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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
April 13, 2012

Lawrence Public Schools - Request for Waiver of School Finance Regulations on Extraordinary Maintenance (603 CMR 10.02)

Pursuant to Chapter 70 of the General Laws, the Commissioner annually establishes a net school spending requirement for each school district in the Commonwealth. Cities and towns must appropriate this amount using a combination of local funds and Chapter 70 state aid, to ensure that districts have sufficient funding to provide an adequate education to their students.

The Board's School Finance Regulations (603 CMR 10) define in detail the categories of expenditures that count toward meeting the net school spending requirement. In general, most day-to-day operating expenditures are included, but most capital expenditures (such as the construction or renovation of a school building) are not. Municipalities are required to construct and maintain school buildings, but this financial obligation is above and beyond the net school spending requirement. This two-part requirement ensures that operating funds are not routinely diverted to meet capital needs. Our regulations do, however, permit districts to fund small maintenance and repair projects from their operating budgets. These so-called "extraordinary maintenance" costs are limited to $100,000 per project per school.

Specifically, section 10.06 (2) of the regulations includes "extraordinary maintenance of school facilities" in the list of categories of expenditures that are considered part of a school district's annual net school spending for purposes of determining compliance with Chapter 70. The definition of "extraordinary maintenance" in section 10.02 of the regulations reads as follows:

Extraordinary maintenance shall mean the periodic servicing, repair or reconditioning of school buildings, grounds, or equipment to extend the useful life of an existing asset, provided that the total cost per project per school of an extraordinary maintenance project shall not exceed $100,000.

Lawrence Superintendent/Receiver Jeff Riley has identified ten urgent school building repairs that he would like to undertake. These projects will address serious building problems that, in his opinion, are essential to providing a safe and healthy learning environment. As shown on the attached chart, the cost of these projects is estimated at $2.175 million and will be spread out over three fiscal years.

Because these projects exceed the extraordinary maintenance limits, we would normally expect the city of Lawrence to fund them from the city's capital budget. Lawrence is, however, one of the poorest cities in the Commonwealth and has little or no discretionary capital funding available for such purposes. Lawrence's annual net school spending requirement exceeds $150 million, which means the cost of these projects over the three-year period will represent less than one-half of one percent of the district's net school spending. The Superintendent believes this cost is manageable within his overall budget, and he is appropriately placing a high priority on addressing building issues that are interfering with student learning.

I support the Superintendent's request and accordingly recommend that the Board waive the extraordinary maintenance limit in its regulations for the purpose of allowing the Lawrence Public Schools to fund these repairs through net school spending. A motion for your consideration is attached. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have about this matter.


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Lawrence Public Schools Capital Improvement Plan 2012-2014

Last Updated: April 19, 2012
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