I know I’ve been all over the Dracut School Committee of late, but this one isn’t a knock on them. Just an opinion.
Actually, I’m happy to give the board credit for understanding that revenues, along with good management, are what will enable the school district to provide a quality education to the young people of our community.
But I really hate the idea of selling space on fences on school property to fund the school budget. It just seems wrong.
Before he moved on to his new position in Georgetown, School Business Administrator Terry Wiggin made a very thorough presentation to the committee detailing the revenue potential of our athletic fields. Assuming all the space was sold, his estimate had the “alternative revenue” income at $92,000. That same number could then be reduced from our athletic budget, making the sum available for the general education budget.
Recreation groups typically use this method to pay for uniforms and other related costs, but signs for subsidizing a school budget are a new concept entirely.
Without a doubt, other departments in town have similar revenue challenges, and opening this door could find us using more town assets to generate money.
Let’s take the Fire Department. Chief Gaudette has several pieces of high visibility real estate under his control, fire stations, that would make great sign locations. As is the case with school property, because they are municipal uses, town sign bylaws would not apply. Banners draped across the tops of the station bays with, we’ll say, “this fire protection service sponsored by “Home by Whitey,” would be worth a pretty fair sum. For an extra few bucks, Whitey could also get his logo on the rescue unit, fire trucks and the chief’s car. Package deal gets you more exposure.
Police Chief Richardson would be limited, which of course raises the fairness issue. But as creative as he is, it wouldn’t take him long to figure out that the cruisers could be fitted with roof-top sign racks that could be sold individually or as a fleet package. I’m guessing he could get at least 500 bucks a car. Chief’s car, $1,000. Calling the police station could get you a commercial message before sending you to the appropriate office. This of course would be billed out by the message.
Public Works have those great electronic signs that alert you to traffic changes. Why not make more use of them? Parked at intersections with commercial messages on them, they could become an alternative revenue cash register. Mike Buxton’s official car would be perfect because it is unmarked and would provide lots of advertising space. As a side benefit, it would make it easier to tell if you’re waving to Mike or the School Department’s supervisor of buildings and grounds.
The serious part of this is that we live in a community where the business community has been very generous to good causes. How much of the alternative revenue would come at the expense of our Scholarship Foundation Telethon, or any one of the many fundraisers that are run by volunteers in our community? How would taxpayers feel about their property being used to advertise private businesses, or a new employee coming on board to sell promotional opportunities?
Kudos to School Committee members for looking at the issue of revenue, but let’s hope they find better options.
Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-AM from 6 to 10 a.m.