Franklin (MA) School Committee Blog

The pieces below represent the views of the individual authors, not the committee as a whole.

Do the math on overrides

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on June 24, 2010

By now, we are all well aware of the failed override vote on June 8, 2010. But are we aware of the financial implications to the community?

During the campaign leading up to the election, many of the elected officials made a concerted effort to explain how the community as a whole benefits from its education programs, even for those who voters who do not have children in the school system. We pointed to things such as higher wages, less unemployment, financial stability, less crime, and increased property values. To the right is one of the slides from an override presentation which directed citizens to the United Way’s Common Good Forecaster, among other resources.

We further argued that property values increase because parents with school-age children often choose locations based on whether they believe their kids can get a good education. Real estate agents often play up SAT scores and per student school spending as indicators of local school quality. As a result, demand for homes is often higher in municipalities perceived to have good schools.

In today’s Boston Globe, we were presented with some empirical data from people who decided to test these theories. And they tested the data in 176 of 351 Massachusetts communities. They found that municipalities with SAT scores and per pupil spending levels 20 percent higher than average experienced a 24 percent increase in nominal home value between 2005 and 2010. In contrast, a municipality with SAT scores and per pupil spending 20 percent below average experienced a loss in home value of 11 percent.

They also focused on Hull, a community which rejected a $1.9 million override in 2005. They addressed what would likely have happened to the average home value in Hull if the proposed $1.9 million override had been passed back in 2005. This tax increase would have cost the average homeowner in Hull $506 per year. Over five years, it would have totaled $2,530. However, that tax increase would have resulted in an additional $1,442 spent per pupil. This increase would result in a predicted increase in home value of 6.57 percent rather than the increase of 3.85 percent. The difference between the two predicted values results in an average increase in home value in Hull of $9,970.

Franklin has a lot to learn from this study. Our spending per pupil is 23% less than the state average. Over the last several years, we have seen the continued erosion of school services. In the last few weeks, we saw the direct impact of the failed June 8 override with the loss of another 15 teachers, increased athletic and extracurricular fees, the loss of three buses, and the difficulty with attracting and retained highly qualified teachers in our Latin programs. It doesn’t take rocket science to predict that this continued erosion is going to affect property values in this community. The question is, when will we take the steps necessary to stop this downward slide?

The study was conducted by Barry Bluestone, the founding Dean of the School of Social Science, Urban Affairs, and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and Anna Gartsman, a Ph.D. student at Northeastern. You can view the newspaper report on the study by clicking here. You can learn more about the Northeastern program by clicking here.

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