Dear Colleagues, As most of you are probably now aware, the members of the Andover Education Association are on strike as of Friday, November 11. The Andover School Committee has chosen to hire counsel from the same legal firm that is representing the Newton School Committee, Valerio, Dominello, and Hillman, LLC. Given our experience here in Newton, one can readily understand why Andover Educators have chosen to go on strike. We proudly stand with them in their fight. Their fight is our fight. Meanwhile, the North Andover Education Association just settled a four year contract that included 60 days of paid parental leave for either the birth or the non-birth parent, and 16.5% COLAs over that four year period.
Contract Action Team Update
Here is a summary of current asks from your Contract Action Team:
Continue to be silent at NPS administrator run meetings
Continue to not volunteer for voluntary activities and committees
Attend School Committee Meetings:
November 20 at 6:30; December 4 at 6:30:
Gather at 6 to “line the halls”
Sign up to speak your truth to the School Committee at Public Comment
Be a Silent Observer at Mediation Sessions: sign up here
Participate in our phone blitz to elected officials November 13 and/or 14: ask your building CAT captain for details.
Join your colleagues to canvass: NTA Canvassing SignUp Genius
The Contract Action Team is offering two canvassing sessions over the next several weeks. Canvassing is a great way to get engaged in our contract campaign that makes a huge difference in community engagement and perception! The dates are Saturday November 18 and Saturday December 9. They will each begin at 2:00pm and go until about 5:00pm. Canvassing begins at Newton North in the Walnut Street parking lot. There will be a brief training before canvassers pair up to go door to door. This canvass is targeting MTA members who live in Newton, which means conversations will be pleasant and the reception at doors will be welcoming.
Mayor Fuller Can and Must Fully Fund the Schools In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, Mayor Fuller, with the complicity of the School Committee, manufactured two “fiscal” crises, one in the spring of the 2022 school year, and one in the spring of the last school year. A next crisis is brewing for next spring’s budget season. These crises were completely unnecessary, and make no financial sense. Mayor Fuller never misses an opportunity to tell the public that she believes that the Newton Public Schools are "the bedrock of our community," But her budget priorities tell a very different story. She has systematically and chronically underfunded the Newton Public Schools, even as she has ample resources at her disposal. Our students, and our educators have just gone through a terrible, years long crisis-from which we have not yet recovered. Yet the Mayor hoards resources and underfunds the schools. First, for all her attestations to the contrary, Mayor Fuller has grossly underfunded the schools:
In the spring of 2022, for the approved FY23 school budget, there were nearly $4 million in cuts; at the same time, the city ran nearly a $29 million surplus or "free cash."
In the spring of 2023, in the approved FY24 school budget, there were again nearly $4 million in cuts; the city once again had a nearly $29 million dollar surplus.
This year, the City of Newton resolved a long standing dispute with Eversource, which resulted in $26 million in additional “freecash,” bringing the total amount of free cash currently available this year to $55 million.
Only $3.5 million of the $63 million in ARPA funding the city received went directly to the NPS. Of the money the mayor claimed she directed to the schools, $9.5 million went to fund school building projects. But these projects would normally be financed by issuing bonds, and then the city would pay the bonds back out of the city’s operating budget. Directing funds to these projects contributes to the city's budget, not the NPS' budget
Even though one of the stated purposes of ARPA funding was to stabilize city and schools’ operating budgets, Mayor Fuller allocated no ARPA funds directly to the sustaining the schools’ operating budget. On the contrary, she reduced the NPS’ operating budget by .8% ($2 million) in FY22, and forced the schools to use one time funding from federal grants to fund the schools instead. When she cut $2 million from the operating budget, that loss recurred again in FY22, FY23, and FY24, and will do so on into perpetuity, or until it is restored.
In spite of these astounding amounts of money at her disposal, Mayor Fuller claims her decisions have been fiscally prudent. She justifies not using revenue sources such as end of the year surplus or “free” cash, ARPA grant funding, or the free cash from the settlement with Eversource, by characterizing these as “one-time” funds. She claims that if she were to use one-time funds to finance the school operating budget, that would lead the schools to a “fiscal cliff.” Yet the City of Newton could, in a fiscally responsible manner, use some of this "free cash" to fully fund the public schools.
The free cash made available by the Eversource settlement is indeed one time—it includes all of the Eversource payments that had not been paid for eight years, plus interest. But going forward, Eversource property tax revenues, which before had to be placed in an "Overlay" account, will now go directly into the City of Newton’s operating budget. This is an addition of $3.5 million every year to the city's operating budget.
Under Mayor Fuller's stewardship, the City of Newton regularly underestimates its revenues and over estimates its expenses. As a consequence, much of the surplus or free cash that she claims is “one-time” will continue to be available as recurring revenue sources. Here are some major sources of recurring funding as a result of the city underestimating revenues.
The city underestimated its interest on investment income by $8.4 million last year. It’s clear from the FY24 budget that it has done the same for this year. There will be $8 to $10 million available in surplus cash from interest on investments at the end of the current fiscal year.
The city regularly underestimates the amount it receives from property tax by between $2 to $5 million every year.
The city regularly underestimates the amount it receives from inspections, permits, and licenses by about $5 million.
The city regularly underestimates the amount it receives from hotel, meal, and cannabis taxes by about $1 million.
Taken together, next year there will be a likely surplus of $16 to $21 million that, effectively, comprise recurring funds. There is no good reason not to use some of this year's free cash to fund the schools.
With the $55 million in free cash currently at her disposal, Mayor Fuller must:
ALLOCATE, as recurring funds, an additional $7,270,00 to this year's FY24 budget. $4,083,000 of this is will make up for past one time funding; $3,187,252 will make up for the funding the city withdrew from the schools when it absorbed OPEB expenses back into the city budget, where it should have always been.
Beginning in FY25, and for all succeeding years, increase the school budget allocation by AT LEAST 4% per year, not 3.5%.The mayor's decision to increase the allocation by only 3.5% is arbitrary. Since 2004, the city’s property tax revenues have grown 4.37% on average per year; the city's total revenues have grown 4.29% on average per year over that same period. Since 2010, the city’s revenues have grown even faster; property tax revenues have grown 4.62% on average per year; total revenues have grown 4.49% on average per year over that same period. If the budget allocation to the schools is dependent on the city’s revenue growth, clearly school funding has not kept up with revenue growth.
These changes to the school budget would place the Newton Public Schools on a sound financial footing now and going forward. It would easily allow the Newton School Committee to meet all of the proposals that the NTA currently has on the table, leaving much needed resources available to address ongoing and future needs of the schools. These increases in funding would close the gap between what the schools need and what the city allocates. If this gap persists, its size will be the measure of a failed mayorality. As Ryan Normandin said during school committee public comment, Mayor Fuller will then be known as the mayor who dismantled the Newton Public Schools.
Mass Child Grants The Massachusetts Child is a charitable corporation founded by MTA members in 1996 to help students struggling with financial need. Mass Child is a reimbursement program available to all MTA preK-12 local associations. Members use funds from their local associations to purchase qualifying items for students, and Mass Child reimburses the local associations. Please note that Mass Child does not reimburse individual members; all grant applications must have the approval of the local president, and reimbursement is made to the local association. Therefore, please do not fill out the online application on the Mass Child website. Our local process for use of Mass Child Grant funds:
Contact Cindy Colantonio at NTA office (email@example.com) before purchasing items to be certain that NTA still has Mass Grant Funds available and that the items you will be purchasing will qualify for reimbursement.
Once you have approval, purchase the items and submit your receipts to Cindy (you can do this electronically via email or by sending them through the Pony).
NTA will reimburse you directly right away. We will handle the submission to Mass Child for local reimbursement.
NTA Dues Deductions Payroll deductions for NTA/MTA/NEA membership dues will begin with the November 15th salary check and continue through May 31. Please examine your check stub to determine whether the amount deducted is correct. If you have paid your dues in cash, no deduction should appear. If you are paying your dues through payroll deductions, your stub should have a deduction item "NTA". You can find the amount of your bimonthly deductions depending on your membership classification here. Please call the NTA office (617-244-9562) between 8:30 and 4:00 p.m. on school days or email Cindy Colantonio (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.