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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

NTA EBulletin, March 19, 2022

More on budget cuts. In this update, I will lead with "what can we do" and then give you some more reasons to do something below--specifically, by looking at Mayor Fuller's most recent email update and her comments on the fiscal issues with the schools.

So what can we do?

First, RIGHT NOW, send an email to Superintendent Fleishman, Mayor Fuller, and the School Committee by clicking here. As of Saturday morning, we have sent 582 emails. Add your voice. Please, please, share this link with friends in the community. We wrote the email template to be inclusive of all who are concerned for our schools: Educators, concerned citizens, or parents can use the email template. Second, click here to let us know now that you will be joining us on Thursday, March 31, from 3:30 until 5:00 at Newton City Hall to demand that the mayor provide enough funding to full close the budget gap--without cuts! Encourage your colleagues to join us! Share this link in the community as well! Third, if you and your colleagues in your building are as frustrated as you are with these cuts, and you really need to do something else now: Organize a standout or standouts in front of your building. Make signs. Build community support! Keep receipts for any materials you purchase, and NTA will reimburse those costs. Fourth, share these emails with friends. We post them all on our NTA website after they go out, so you can share that link or forward the emails directly. Please spread the word!

Open letter to Mayor Fuller

Dear Mayor Fuller:

I am writing to you to respectfully ask that you stop misrepresenting the city's support for the schools, and that you fully fund the Newton Public Schools so that they can continue to provide the education the children of Newton need in this time of acute crisis.

First, there is a tone in your email implying that, when you allocate resources to the schools, you are "giving something" to them. You are not. Along with the School Committee and the Superintendent, you are the steward of the school's finances. There should be not even a whisper or a suggestion of anything different--and certainly no suggestion that you have already "given" the schools more than their fair share when you allocate a greater increase to the school's budget than the municipal budget. 

Second, please be more exacting, and more transparent, about how you have allocated ARPA funds. Yes, you have already "invested" "$28.4 million in ARPA projects out of the $63 million allocation made to the City of Newton." And yes, a good part, $15.7 million, of those "investments" went to the schools.

BUT, of the funds that went to the schools, $5.9 million were directed towards projects that were already scheduled to happen before the pandemic. The city would have made those investments even if it had not received additional funding from the federal government. You would have borrowed money by issuing bonds, and eventually the taxpayers of Newton would have paid for these investments. So what you have effectively done is provide taxpayers $5.9 million in future tax relief at the same time the schools are in a funding crisis. 

BUT, of the funds that went to the schools, some came from $7.6 million that went into the city's operating budget. The city then used those funds to help it finance its overall allocation to the schools. If, as you say, funding for the NPS is 65% of the city's operating budget, then 65% of that $7.6 million, or ~$5 million, went into the operating budget of the schools. But those funds did not result in an increase in the overall NPS operating budget. Because you put those funds into the city's budget and then used them to finance the city's allocation to the schools, you have effectively provided relief to the city's operating budget.

MOREOVER, in this time of crisis, the NPS's costs have inevitably risen. They have lost over $7 million in "revolving funds" from sources such as school building rentals, bus and athletic fees, etc. Yet, in this time of increasing costs and declining revenues, the city's allocation to the schools over the past two years has actually been low by historical standards.

MOREOVER, not only did you not add more to the school's budget: you are double counting how much you actually "gave" to the schools: You count that $5 million as part of your "investment" in the schools, and you count them again when you claim they were used to "increase" the city's allocation to the schools. Neither claim is true.

So what have you actually done? Used ARPA funds to finance the city's operating budget, saving the city's operating budget $5 million, without increasing the schools' operating budget at all. And you have told the citizen's of Newton that you gave that money to the schools.

A subtotal: the $5.9 million for school projects did not increase the school's operating budget. The $5 million to the city's operating budget did not increase the school's operating budget. So far then, of the $15.7 million you claim to have allocated to the schools, $10.9 million resulted in NO increase to the schools' operating budget. 

That leaves $4.8 million. $1 million of that went to technology, $820 thousand went to COVID costs, and $3 million went to stipends for school employees. That's it for the ARPA funds. Complicate that picture by the $7 million that the schools have lost in "revolving funds," and, Mayor Fuller, it is clear not only that you are underfunding the schools, but that you are willfully misrepresenting how you are in fact spending ARPA funds. 

Mayor Fuller, you are failing in your fiduciary responsibility to the schools, misleading the the public about your support for the schools, and altogether showing great fiscal irresponsibility to the citizens of Newton, and, most especially, the students of Newton. 


Michael Zilles, President
Newton Teachers Association


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