EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 17, 2013

Crime down, test scores up under Lantigua? Not so fast...

(Continued)

“We have seen a 33 percent reduction in auto theft - real number, not propaganda, not make believe, not adjusted. Real number,” Lantigua said about the last decade.

Before Lantigua, the drop since 2002 had been 72 percent.

THE CREDIT RATING

“Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services increased our bond rating and gave us a stable outlook.”

Only Standard & Poor’s raised the credit rating on Lawrence’s long-term general obligation bonds. It raised the rating half a notch, from BBB- to BBB, both investment grades, in August. Also in August, Moody’s Investors Service left its rating at Baa1, also an investment grade. Both companies improved their outlooks for the city’s credit ratings, meaning they do not expect to change the city’s credit rating anytime soon.

THE BUDGET

“We once again submitted a balanced budget. . . . That’s hard to do when you come into a city facing a $30 million deficit.”

Lantigua has balanced all three of his budgets, in part by borrowing money and laying off dozens of policemen and firefighters. The cops and firefighters were rehired after the state and federal governments stepped in to pay their salaries. The grant paying the salaries of 31 firefighters expires in August. The city has applied to renew it. Lantigua inherited a deficit, but overstated it in his address. It was $21 million. The deficit increased to $24 million in Lantigua’s first budget, which included $3 million of borrowed money.

SCHOOLS

“Graduation rates are on the rise.”

The graduation rate at Lawrence High School dropped 1 percent in 2010, Lantigua’s first year in office, to 49 percent. The rate jumped to 54 percent in 2011. The state took control of the schools on Jan. 1, 2012, citing chronic under-performance, and relieved Lantigua of his oversight. At graduation six months later, 64 percent of seniors received diplomas. Lantigua credited the state for the increase in his address. Although the state is in charge, the Lawrence School Committee still meets. Lantigua, who chairs it, has attended just one meeting since June.

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