There have been a number of letters written to the Minuteman
in the last few weeks advocating for voting NO on the
upcoming election to “send a message” to town leaders. The
actual people receiving the “message”, however, will be the
middle school students facing three years in schools well
beyond their capacity during formative education years.
It is worth noting that opponents of the debt exclusion
agree that the projects to be funded by the debt exclusion
are necessary and worthwhile.
Opponents’ proposals are not new and have been
repudiated by the
Selectmen time and time again.
Moreover, it is doubtful
that these proposals will amount to the savings suggested.
While some proposals suggested may warrant further
investigation, none of them is going to be implemented in a
short amount of time. Waiting until all proposals are
implemented will leave us with middle schools
their capacity, with the following repercussions according
to the principals:
At Clarke and Diamond Middle Schools:
We would not be able to add half teams to accommodate the growing
enrollment because there are not enough classrooms available for consistent
Team sizes would increase to 100+ students creating class sizes of 28+ in
Exploratory course enrollments (world language, art music, engineering etc.)
will increase to 28+ students (could be over 30 students in a class).
Exploratory courses would be taught in inappropriate spaces (i.e. we may
have to convert an art or music room to a general education classroom,
inadequate spaces for engineering, music and drama as well).
We may have to limit the number of students that can
take a course such as art, music, orchestra or band due
to the size constraints of the instructional spaces.
We would have to reconsider our program of studies and
the rich variety of exploratory courses that we offer to
all students. If we don’t have the space for the
courses, they may not be able to be offered.
There will be inadequate space for our growing ELL population.
Special Education spaces will be compressed which would
compromise the services we can offer to students,
possibly leading to expensive out of district placements.
Although sharing classrooms is expected and valued, teachers and students
may be traveling to more than one location during the week due to the
inconsistent availability of classrooms for a particular section.
At Diamond Middle School:
If the new cafeteria is not built, administration will
have to schedule in more lunch periods to accommodate the
number of students and time will have to be take from
instructional periods to do so.
we still need to pass the debt exclusion in order to
fund the middle school projects
- imagine telling the builder of an addition to your house
that you will pay him off over the next twenty years.
Rather than hamper our students’ education,
let’s work on both issues at the same time. Allow the
town to borrow money to complete the middle school projects;
if the other ideas prove fruitful and worth implementing
such that the town saves money in a few years, those monies
could be used to pay the loan, therefore reducing the tax
impact to residents.
To address specific proposals from debt exclusion opponents:
Save “1.5 million dollars a year” by consolidating
“half-empty” classrooms to create 15 open classrooms
This is a hyperbolic argument. There are
half-empty clasrooms. As of the latest school
52% of classrooms are at or above
the preferred maximum size.
48% of classrooms are
below the maximum preferred size.
These classrooms are under the preferred maximum
by a median of two students, average of 2.4.
The preferred maximum is 18 for kindergarten, 20
for first grade and 24 for second grade and above.
Thus, the classrooms are 90%+ full, which is a far
cry from half-empty.
The superintendent and school committee are working on
implementing buffer zones between schools, and a
central registration system such that new students
moving to town can go to schools with more space. This
would allow for movement of new students to empty
spaces without the disruption of changing the school
of existing students (often moving only one or two
Our opponents’ plan is sadly lacking in details
as to how this savings of 15 classrooms would
occur. Essentially, at each grade, 1-3 classes would
be spread out amongst the remaining sections at the
bringing all sections to their contractual
maximum (two students over the educationally preferred
with any “extra” students
transported to a different school.
Fifteen classrooms would remain over the maximum
contractually allowed - no provision was made for
moving those students to decrease overcrowding.
Sixty-one classes would be at their contractual maximum,
meaning that any new student in those classes
would incur the cost of an overmax aide.
In two short years since our opponents’ analysis was
last performed, the number of possible classroom
savings decreased from 15 to 11. With enrollment
continuing to increase, the idea that this will save
money for more than a few years is unlikely to be
Transportation costs were not considered in the
statement that $100,000 / classroom would be
saved. The following students would have to be
Harrington to Hastings (6 Kindergarten)
Harrington to Bowman (2 Kindergarten)
Bowman to Bridge (10-1st, 1-4th, 1-5th)
Fiske to Harrington (8-2nd)
Bridge to Hastings (10-2nd)
Bridge to Bowman or Harrington or Estabrook (1-2nd)
Fiske to Estabrook (11-3rd)
Bowman to Hastings (10-3rd)
Estabrook to Hastings (1-4th, 1-5th)
9 vans/buses needed. 62 students moving schools.
The impact to individual students is not
considered. Imagine being the sole child, or parent of
the sole child from your class or grade moved to a
No details were provided as to how the students to be
moved would be selected.
Taking all this into account, you can see that it is
NOT a simple solution.
Implement a residential exclusion to shift the tax
burden from homes of lower value to homes of higher
value and rental properties / non-owner occupied
properties, in theory those more able to pay the extra
This is evaluated by the selectmen on an annual basis,
and can be done while middle school construction
Other options for decreasing taxes for citizens of
lower income are already available, and additional
ideas are being considered by the Tax Deferral and
Exemption Study committee. See the Property Tax Relief
brochure available online at
Reduce the proportion of town employee health care
insurance costs paid by the town to 50% from 85% to
encourage employees to use spousal / partner health
insurance instead, and reimburse employees for added
costs to them by a $7,000/year wage increase.
The analysis supporting this idea and savings thereof
has not been updated since 2010. In that time, the
percentage of town employees health care paid by the
town has decreased to between 75-82%. Before any changes
are contemplated, the analysis needs to be repeated with
In 2015 the town implemented a payment of $5000 to
employees choosing to use a spousal plan, or $2500 to
those opting out of an individual plan.
Any changes to health benefits must be negotiated with
all of the unions representing town employees through
coalition bargaining. The town cannot unilaterally
make such a change and would have to offer something
significant in return to get agreement from the
Our teachers - and all of our town employees - are highly valued
members of our community and their well-being is essential to the
overall quality of life in Lexington - from how our children are
taught to the basic services we all receive. Any modifications
to the health benefits package will need to be a win-win, providing
savings to the town while fully
meeting the health needs of the town employees.
Any worthwhile changes to health benefits could be evaluated
middle school construction occurs.
Alter the way commercial properties are assessed to
bring their assessments in line with building value
instead of business income.
The way commercial properties are assessed is mandated
by the state. If Lexington were to assess properties
differently the town runs a risk of appeal to the
commonwealth by the businesses, with an 8% annual
interest penalty if the business is successful.
Increased property taxes on commercial properties
would be passed on to tenants. This would likely mean
the only small businesses that could afford to stay in
town center would be banks and real estate offices.
Changing the state law on commercial property
assessment is a process that will take an absolute
minimum of three years, if a bill were ready to go
This could be evaluated
middle school construction occurs.
Vote YES on May 3rd to implement the much needed renovations
and expansions at our middle schools.
Yes for Lexington
Lisa Farrell, Treasurer
405 Waltham Street, PMB 124
Lexington, MA 02421