SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 3, 2014

Projected Essex Tech bills stir concerns

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

(Continued)

“None of us can afford increases in the range of 30 to 40 percent,” said Marquis, who said officials are working to make sure the regional school merger is both affordable and that it opens on time.

Lovely said yesterday that the numbers on the assessments from the state are fluid.

“That’s what we are working on with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” she said. “We are working with them to pinpoint what those numbers are.” Conversations are also going on with the House Committee on Ways and Means.

“We can’t talk specifics, because we don’t have those specific numbers right now,” Lovely said.

O’Connell, who is working with lawmakers to provide relief to North Shore communities, said problems with the way the state calculated assessments have led to these concerns.

For example, the assessments failed to account for a number of students who attend Essex Aggie who live within the 17-community Essex Tech district, he said.

“We are getting it resolved as we speak,” O’Connell said on Tuesday.

Driscoll, for one, would like to know why the school’s per pupil cost for Salem has increased from $15,000 to $18,000.

Salem’s assessment for North Shore Tech and the charge for Essex Aggie two years ago was a combined $1.84 million, Driscoll said.

Last year, with 141 students at both schools, the city’s total was $2.14 million, a $300,000, 16 percent increase from the year before.

In the coming year, Salem’s preliminary assessment is $3.1 million, a 45 percent, $973,000 increase. This assessment takes into account a sizable increase in the number of students enrolled, from 141 to 175. It does not include increased debt service on the construction project.

While officials were expecting increases, “these numbers are staggering increases,” Driscoll said.

“The hard part is we all want the new tech to be successful,” said Driscoll, but the new school can’t take away from Salem’s education or public safety, she said.

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