Metro, Politics

Newton City Councilors Authorize Funding for Franklin Elementary School, Assign Hearing To Review Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan

Newton City Council approved funding for a feasibility study to renovate Franklin Elementary School during its meeting Tuesday night. 

Ward 1 Councilor-at-Large Alison Leary reported the Public Facilities Committee’s allocation of $1.15 million to analyze the feasibility of a project to improve conditions at Franklin Elementary School. The project is currently inactive, and the city hopes to start construction in the summer of 2025, according to a webpage detailing the project.

“Franklin School staff helped shape the future design through a visioning process where we all rolled up our sleeves and worked together,” the webpage reads. “We’re still a long way off from making decisions on the project approach.”

Recently, the results of the override vote in the March 14 special election granted a debt exclusion override to fund improvements to Franklin Elementary School. 

The override will allow for $3.5 million in funds to go to the school to utilize the open space more efficiently, Josh Morse, Newton’s public buildings commissioner, said in October 2022.

“The Franklin School site is approximately five acres, four acres [of which] is essentially open space,” Morse said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to create something really special not only for the Franklin School but for the entire neighborhood via athletic fields, playgrounds, basketball courts, more trees, [and] planting.”

Leary also assigned a public hearing for April 19 in front of the Public Facilities Committee to discuss a request for a grant for installing gas mains on Parker Avenue, and assigned another public hearing for May 11 to approve the proposed design for the Gath Pool Project, which will improve the public Gath Memorial Pool at 256 Albemarle Road. 

“Gath Pool is Newton’s sole public swimming pool serving 30,000 users each season,” the project’s webpage reads. “The facility is now over 60 years old with systems and equipment that is past its useful life and decks and infrastructure which do not meet [Americans with Disabilities Act] or [Massachusetts Architectural Access Board] accessibility requirements.”

Ward 8 Councilor-at-Large David Kalis reported that the Finance Committee assigned two public hearings for May 15—one to review the recommended fiscal year (FY) 2024 water, sewer, and stormwater rates, to be implemented on July 1, and the other to review the submitted Capital Improvement Plan for FY24 to FY28. 

Newton’s Capital Improvement Plan includes projections for five years of investment in the city and a financial forecast, which according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, predicts challenges moving forward.

“Funds from the general operating budget, our debt capacity, the one-time Federal pandemic funding, and other revenue sources cannot absorb all our essential capital and ongoing operating investments in a timely manner and keep us a triple Aaa rated City,” reads Fuller’s letter accompanying the submission of her FY24 to FY28 Capital Improvement Plan.

The committee received the FY24 to FY28 plan on Oct. 17, 2022, prior to Newton’s override vote. 

“The Capital Improvement Plan is mission and risk-based,” says the letter. “The investments over five years will sustain our schools, help our older adults, improve our streets, reduce our carbon footprint, and add to the vitality of our villages.”

April 21, 2023