[Your Name Here] Field: Belmont Heads Towards Naming Rights Bylaw

Ever wonder what your family’s name would look like gracing the entrance to the modern auditorium in a new Belmont High School?

How about your company’s name on the side of a new Science Wing?

Would it really bother you if the basketball court in the Wenner Field House had a local-area bank’s logo splashed across the new floor?

Those dreams could come true to you and just about anyone with deep-enough pockets – well, probably Donald Sterling shouldn’t try – if the town follows through with recommendations to create criteria for the selling of naming rights on school buildings, fields and town property.

At the School Committee’s meeting on Tuesday, May 13, Belmont School Committee’s Anne Lougee reviewed the conclusions of a report issued by a committee made up of veteran school supporters as well as Town Administrator David Kale and Belmont Savings Bank’s CEO Robert Mahoney on finding additional revenue sources for the chronically cash-short Belmont School District.

“We concluded that this is a viable option to generate revenue,” said Lougee.

In addition to supporting of using freelance development professionals who would receive a percentage of any funding they obtain, the committee endorsed the creation and approval by Town Meeting of a “naming rights bylaw” that would allow the school committee and town to create guidelines on placing individuals, families and companies names or logos on a wide array of buildings and signs.

One area that has sparked considerable interest, according to Lougee, are the court in the Wenner Field House and the playing surface at Harris Field where Belmont High School football, soccer and lacrosse are played.

The soonest a bylaw could be before Town Meeting is the anticipated Special meeting occurring late this fall.

While new to Belmont, naming buildings, playing fields, individual room and even placing ads on school buses has been gaining traction in school districts across the country from a regional school in Oregon that just established their policy to Tupelo, Mississippi’s where a bank is paying $140,000 to have its name on the high school’s blue-tinted football field for the next decade. There are even marketing firms that will find corporate sponsorship deals for schools.

The bylaw would also establish clearer standards on business and corporate advertising at both indoor and outside athletic venues, either by banners or from a LCD-display screen.

Lougee said while limited, the district already has some experience with corporate sponsorship inside several schools.

“Each year the Scholastic Publishing holds book fairs as fundraisers for several schools,” she noted.

Potentially the biggest draw for potential donors will be with the construction or renovation of a new Belmont High School. Naming rights could be offered on a one-time basis for several sections including the new science wing, computer labs, the  auditorium, libraries, music and art rooms, cafeteria and especially a new gym.

Lougee told the School Committee that several issues must be addressed before the bylaw is considered including if it would be appropriate to the district’s mission, would it be irrevocable, how long would the naming rights last and should all people and corporations be “vetted” before they lend their names to a sign or banner.

But Lougee said while naming rights is not the “$100,000 idea” that will help resolve the revenue issues, “we can expect to generate x amount of dollars.”

But she also noted that while Wellesley – with a similar geographic and town government structure as Belmont – has adopted a bylaw last year, they have yet to receive any proposals for signage or advertising.






‘Growth Spurt’ Has Belmont School Budget Bursting at the Seams

With just three months left in the fiscal year, it appears the Belmont School District will likely finish the fiscal swimming in a pool of red ink.

In a report highlighting the district’s third quarter financial status, Director of Finance and Administration Anthony DiCologero reported the Belmont’s schools are running an $220,000 deficit for the fiscal 2014 budget, which is $44.3 million excluding state and federal grants.

“There has been unanticipated events that began in the summer” resulting in the financial shortfall, said DiCologero, which Belmont School Committee member Kevin Cunningham said is caused by “a growth spurt” within the district since the bulk of the new expenses are directly related to a continued influx of students into the already brimming district.

According to DiCologero, approximately $450,000 of additional funds were spent on hiring 18 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions – many aides – to fill gaps in the system created by an increase of more than 100 students into the system.

An additional amount – not yet calculated – went to direct students services in Special Education as the actual amount spent in fiscal ’14 far outpaced what was anticipated at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, 2013.

“This continues to be a [line item] in flux,” said DiCologero.

On other unanticipated costs, the need to install a new exhaust system at the High School’s Higginbottom Pool required the expenditure of $50,000.

In addition to higher expenses, the district missed out on opportunity savings when an oil feeder pipe burst in the basement of the High School. This has delayed switching the final of the three heating burners from oil to natural gas, resulting in lost savings in the energy account, said DiCologero.

According to Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston, the deficit will be resolved with a request of $200,000 from the town’s reserve account as well as clamping down on hirings – each most be reviewed by Kingston and DiCologero before being approved this fiscal year – while also restricting spending on supplies, material and services. In addition, facility maintenance and repairs will be limited.

While the ’14 fiscal budget needs a shot of cash to finish the year, the pending fiscal year 2015 budget – which the School Committee will hold a public meeting and discuss before approving on May 13 – which stands at $46.2 million is in balance.

Early End: Belmont High Graduation June 1; Final Day of School, June 20

Sometimes, due to a quirk in the calendar, holidays are celebrated a lot earlier than what is customary. This past year Hanukkah – which is usually held in December – fell on Thanksgiving while Easter can come as soon as the third week in March.

And that phenomenon will occur this year for the graduating class of high school seniors as Dr. Thomas Kingston confirmed this year’s Belmont High School graduation will take place on Sunday, June 1 at 3 p.m. in the Wenner Field House at Belmont High.

“It’s the earliest day on the calendar that we can hold graduation,” said Kington at the Belmont School Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 29 at the Chenery Middle School, who noted that the class of 2015 will have their ceremony on one of the latest dates, in the second week of June.

Kingston also announced that unless there is an emergency in town that would force the closure of school for a day (or with the current frigid spring, the possibility of another “snow” day) the final day for the Belmont school district will be Friday, June 20. That will also be an early-release day district wide with the High School ending its day at 10:30 a.m. and all schools “out for summer” before noon.

“So those folks anticipating camp dates and vacations can start making their plans” with a date certain finally set, said Kingston.