or we could close two and save twice as much...
so it is with surprise this morning that i read of the further money that is promised to be saved if the school department administrative offices are moved out of the bon marche building downtown, and combined with the family literacy center (from palmer street) and the lowell adult education center (from across from city hall) in that very same rogers middle school building, to have been recently vacated by the schoolkids.
forgive me if i'm lacking in imagination, but how does one save money by pretending to close a building that's not actually going to be closed?
in any case, it would seem that dr. superintendant scott and the city of lowell school committee have achieved one of their goals by capturing the attention of the city folks now panicked about what might become of the downtown once another 150 workers are vacated from its environs. i absolutely do not question that it's the right move for the school department budget to consolidate and shrink wherever possible, but, to me, this is just a fine example of why trying to settle a school budget in a vacuum isolated from all the other city budgets and considerations is only going to be a huge wasted exercise in moving deck chairs. we taxpayers are still going down with the collective ship.
see, the way i see it, the city will still be paying to keep the rogers middle school building open, and merely saving a few hundred grand by moving employees out of the downtown area and into a remote neighborhood that likely won't appreciate the extra traffic, nor be able to profit by the presence of so many additional workers. the domino effect of further neutron-bombing the already distressed downtown area can't possibly be good for anybody, either. (a large part of the savings of moving folks out of the bon marche building will be in parking expenses currently collected by the city of lowell, but not for much longer).
i sure wish we weren't in "every budget for itself" crisis mode right now. it's pretty clear from beyond the kvetching that the net result of all of this will be not a whole lot of savings, and not the city anybody would have chosen had we been free to think things through. basically, for a few dollars, our schools will have larger class sizes and fewer educational services, while our downtown will have smaller tax and parking revenues. the few business owners generous enough to be trying to keep the downtown struggling along will be taking the brunt of whatever "savings" are being discussed, and the city will still have an ugly spending crisis to face.
the real answer to all of this will take far longer than one budget cycle to fix, and it's in attracting business to the city which will employ our residents, and give us all the means by which to build the future we all prefer through both taxes and the income those employed residents will be able to spend in our local businesses. (which will themselves be paying more in taxes, too). an educated and motivated workforce is an important part of the equation, so our public schools and our local colleges should continue to be key investment priorities. which is to say, so when marty meehan says he wants to expand his operation towards our downtown, we should be falling all over ourselves to make it easier for him. (reasonably, though, so his swell head doesn't dream up too much nonsense for reality to support).
anything we can do to turn umass lowell into a destination school and not a safety net is part of the solution. so is working to ensure that the city of lowell public schools stay at the top of the list of urban systems in massachusetts. just don't pretend that moving desks between buildings here is going to have anything to do with our future success.