed. In some cases this would necessitate outside architectural and/or engineering services. Once such analyses, planning and engineering have been completed, preliminary budget estimates would be developed. If any of that happens soon, we will post it here.
Has any thought been given to combining administrative functions for Northampton Public Schools and Smith Vocational?
Yes, the Mayor and the Superintendents of both NPS and SVAHS have spoken about what functions could be combined and how that would work. These discussions are in preliminary stages and could include combining payroll and procurement activities. We are already doing combined bidding for food supplies for both systems.
Why was the budget for Northampton Public Schools available last year in detail and the budget for Smith Vocational not detailed?
You may be looking at the FY2009 City Budget book which includes summary reports from the Northampton Public School District and the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. There is no required format for the Superintendents to follow, and they each chose the information they would submit to the city's budget book. The NPS submission does contain more detail, but it also reflects programs at seven different school locations, as opposed to SVAHS' one. Both districts put together a fully comprehensive budget for their respective governing boards (Northampton School Committee and SVAHS Board of Trustees) and those documents are available through your elected representatives on those boards. We will look to include them in full on the city website this year.
While Smith Voc does great things with students, is it fair that they are not being cut the same way as the other schools in Northampton?
Both school districts have received their share of cuts in recent years, and FY2010 will be no exception. In fact for FY2010, the City's projected General Fund support for the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School will be reduced by 8.76%, and the General Fund support for the NPS District will be reduced by 6.95%.
Schools seem to mail alot of paper to parents. Wouldn’t an email broadcast program be more efficient?
It certainly would, for parents who have access to email. The reverse telephone system the schools have implemented has improved school to home communications by alerting families to snow delays and about school events like plays or concerts. This is certainly an area we can look into as we move forward.
In addition to a "wage freeze" for FY2010, has Mayor Higgins approached the city's labor unions seeking further wage concessions?
Mayor Higgins is asking every city labor union to reopen their contracts to negotiate both a wage-freeze and possibly a change to the employee contribution to health insurance. Specific details about the labor / management conversations are not public. When the Mayor has final responses from all of the unions, she will publicly announce the results.
The Mayor has already implemented a wage freeze for all of the city's non-represented employees.
There is much rumor circulating about the closing of Ryan Road School. Simply put, do you intend to close Ryan Road or any other school ?
That decision will come from the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools and the Northampton School Committee. Mayor Higgins gives both the NPS District and the SVAHS the total amount of the city's appropriation for their schools for the coming fiscal year, and the respective Superintendents craft the budget proposals which are voted upon by their governing boards. At this moment (March 19) there is not a specific proposal to close any school in FY2010. It is also true that at this moment, the possibility of such a proposal has not been taken off the table.
What is the across the board percentage salary decrease (combined with other projected budget duts) that is needed to close the budget gap?
The City of Northampton works with multiple labor unions and we are trying to work with our employees to save as many jobs as possible. It is not the Mayor's intention to meet the full $6 million shortfall through salary reductions alone. That said, if all of the city's and school's unions agreed to a wage and COLA freeze for FY2010, we would save $1.2 million.
With spaces like the Calvin, Academy, & Fairgrounds, would a city wide fundraiser work? Weekend concert series?
Certainly, the City of Northampton would not turn its back on donations from private fundraising events, but we would offer the following cautions. The scope of a fundraising weekend of events at multiple venues throughout the city would be enormous. Certainly, with the amazing professional and volunteer community of artists and producers in and around Northampton, we are well-positioned to pull something this extraordinary off. However, it would be well to remember that many venues book their acts months in advance; If the goal is to help close the city's FY2010 budget gap, a weekend before June 30 would have to be chosen, and it is likely that most active city venues are already booked for most weekend days in that time span. After covering considerable production costs (including additional public safety officers and traffic control) for such a city-wide fundraiser, how much might be raised? We would be asking people in the community/region to pay a price for tickets, but remember that many people are struggling with lost jobs, increases in heating and utility bills and looking at losses in retirement funds as well - it's not an easy time to ask people to spend a premium cost for concert tickets, even for a great cause. As a source of comparison, when the VANS Warped Tour came through Northampton at the Fairgrounds several years ago, it was the largest one-day concert event ever held in the city, a portion of ticket sales was donated to the Northampton Youth Commission, and it amounted to $4,000. The 12-hour arts extravaganza First Night takes place in 15+ venues around the city and is the Center for the Arts' biggest annual fundraiser, netting, in good years with good weather, perhaps in the neighborhood of $35,000 - $50,000. The budget gap facing the city is in the millions of dollars. If the goal is to help close that budget gap, it would have to be an event many times the size of the largest concert ever held in Northampton, and then, in FY2011, the city would again be in the position of having to find the funding to maintain a municipal budget that had been artificially inflated with this one-time donated funding. Certainly, if members of the community have the energy and willingness to produce large-scale fundraising events to help the city, those funds will be gratefully received, but the Mayor would not consider it responsible to build those funds into the base of the budget when we can't count on it being reliable, recurring funding.
In considering the savings of closing a school, have you thought what we may lose if some move to another district as a result?
This is certainly one of the factors which would need to be thoroughly examined in any proposal to close a school building. It is worth noting, however, that the financial crisis we are facing is also affecting school districts across the Commonwealth, and families looking for School Choice placements in other districts should be aware that all communities are facing serious decisions and unpleasant choices as we look at city and school budgets. We are also considering that Northampton is a declining enrollment district - our population has remained fairly level, but the number of children per family has dropped dramatically in recent decades. We also need to consider that as a result of the current recession, some Northampton families are returning to NPS from private schools. All of these factors and more would need to be fully evaluated.
Raise revenues more with a ticketing blitz to catch drivers on cell phones, DUI, speeding in residential neighborhoods - double the fines!
Fines for motor vehicle violations are set by the Commonwealth, we have no authority to raise them locally. Also, driving with cell phones is not illegal in Massachusetts (which is not to be read as an endorsement of the practice!). Additionally, ticketing "blitzes" are not the big money-maker one might think they are. For example, in calendar year 2008, our Police Department wrote 6,095 citations. Granted, some of those were written warnings, but all told, after appeals, court appearances and after the Commonwealth took its share of each ticket, the city received $63,600 in revenue, about $10 per ticket. We also have to process the ticket, file it in court, and when a ticket is appealed we have to pay an officer to attend the hearing. And as the number of officers at NPD has decreased in recent years, and as calls for services are increasing, it is more and more challenging to pull officers off regular duty to do such targeted enforcement.