More bad news from North officials

To the editor:

Re: “In North, hefty cost to renovate school buildings,” City & Town, Jan. 13:

We were recently apprised by North Attleboro’s leaders that the sale of the Emerald Square mall for $29 million resulted in a property assessment valuation shortfall of $138 million, where this property had previously been assessed at $167 million. In simple terms, this single transaction amounts to approximately $2,136,000 in lost tax revenue for this year alone. That shortfall will need to be covered by taxpayers through increases in real estate taxes. Not pleasant news and not an insignificant amount.

So now, as our town leaders are developing the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, we’re informed by School Superintendent John Antonucci that eight of the nine local schools are going to need $35 million-plus to repair and renovate roofs, walls, doors and windows which have not been properly maintained. Additionally, these schools need the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems updated whereby the cost to update these systems is not yet known. This yet unknown cost will be in addition to the $35 million-plus previously disclosed. Town budgets are prepared annually and funding is included within these budgets every year to complete the repair or replacement of specific items. Given that, why wasn’t the budgeted money earmarked for these maintenance items, used to address these issues as they should have been?

What happened to the money that was intended for these items? How did the money get spent? Inquiring minds want to know, especially where taxpayers, for years, have paid taxes earmarked to handle these maintenance items. And now we’re being told we need to pay again to cover maintenance items we have already paid for but were never done?

This article also provided an update regarding the high school bleachers and track projects, which have now been completed. While I don’t believe anyone would dispute the importance of athletics in assisting our children to grow, I am of the opinion that both are of equal importance meaning the conditions of our school buildings and classrooms, as well as, athletic facilities, should never be allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. But taxpayers should not have to contribute more than one time for a specific project.

Given the above, this taxpayer continues to be concerned that the town’s budgeted money is not being adequately supervised nor is the money budgeted for specific items being properly monitored to ensure that it is spent only on items for which it was earmarked.

I’ve heard it said that unpleasant news comes in three’s, what’s next?

Dick Kieltyka

North Attleboro