TalkBACK: Enough is enough

Ayer's first "big dig" was the Ayer fire station. Ayer's second "big dig" is soon to be school regionalization. Full Story
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Also an Ayer Taxpayer

Buzzards Bay, MA

#1 Jan 15, 2011
The budget challenges that our school district is facing are not unique. EVERY town department is struggling to put together a balanced budget for next year. The school district will do what needs to be done to balance the district budget just as they always do every year. Regionalization is not a secret conspiracy conceived in the back room of hidden government building and implemented without our knowledge. From the beginning, it has been a continuously open process with constant opportunities to ask questions and have those questions answered. The taxpayers of Ayer and Shirley clearly expressed their desire to regionalize our school districts when the taxpayers voted in favor of regionalization last last year. The Ayer Shirley Regional School District is a reality! Now, it is every taxpayer's responsibility to, WITH AN OPEN MIND, gather information and ask questions as important decisions regarding OUR Regional School District must be made by WE the taxpayers. Otherwise, WE THE TAXPAYERS risk dooming the Ayer Shirley Regional School District before it even opens it's doors for the first time on July 1, 2011.
Local citizen

Bedford, MA

#2 Jan 15, 2011
"a balanced budget". The only figure most people have heard of is the $8,300,000 from Ayer. Shirley may have been floating their own figure but I do not know what it is. However, in FY09
Ayer spent or had spent on them $16,637,061
Shirley's figure was $12,045,865.
The regional figure will be around $28,682,926 plus, probably,$750,000. Let's call it an even $30,000,000. PLUS, sometime soon, around $36,000,000 for school improvements. When I hear or see this kind of money being openly quoted by the RSC and published in local newspapers then I may begin to believe that "Regionalization is not a secret conspiracy....". Please don't talk of rebates, it's ALL taxpayer's money.
Tax Payer Too

Lowell, MA

#3 Jan 16, 2011
We pay a lot of taxes too. And we vote and we pay our bills. Paying for the schools is a part of that. We will be voting to support this project. The alternatiave will be more costly. Get informed and you would understand that Local citizen. Don't get your information from a one-sided source.
Local citizen

Bedford, MA

#4 Jan 16, 2011
Tax Payer Too, I probably know more of what's going on than 95% of the people in both Ayer and Shirley. Instead of platitudes "We pay a lot of taxes too", why not respond with some facts and figures ?. That's the one thing I never see from the pro-school side. "They" like to hide behind feel good comments but never anything which sheds light on the situation. The one meeting I did attend was blurred, airy fairy, and basically unhelpfull. In another comment, somebody asks for a breakdown of the $750,000 fee to be voted on. I am not holding my breath for anything as factual as that, BUT, you could change my outlook by giving some information to the world. How much for the new windows, what new flooring is needed, how many stalls in the new rest rooms, what will the roof repairs cost, new furnaces and air conditioners, new kitchen area plus at least 50 similar items. I KNOW. I KNOW. those answers will not be available until after the survey. So you want me to vote $750,000 with no idea as to the outcome of the survey will be.(that's what surveys are for...) I'll bet $100 right now, that the result will be a new school at around $36,000,000, oops, that was last years figure. Shall we say $40,000,000 of which X% will be paid for by other tax payers ?.
Right now, I wouldn't vote for a new coffee pot for the schools, unless it was a line item right under the "New truck for the schools".
"One sided source ?" At any meeting I attend I see a reporter diligently typing facts and figures as they are uttered. Unless you are accusing the reporter of distorting those facts before publication then they are as accurate as they can be. Blaming the newspaper has become a cottage industry, anything to hide the real facts.
Me ?, I'm going to - Vote NO on 5th. February.
Also an Ayer Taxpayer

Buzzards Bay, MA

#5 Jan 16, 2011
Local Citizen, the specific numbers that you are looking are exactly what this LOANED money will be used for. When this first stage of the project is completed, we will have building/renovation plans and the exact cost for the project. We will be ready for the towns to vote to authorize the building project (with the exact price tag) and break ground. One of the reason to pursue the project now rather than waiting is that by planning the project now and getting bids now the opportunity to SAVE the towns $1 million dollars on the total construction cost as the construction business has not seen an up swing yet in this economy. The specific numbers and facts that are known right now are this; "...both towns must vote to see if the towns will authorize the Regional School Committee to BORROW the sum of $750,000 for the purpose of conducting the addition/renovation feasibility study for the Ayer Shirley Regional Middle High School." and "the MSBA has shared with the committee that the reimbursement base rate is 56.89% to the new region. The final project reimbursement rate will be at least 66.89% with another possible 1-2% based on the final construction plans. This means that more than two-thirds of the project will be reimbursed by the MSBA. It is also important to note that the Regional School Committee voted to absorb the cost of the loan into its operational budget so that THE VOTE WILL NOT REQUIRE THE TOWN TO TAKE ON THE LOAN." The math looks like this; $426,675 will reimbursed by the MSBA and the remaining $323,325 will be rolled into the final project which will once again have to be voted on. That equals $0 cost to the taxpayer with this vote! Information sessions will be held on January 18th at 7pm at the Shirley Middle School and January 31st at 7pm at the Ayer High School. This is the opportunity to ask questions and LISTEN to the answers.
Local citizen

Bedford, MA

#6 Jan 16, 2011
OK, the RSC will BORROW the sum of $750,000...
RSC voted to absorb the cost of the loan into it's operational budget so that THE VOTE WILL NOT REQUIRE THE TOWN TO TAKE ON THE LOAN. As far as I know, BUT I will stand corrected, the RSC itself has no power to borrow money. That is for the towns to do. That's why we are voting on 5th. February. Who is actually going to pay the monthly installments on the loan ?. The RSC. Where will the RSC get the money for the repayments ?. From the towns as part of it's ongoing annual budget. So, unless I am wrong, it will be the Ayer and Shirley taxpayers who pay for the loan. So, saying "That equals $0 cost to the taxpayer with this vote" is simply not true. The MA. taxpayers will pay 100% of all these moneys from gas, home, sales and liquor taxes.
My main objection to all of this is the cost of the survey. From your comment, that would appear to be $426,675. Does that include the final plans for the refurbished school ?. Does it include final plans for the new school if the survey determines that this building cannot be saved ?.
If the balance,#323,325, is to be voted on again, why are we voting on $750,000 ?. Why not just the $426,675 ?. See you on the 18th.
anotherthought

Lincoln, MA

#7 Jan 17, 2011
There seems to be a lack of logic in some of the comments I have read. The issue is simple: The schools are old and need to be fixed. Period. NEASC clearly stated that the building conditions will affect our acredidation. However, it shouldn't take something that serious to know that a major renovation needs to happen, now. Just take a tour of the MHS and you'll see for yourself. In order to get MSBA to collaborate w/ us and pay for a huge chunk of the project, we must follow their process. Otherwise, we are on our own. Numbers for the project have been flyign around for years now and the schools/towns have openly cautioned everyone to not focus on any numbers until we have a complete study done. New fire station. New police station, renovated town hall, newer/renovated library, new senior housing. It's time to focus on the schools.
Michael Pattenden

Bedford, MA

#8 Jan 20, 2011
"Also an Ayer Tax Payer". I asked about your $426,675 and $323,325 figures at the Shirley meeting, Thursday 20th. Jan. Mr. Frost said that he had not heard those figures before and would you give him a call to discuss them.
Shirley Res

Bronx, NY

#9 Jan 21, 2011
The $426,675 appears to be the minimum reimbursement that the MSBA will cover from the $750,000 loan (56.89%). The real rate is most likely to be more than 66%, up to close to 70% once the final plans are set. So the $426,675 should increase to $502k at the 66.89% mentioned above. This would leave roughly $250k for the towns to pay 55% of which falls to Ayer and 45% to Shirley based on the population.

Also, the $750k is a maximum draw as discussion with several other towns who have done this suggested we vote for the maximum up front to eliminate the need for several votes as the study progresses. The initial loan amount for 2011 should be $100-150k not the full $750k. If you do that math, approximate 100k would be paid by the MSBA and 50k by the towns.

The reality that the buildings in Ayer are 50 years old and 60 in Shirley (LAW) is an issue that will cost both towns money. The issue with the ballot and the presentations has been that nobody is providing an estimate on those costs as opposed to moving forward with the renovation in Ayer and closure of LAW. While all of this is happening, some of the costs to operate and maintain the current schools will have to be spent, again what are those costs?

The comments about the MSBA funds being taxpayer money is true, however we all pay into that fund if we buy things in MA. This is true for all people who spend money in MA, not just Ayer and Shirley. So while this is taxpayer money, it will only be spent on schools and if we don't use it other towns will - we can't get it back to use for other town projects.

The renovation of the Ayer HS has a long term benefit to both towns and the near term costs to maintain and operate the current schools could be very high (none of which would be reimbursed by MSBA). We need someone to lay out these numbers in front of the towns so that we can make an educated decision on how to best handle the current and future costs. Don't just vote NO because of some wild idea of a conspiracy, vote NO because you believe the near term costs to maintain the schools is less than the the 33% of the cost of the study (which may cost UP TO $750k). If you vote NO be educated on what that means and what it may cost down that road. I may vote NO until I understand these costs myself, but would like to vote YES.
Shirley Res

Bronx, NY

#10 Jan 21, 2011
One more thing, the costs not covered by the MSBA can be carried forward into the long term capital project if the construction project is approved. This means the $323k (or $250k @ 66.89%) would be capitalized and paid off over 20-30 years only if the study leads to a construction project. Otherwise it would be paid at te end of the study over a shorter term payback schedule which I hear could be 5 years.
Ayer Comments

Falmouth, MA

#11 Jan 21, 2011
Shirley Res wrote:
Don't just vote NO because of some wild idea of a conspiracy, vote NO because you believe the near term costs to maintain the schools is less than the the 33% of the cost of the study (which may cost UP TO $750k). If you vote NO be educated on what that means and what it may cost down that road. I may vote NO until I understand these costs myself, but would like to vote YES.
This is the most rational, logical comment I have read!
If you don't feel you have enough information then a NO vote should send a message to the RSC.
I have never been comfortable with any information George Frost has presented and would prefer to hear the details from those we elected to represent us on the school committees.
Too often they sit silently at the table as if even THEY don't understand what is being said which is simply frightening.
Cheryl

Lincoln, MA

#12 Jan 21, 2011
Ayer Comments wrote:
<quoted text>
This is the most rational, logical comment I have read!
If you don't feel you have enough information then a NO vote should send a message to the RSC.
I have never been comfortable with any information George Frost has presented and would prefer to hear the details from those we elected to represent us on the school committees.
Too often they sit silently at the table as if even THEY don't understand what is being said which is simply frightening.
Please get the information you need by asking questions, whether it be at public forum or by calling the superintendent or school committee members directly. All have put a great deal of time into researching and studying. As far as the school committee sitting silently, I can't help but take that comment personally. If I don't understand something, I am sure to ask the questions I need to in order to understand from every angle, whether it's asking collegues from other districts, superintendents, or DESE, and so are the other committee members. George Frost is a very knowledgable, honest and experienced leader who is worth listening to, but he is not the only knowledgeable person you an speak with. Feel free to get in touch w/ any members of the RSC or post your specific questions on the web site. February 5th is just around the corner and everyone voting should be sure to have their questions answered in order to make a solid decision about the future of our towns.
Pat Kelly

Lexington, MA

#13 Jan 25, 2011
Ayer Comments wrote:
<quoted text>
This is the most rational, logical comment I have read!
If you don't feel you have enough information then a NO vote should send a message to the RSC.
I have never been comfortable with any information George Frost has presented and would prefer to hear the details from those we elected to represent us on the school committees.
Too often they sit silently at the table as if even THEY don't understand what is being said which is simply frightening.
My name is Pat Kelly and I am on the Ayer School Committee and the Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have. You can find me at pkelly@ayershirleyregion.org. If you, or anyone that you know does not have enough information to make a decision then I encourage you (and/or them) to come to the public forum at the Ayer High School on Monday, January 31st at 7pm. If that time does not work, then send an email and I will respond.
Pauline Conley

Falmouth, MA

#14 Jan 30, 2011
Local citizen wrote:
OK, the RSC will BORROW the sum of $750,000...
RSC voted to absorb the cost of the loan into it's operational budget so that THE VOTE WILL NOT REQUIRE THE TOWN TO TAKE ON THE LOAN. As far as I know, BUT I will stand corrected, the RSC itself has no power to borrow money. That is for the towns to do. That's why we are voting on 5th. February. Who is actually going to pay the monthly installments on the loan ?. The RSC. Where will the RSC get the money for the repayments ?. From the towns as part of it's ongoing annual budget. So, unless I am wrong, it will be the Ayer and Shirley taxpayers who pay for the loan. So, saying "That equals $0 cost to the taxpayer with this vote" is simply not true. The MA. taxpayers will pay 100% of all these moneys from gas, home, sales and liquor taxes.
My main objection to all of this is the cost of the survey. From your comment, that would appear to be $426,675. Does that include the final plans for the refurbished school ?. Does it include final plans for the new school if the survey determines that this building cannot be saved ?.
If the balance,#323,325, is to be voted on again, why are we voting on $750,000 ?. Why not just the $426,675 ?. See you on the 18th.
From the memo given out at the Jan 25 Tri Board mtg, the ASRSC does not need 750,000 but only 250,000. Bullet point 12 reads "RSC voted to authorize borrowing up to $750,000 on 11/2/10 based on our research (actual maximum borrow of $250,000 - over two towns)". The explanation for the extra $500,000 given at the meeting was that the ASRSC did not want to have to come back to the towns for more money later.
Also in the memo was a copy of Ch 71, s 16(d) which permitted the towns to hold a town meeting to "express disapproval of the amount authorized by the district school committee" within 60 days of the vote to authorize borrowing (11-2-10)
The statute required the ASRSC to notify the Ayer and Shirley BoS of the vote no later than 7 days after the vote was taken (11-9-10)
Seems that, if such notice was received, there was a serious lack of communication to the residents of their right to hold a town meeting to discuss the borrowing.
We are now asked to approve the borrowing on Feb 5th. This vote is required by Ch 71, s 16(n): "the vote of the district committee authorizing debt [must be] approved by a majority of the registered voters in the member towns ... at an election..."
many ways to get facts

Groton, MA

#15 Jan 31, 2011
There will always be those who distort the facts when they wish to twist things to fit their preconceived notions. But there have been many public meetings (and now will be a second public forum specifically on this one item tonight) that explain why the two towns need a feasibility study that meets the requirements of the MSBA.
Any money left over will be rolled into the building project if it is approved, after the study is completed. Up to nearly 70% of that is then reimbursable by the MSBA if the project moves forward.
Much research has gone into the amount for the study, which will be borrowed by the school committee. They only need the towns' approval because it comprises more than two percent of their own budget, and that requirement is in the regional agreement.
Currently, the school district budget is only $300K, as the regional school district is not official until July 1. That's very little money, especially considering that the towns'/schools' computer infrastructure seems to have been held together with gum and a shoestring over the years.
This is an opportunity to take advantage of the comparatively low cost of doing business, one of the few advantages of living in an economically depressed time. We can take advantage of lower building costs, as well as the high reimbursement rate of the MSBA.
Our school buildings need renovation. This is the cheapest, most efficient, and most effective method of getting the required upgrades and bringing the district into the 21st century. We will get a thorough study and a real budget that take into account the educational needs of our students, the site, the current condition of the buildings, and the state requirements for the renovation.
Write to Pat Kelly, view the video he made on the AyerShirleyforSchools Yahoo group or Ayer Shirley Regional School District website or facebook page, or attend tonight's meeting to get your questions answered. There are many ways to get factual information. This vote is too important to base your information on hearsay.
Local citizen

Bedford, MA

#16 Jan 31, 2011
Where's the hearsay ?. My figures came fron the Shirley forum, Pauline's came from the presentation at the Triboard meeting. You are correct in one thing "There will always be those who distort the facts when they wish to twist things to fit their preconceived notions"
QuadTech

Tacoma, WA

#17 Jan 31, 2011
Test
Cheryl

Lincoln, MA

#18 Jan 31, 2011
Pauline Conley wrote:
<quoted text>
From the memo given out at the Jan 25 Tri Board mtg, the ASRSC does not need 750,000 but only 250,000. Bullet point 12 reads "RSC voted to authorize borrowing up to $750,000 on 11/2/10 based on our research (actual maximum borrow of $250,000 - over two towns)". The explanation for the extra $500,000 given at the meeting was that the ASRSC did not want to have to come back to the towns for more money later.
."
I think you've misinterpretted the information. Please get in touch with Pat or attend Monday's meeting to get clarification. THanks
Pauline Conley

Falmouth, MA

#19 Feb 2, 2011
Cheryl wrote:
<quoted text>
I think you've misinterpretted the information. Please get in touch with Pat or attend Monday's meeting to get clarification. THanks
Cheryl,
I did not misinterpret George Frost's explanation for the $700,000 at the TriBoard mtg... I wrote it down verbatim and there's a recording of it as well.
I am sorry you and others who exploded at Monday night's meeting are not willing to accept there are differing views from yours and
I truly hope everyone can put aside their anger so we all can move forward in the best interest of both towns.
Wacko Too

Worcester, MA

#20 Feb 3, 2011
Tax Payer Too wrote:
We pay a lot of taxes too. And we vote and we pay our bills. Paying for the schools is a part of that. We will be voting to support this project. The alternatiave will be more costly. Get informed and you would understand that Local citizen. Don't get your information from a one-sided source.
Feasibility study the next step
Nashoba Publishing
Posted: 01/28/2011 07:37:04 AM EST

Ayer and Shirley voters will be asked Feb. 5 to approve the borrowing of up to $750,000 to study the feasibility of adding to or renovating the Ayer Shirley Middle-High School on Washington Street.

While the sum seems rather large for a study, the cost has been itemized by school officials to include a project manager, an array of analyses, testing, site plan and design schematics, a full package to take out to bid.

The plan is to borrow only what's needed, as needed, up to the full amount, if necessary. The Massachusetts School Building Authority will reimburse up to 68 percent of the outlay, including the study, If the project moves forward after that. If not, the reimbursement rate would be somewhat lower.

The renovation/addition project the feasibility study is for will be a much bigger-ticket item and calls for two separate debt exclusion overrides -- one in each town. Voters in the two towns must separately approve that long-term borrowing (for the district) at Town Meetings and at the polls.

Ayer Superintendent George Frost says the study will show whether the building (Ayer High School) needs a full renovation and addition, as originally proposed, or just a magnificent makeover, top to bottom.

The alternatives seem to be either to do nothing, which would be a poor choice, or go for a new school.

When the three-town region (including Lunenburg) was still on the table, the plan was to build a new high school for at least 1,000 students. The new enrollment figure MSBA has approved now is 860 students.
The choice of a new school would be very pricey, probably exceeding $40 million, and while there may not be sufficient land available in Ayer for a new school, there likely is land in Shirley.

We think that since people have said yes to regionalization, they should say yes to the study, too.

It's the next and more cost effective step in the process to get a building sufficient to house students in this exciting new school district.

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