FinComm investigates school move costs

January 13, 2012
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The Boston Finance Commission (FinComm) is investigating Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) funding of a controversial plan to move various schools, including two in Mission Hill.

“We are going to look at how the funding decisions were made and whether there is enough money for the renovations,” FinComm Director Matt Cahill said.

“We welcome it,” BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder said of the investigation. “This plan allows hundreds of students access to high-quality schools in the city.”

BPS plans to move Mission Hill K-8 and New Mission High to Jamaica Plain. Under the same plan, Fenway High School would move into the Mission Hill K-8/New Mission building at 67 Alleghany St.

The investigation comes at the request of local City Councilor Mike Ross. Speaking to the Gazette, Ross said BPS is spending “an obscene amount of money to move three schools.” But Ross and BPS disagree on the cost.

The three school moves are part of about a dozen school moves, renovations and openings approved by the BPS School Committee in November. The Fenway and Mission Hill moves are expected to take up close to 80 percent of the estimated capital costs for the projects, which are part of BPS’s $15.8 million “2012 Facilities Plan.”

About $7.4 million for renovations, including $3.8 million from BPS and $3.6 million from the city’s capital budget, is going to the Mission Hill site, where Fenway High is moving. The Agassiz building will get $2.15 million for renovations. Together, the two schools are receiving $9.55 million in capital funding. The capital budget for the rest of the plan is $2.65 million.

According to BPS figures, the entire plan, including capital costs and other costs, is budgeted for $12.2 million, but that does not include the money coming to the Fenway from the city budget, which brings the total up to $15.8 million.

In a letter to the FinComm, Ross complained about those costs, but he appears to have low-balled the overall plan costs, saying they would come out to about $14 million.

He also said renovations to the current Mission Hill school building and the Agassiz building would end up costing $9.9 million, when it appears they will cost about $9.5 million. It is not clear where Ross’s numbers come from.

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