I’m not a numbers guy. In fact, as dangerous as this is to mention in an engineering town, I hate math.
Hate it. That’s why most of my postings avoid mathematics. I’m an English guy, a philosophy guy, a religion guy, a liberal arts guy, but I’m not a math guy.
But sometimes, you’ve got to tread into the abyss to fight battles. So, “Once more, unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
For some inestimable reason, the Board of Education, and particularly the itinerant consultants they’ve hired to provide them political cover, seem unconcerned that there is no educational justification being offered for the closing of our schools. Additionally, they seem unconcerned about any costs whatsoever excluding that those schools will save us $300,000, $500,000, and $700,000 per year if we close them. These are estimates that Richardson has pulled off the state department of education’s website. Probably took his secretary about 10 minutes to google. For this we’re paying him $600.00 per day. To get general, state averages, we’ve paid him $12,445.91. I hope the political cover is worth it.
(Of course that doesn’t come close to the $75,000 we’ve paid Dr. Salmon and Dr. Wilson to produce a PowerPoint from slides developed by BRAC, the Chamber, and the City, who, according to Wilson, were “amazingly helpful in providing us with data” that will help us close these schools.)
They are offering no educational justification for the closings. This alone should be enough for the city and the board to laugh them out of town. Sadly, it isn’t.
In addition to this oversight, these highly respected former superintendents are refusing to offer any specific financial justification for closing schools. Richardson believes that the 300, 500, and 700 numbers are “conservative” enough to convince us that he’s telling the truth. Never mind that we have already seen schools closed in this town and the promised savings have not come close to that amount. Richardson repeatedly claims that specific data cannot be developed until after the Board has made their decisions of which schools to close.
If we weren’t talking about the very future of our communities and our children’s lives, this keystone cop routine on display every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks would be the greatest show on earth.
It would seem that Richardson’s only concern in this process is summed up in the following quote he offered a local news channel on Tuesday, June 7th: “I’ve never closed a school where somebody didn’t think it was a bad idea, but in this case we’re saving about two to three million dollars.”
“Two to Three Million Dollars”
That’s what we’re being promised. No specifics. Just a nice round figure.
Let’s assume for a moment that our past experience with the closing of Stone Middle and Lincoln Elementary are not valid. Let’s assume that Richardson’s estimates are completely trustworthy. Does saving 2-3 million dollars justify closing 21% of the schools in the system (9 of 42)? Richardson certainly seems to think it does, yet, as we’ve already seen, he doesn’t seem to like details. They would, as he said to Dr. Robinson on June 2nd, simply confuse us.
I’m not a numbers guy, but these numbers weren’t that hard to come up with. Since Richardson does consider himself a numbers guy (who hates specific numbers), I offer the following information concerning the impact closing a school has upon a community.
“How Much Is a Neighborhood School Worth?”
In 1999, two researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio published the follow study: “How Much Is a Neighborhood School Worth?” in the Journal of Urban Economics. Bogart and Cromwell make the case that closing a neighborhood school reduces property values by nearly 10%.
Ten percent of your home gone based upon the recommendation of a man who’s own home remains unaffected by his recommendations.
The median home value in the city of Huntsville in 2009 was $155,500. The recommended closings affect nearly every area and region of Huntsville City. Thus, these recommendations will cost nearly 10% of the value of the homes in nearly every region of the city.
According to the City of Huntsville there are approximately 75,000 homes in Huntsville. Assuming that 21% of the homes (15,750) are affected by the school closings, Huntsville City home values will drop by a collective amount of $244,912,500.00. [For the record, I have no problem showing my work: (15,750 x $155,500) x 0.10 = $244,912,500].
As the tax rate on property within the city limits is calculated at a rate of $5.80 per every $100 that means that the city of Huntsville will see a drop in tax revenue of approximately $14,204,925.00. [$244,912,500/$100 x $5.80 = $14,204,925]
Note: It has been pointed out to me in one of the comments below that the rate is actually $5.80 per every $1,000 rather than $100. As I read the Madison Co. Tax Assessor’s site I’ve linked to above, I didn’t think that was correct. However, I was wrong. Thanks to the comments below for helping me see it. So the lost revenue drops from $14,204,925 to $1, 420,493 per year. Which would potential mean that if Richardson’s numbers are correct, then the “savings” are at least cut in half.
I apologize for posting incorrect numbers, and I appreciate having them corrected. See, when you show your work, as the demographer should also do, the truth is revealed. Again, I apologize for my incorrect understanding of the tax rate.
That alone tends to wipe out a savings of two to three million fairly quickly, dontcha think?
And they wonder why we’ve lost faith.
PS. Quick note to Mayor Tommy Battle: You might want to ask Dr. Wilson to stop thanking you and the city for your help in collecting the data to close our schools. It’s not going to help you get re-elected.