SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 3, 2014

Projected Essex Tech bills stir concerns

'Staggering increases' in assessments worry local mayors, town manager

DANVERS — Local municipal leaders are seeing red over large increases in preliminary assessments for the school budget for the new regional Essex Technical High School.

The school, a merger of North Shore Tech, Essex Agricultural and Technical High, and Peabody’s high-school vocational programs is under construction and set to open this coming school year.

Preliminary numbers show drastic increases in assessments for local cities and towns. Salem could see an almost $1 million, or 45 percent, increase in its proposed Essex Tech assessment, Mayor Kim Driscoll said.

“I am very concerned about these early numbers,” said Driscoll, who was to meet with the region’s mayors and the Danvers town manager today at North Shore Community College. Officials plan to meet with Essex Tech Superintendent Dan O’Connell and the school’s business manager, Marie Znamierowkski, before a North Shore Coalition meeting, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said.

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said his city’s $3.8 million assessment appears to be based on 51 more students than actually plan to enroll. He said the city should pay for the number of students who actually attend.

“We assumed the budget would be corrected for the 160 number, not the 211,” he said, referring to enrollment projections.

Bettencourt has met with state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, state Rep. Leah Cole, R-Peabody, and state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, and is confident lawmakers will come up with a fix.

“Those numbers, we do have issues with those numbers,” said Speliotis, whose district includes a portion of Peabody. The concern for Peabody would be a corresponding loss of state aid if the assessment remains the same.

“It’s a big hit for Peabody if it was to stay that way,” Speliotis said.

Danvers’ assessment has increased from nearly $1.7 million to $2.3 million, Marquis said, but he said that those numbers could change.

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