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Stephen Callahan: Clarifying figures in Smith Vocational letter

To the editor:

I feel that it is necessary to correct information contained in a letter to the editor that was part of the May 16 “Viewpoints” piece regarding Smith Vocational. The writer states that the city pays “$60,000 per student” and that the city pays “three quarters of” the school’s budget. Based on the 2013 city budget (detailed on page 7) the city receives $5,072,281 in tuition for out-of-district students. The total city appropriation for Smith Vocational in the current fiscal year (see page 14) was $5,870,164.

Thus the city received back 86.4 percent of the total of city funds appropriated for Smith Vocational.

The state approves the tuition rate each year based on total expenditures and the total number of students. The state-approved tuition rate for this fiscal year was $15,200 and the effective rate for our 102 Northampton students was $14,986. The city’s total budget this year for Smith Vocational (see page 67) was $6,600,841, which divided by 102 students equals $14,986.

I found the Viewpoints articles interesting and informative, but was concerned that the letter in question quoted numbers that were a distortion of the facts. I think that the Gazette should have checked for “numerical accuracy” prior to publishing this letter as part of a comprehensive review of Smith Vocational’s governance.

Stephen Callahan


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