CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

"An embarrassment of riches" goes public


House lawmakers approved sweeping new budget-cutting powers for Gov. Mitt Romney last night, but with a short leash that slaps strict limits on where and how long Romney can wield an unfettered budget ax....

Local officials were resigned last night - insisting it's even more important now for Romney to listen to municipal leaders' suggestions on how the state can help them survive the cuts.

"All we're saying is don't kill us all at once," said Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

The Boston Herald
Jan. 15, 2003
Pols give Mitt power to cut


Though city mayors and town managers are grappling with proposed budget cuts that they deem devastating, their payout from the state has escalated dramatically over the past decade, helping many municipalities to amass healthy reserves.

Until this year's reduction, the state's aid to localities was on a long trajectory skyward, more than doubling from $2.3 billion in 1992 to $5.6 billion last year....

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has argued against local aid cuts - his State of the City speech last night urged the governor to allow more city taxes - but Boston officials have refused to detail their current reserves. Last year, the city's free cash was estimated at $182 million ...

The Boston Globe
Jan. 15, 2004
Now pinched, localities rode high tide of state aid for years


Disaster looms for our cities and towns. Schools will be devastated. Ambulances won't answer your call. Idled plows will leave the streets impassable.

If I sound a little overwrought, that's because, after spending Friday morning at the Massachusetts Municipal Association's annual meeting, I've got a bad case of the vapors....

[S]ince a low point in fiscal 1992, total local aid has risen from $2.3 billion to $5.5 billion, or 140 percent. (Noneducation local aid is up from a 1992 low of $919 million to $1.41 billion - an increase of 54 percent.) ...

Finally, municipalities are in better fiscal shape than the state. Their tax revenues grew 6.3 percent in the last fiscal year, while the state's plummeted 14.6 percent.... And the 150 municipalities that have thus far reported the figures had a total of $444 million in free cash and stabilization funds as of July 1, or 7.5 percent of their fiscal year '02 budgets.

The Boston Globe
Jan. 15, 2003
Getting beyond Chicken Little on local aid cuts
By Scot Lehigh


But as these cuts hit municipal budgets, local officials will have to answer some questions as well, beginning with this one: What happened to the money that flowed in during the fat years?

A MetroWest Daily News editorial
Jan. 15, 2003
The ups and downs of local aid


But the bottom line is the bottom line and Romney apparently is the only person capable of accepting reality in a world filled with charlatans like Menino, O'Sullivan and 200 overpaid, underworked legislators.

An Enterprise editorial
Jan. 14, 2003
Local aid cuts will be painful but will help


Looks like we might get a chance in the next few months to see if those who run and staff the public schools in our area communities are really "for the children."

After all, that's their mantra when they are seeking money from us, the taxpayers....

What we were hearing in 1999, in the pages of The Eagle-Tribune, was that communities across the region, were sitting on an "embarrassment of riches ... stashes of surplus taxes." ...

Taxpayers have sacrificed year after year "for the children." It's time for government to prove it believes that slogan with more than words.

The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
Jan. 14, 2003
How about sharing our pain?
By Taylor Armerding


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Pardon me while I step out of my role as your reporter and commentator. I also have to fulfill my role in our annual fund-raising effort as well (one of my many hats in our four-person staff). This is, after all, that time of year again.

So today's Update will be short and sweet ... or at least my commentary will be ... so that I can get back to work on what keeps CLT alive and your voice on Beacon Hill. Watch the mail over the next couple of weeks for your 2003 CLT membership renewal package -- it will include a copy of The Activist News.

We can't keep up this taxpayer defense without your continued support and involvement.

But I do want to keep you and our membership informed. About all I really have to add to the news of the day anyway is, persistence pays off: our persistence concerning "An Embarrassment of Riches" among the cities and towns seems to have finally been recognized and has caught on.

Nobody's buying the mayors' knee-jerk whining this time, nobody!

Chip Ford


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Pols give Mitt power to cut
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

House lawmakers approved sweeping new budget-cutting powers for Gov. Mitt Romney last night, but with a short leash that slaps strict limits on where and how long Romney can wield an unfettered budget ax.

After a two-hour debate, Speaker Thomas M. Finneran said that as loath as lawmakers were to let Romney slash local aid to cities and towns, they had no choice because the state is "tapped out."

"For better or for worse, they're going to begin to share some of the reductions in finance that the state has been struggling with since September of 2001," Finneran said.

The bill's sudden passage on a 124-28 vote capped two days of furious behind-the-scenes negotiations and public posturing in which House lawmakers demanded more details from Romney.

Romney said last week he would cut $200 million from the $5.5 billion local aid account, if a projected $600 million deficit in the current year materializes.

While the bill still requires Senate approval, Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman applauded House members for taking a step that had set most of the state's mayors howling in protest.

"The House should be commended for recognizing the serious fiscal situation the state finds itself in," Feddeman said, promising Romney would make any cuts "fairly and equitably."

Local officials were resigned last night - insisting it's even more important now for Romney to listen to municipal leaders' suggestions on how the state can help them survive the cuts.

"All we're saying is don't kill us all at once," said Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Even House members who supported the bill emerged from the debate with an angry edge, saying they want to put Romney's feet to the fire over his campaign pledge to balance the budget without major cuts.

"I didn't make those promises, so let him do it," said Rep. Carol A. Donovan (D-Woburn). Finneran shipped a leadership version of the bill to the House floor late yesterday, after House lawmakers hashed through six hours of internal debate over two days of private meetings.

While Romney wanted unlimited cutting powers in perpetuity, the leadership bill slapped an 18-month sunset provision onto the expanded powers.

Even that foreshortened timeline was too much for rank-and-file lawmakers, who voted 138-13 to scale the sunset back and force Romney's expanded cutting powers to lapse on June 30 this year.

Rep. Thomas J. O'Brien, who filed the amendment shortening the sunset, said 18 months was "a bit lengthy" to deal with a deficit in the current fiscal year. "It makes no sense to extend the powers beyond this fiscal year," O'Brien (D-Kingston) said.

The bill allows Romney to cut any local aid account, but it also requires him to state "the reason for and effect of" any cut he makes - a provision Romney had deleted.

While granting Romney broad authority to cut programs like education aid, the bill bars the governor from touching the Legislature, constitutional officers and the courts.

Finneran said lawmakers were aiming to protect the "constitutional separation of powers."

House members also moved to hold Romney to his promise that he would only look to local aid to solve part of the deficit - adopting an amendment limiting the local aid cut to one-third of the shortfall.

That plan could backfire if House leaders' predictions of a $900 million year-end deficit are realized.

House lawmakers also adopted an amendment requiring any local aid cuts to be inflicted on equal proportions on all cities and towns. "Clearly there's no perfect solution here," said Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), sponsor of both amendments. "This is an opportunity to try to do it in the most fair and equitable way possible."

And in a move that could widen Romney's legal exposure, the House deleted his proposed six-month deadline for lawsuits over cuts.

Finneran's lieutenants methodically shot down attempts to weaken the bill, including proposals to set up a $200 million loan fund to offset the local aid cut, and to force Romney to tap the state's last $300 million in "rainy day" reserve funds before making cuts.

The Senate is expected to approve the bill Thursday, with some variations - including a lengthier sunset provision.

Elizabeth W. Crowley contributed to this report.

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Fact Sheet on Local Aid

Local aid has grown an average of 7.5 percent annually over the last decade:

For the last 10 years, FY93-03, cherry sheet aid more than doubled - from $2.5 billion to $5.1 billion. This is an average annual growth rate of 7.5 percent.

Cities and towns shared in the last fiscal crisis:

While the Massachusetts Municipal Association is insisting on no local aid cuts during this grave fiscal crisis, during the last one there were three years of cuts in a row, reaching a 10.8 percent cut in FY92, on top of a 4.7 percent cut in FY91 and a 7.7 percent cut in FY90.

Growth in local revenues has been stable, while state revenues have fluctuated:

State revenues are extremely volatile. The income tax, especially capital gains, as well as corporate and business taxes, have collapsed as a result of the recession. Property taxes have continued to grow. In FY02, property taxes grew 6.3 percent, due primarily to new growth, but state revenues declined 14.6 percent.

State government has sharply reduced its payroll, but not local government:

According to the monthly employment survey, Massachusetts state government has shed 5,000 jobs from January, 2001 to November, 2002. During that same period, local government employment figures have increased 5,200.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, January 15, 2004

Now pinched,
localities rode high tide of state aid for years

By Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff

Though city mayors and town managers are grappling with proposed budget cuts that they deem devastating, their payout from the state has escalated dramatically over the past decade, helping many municipalities to amass healthy reserves.

Until this year's reduction, the state's aid to localities was on a long trajectory skyward, more than doubling from $2.3 billion in 1992 to $5.6 billion last year. Cities and towns, forced to comply with demands of the state's education reform agenda, came to rely on the state funding, which was boosted in accordance with the 1993 education reform measure. The state now contributes an average of 28 percent of municipal budgets, up from 21.5 percent in 1992.

As state money flowed into schools - particularly poorer, urban districts - some cities were basking in the economic boom, creating healthy reserves and leftover "free cash" funds that blossomed during the 1990s. According to the state Division of Local Services data, the state's 351 municipalities started fiscal year 2002 last July with a total of $413 million in reserves - funds set aside for emergencies or equipment purchases and building repairs. That's more than four times what they had a decade ago. Most local governments also had "free cash," money left unspent, at the end of fiscal 2002. Communities had a total of $559.4 million in free cash at the close of the fiscal year, nearly six times the sum they had in 1992, which followed a recession and three consecutive years of local aid cuts.

To some fiscal analysts, the numbers indicate that the time has come for municipalities to take a bite out of their own budgets and reserves - though most communities still may not be able to weather cuts as large as the 10 percent reduction they expect from Governor Mitt Romney.

"They should turn to their reserves - this is the moment - but just as it hasn't been adequate at the state level, it's going to be, in most instances, inadequate at the city or town level as well," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a budget watchdog group.

"Some communities who have been fortunate in terms of the amount of state aid, economic growth, and their own management may be able to ride this out with relatively minor damage," he added. "But I think that will be only a small fraction of the 351 cities and towns."

Haverhill, for example, has no reserves and reports a deficit of free cash, according to the state Department of Revenue. Other cities have so little surplus on hand that its use would be spread thin in a municipal budget; Revere posted more than $600,000 in free cash last year, but no reserves. Others, like Cambridge, are flush with cash. The city does not tax to its maximum limit and could take in $30.4 million more if it decided to raise property taxes. Meanwhile, it has $28.7 million available to spend in free cash, and had additional reserves of nearly $9 million last year, Department of Revenue data show.

But Cambridge Mayor Michael A. Sullivan noted that the city does not rely heavily on state aid, which represents just 12 percent of the city's budget, according to Department of Revenue statistics.

"For communities that have taken the effort to look at management, and to purposefully watch it, I don't think we should be harmed for our ability and desire to do that," Sullivan said. In a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey yesterday, he argued that cities with surpluses should not have to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden.

Some cities were able to use their flourishing real estate markets to shore up their tax bases in recent years and were better able to handle the downturn than the state, whose budget relies on taxing residents' and businesses' income rather than property. While state revenues dipped 14.6 percent last year, property taxes grew 6.3 percent, according to Romney's office.

New development does not count under the state's 2.5 percent cap on tax growth, so Boston was able to tack on the value of new construction, and property tax revenue has grown as much 6.5 percent in recent years. This year, new development generated $16 million more than officials had even anticipated and absorbed the city's $14 million budgeted reduction in local aid, said Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a business-funded city watchdog group.

In the meantime, Boston was a big beneficiary of the uptick in state aid, and its reliance on the aid increased over time. In 1992, 21 percent of Boston's revenue came from the state; last year, more than 31 percent did. While state aid was focused on education, helping to increase teachers' salaries, reduce class sizes, and recruit teachers to comply with the Education Reform Act, Boston also addressed quality of life issues. With a diminished crime rate and a blossoming economy, the city has benefited by mayoral initiatives in recent years to refurbish playgrounds, plant trees, and plan events for the elderly.

"It was money that was used not only in terms of trying to improve education ... but also just to make the city as a whole a more attractive place to live and work," Tyler said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has argued against local aid cuts - his State of the City speech last night urged the governor to allow more city taxes - but Boston officials have refused to detail their current reserves. Last year, the city's free cash was estimated at $182 million, and Menino had considered using $12 million to offset budget reductions. Boston would lose some $27 million in local aid if Romney cuts 10 percent.

Tyler said he believes Boston should now be in a position to tap as much as $30 million, though he cautioned that the city should keep a cushion because the coming years are expected to be lean. Neither budget director Lisa Signori nor Menino press secretary Carole Brennan returned phone calls for comment.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Getting beyond Chicken Little on local aid cuts
By Scot Lehigh

Find the flashlight. Grab the first-aid kit. Run for the basement.

Disaster looms for our cities and towns. Schools will be devastated. Ambulances won't answer your call. Idled plows will leave the streets impassable.

If I sound a little overwrought, that's because, after spending Friday morning at the Massachusetts Municipal Association's annual meeting, I've got a bad case of the vapors.

Governor Mitt Romney went to the association's meeting hoping for a little cooperation with the deficit he faces in the current budget. As it now stands, Romney has emergency powers to slash some state spending but not local aid. Given that local aid amounts to about a quarter of the state budget, holding it harmless means much deeper cuts in human services. So Romney told the mayors and municipal officials that he would be asking the Legislature to let him cut local aid as well. Worst case, there would be a 5 percent reduction in the amount cities and towns receive this year.

The new governor was essentially asking the local officials to share the pain. He might as well have asked Old Nick for a pitcher of ice water, for Romney had barely departed when the mayors began sketching out the calamities that would ensue if he got his way.

Their solution? Romney should raise taxes (or borrow) to maintain local aid. Now, as most any competent budgeteer will tell you, there is slack in almost every budget. "To say that none of the $5.5 billion in local aid can be cut is crazy," says one former Democratic municipal official. "The duplication of services that exists between state and local government is enormous."

But what you got from the assembled mayors were divinations of disaster dire enough to make a doomsday prophet blush - punctuated by comments that were positively self-parodic. Cut to North Adams's John Barrett, who demanded that Romney raise taxes - and then noted that if the governor pared local aid 5 percent, the reduction to North Adams would be "almost half of the reserves that we have left available." Reserves halved? Case closed: This is a crisis of unprecedented proportion!

After listening to the mayors, I tried to get a simple answer from the Municipal Association's executive director, Geoffrey Beckwith: What percentage reduction could municipalities absorb and still maintain a decent level of services? And tried again. And again and again and again.

"Our preference would be to talk directly to the governor about that," was the best I could get. In other words, the MMA wants to posture in public before it talks turkey in private. So let's move beyond the Chicken Little squawking to some facts.

In the last fiscal crisis, a yawning budget hole also meant that local aid had to be reduced substantially. But when Governor Weld eased the way for municipalities to hold Prop. 2 overrides to recoup in a temporary property tax increase what they had lost in local aid, the plan went nowhere. Faced with pushing a tax hike themselves rather than having someone else raise levies for them, all but half a handful of mayors opted to forgo new taxes and suddenly mustered the will to trim their budgets instead.

Second, since a low point in fiscal 1992, total local aid has risen from $2.3 billion to $5.5 billion, or 140 percent. (Noneducation local aid is up from a 1992 low of $919 million to $1.41 billion - an increase of 54 percent.) Even under Romney's worst-case scenario, cities and towns would still receive $170 million more this year than they did in fiscal year 2000, a budget that hailed from the sunny uplands of fiscal prosperity.

Finally, municipalities are in better fiscal shape than the state. Their tax revenues grew 6.3 percent in the last fiscal year, while the state's plummeted 14.6 percent. Localities added 2,800 employees from November 2001 to November 2002, while the state cut 4,900 jobs. And the 150 municipalities that have thus far reported the figures had a total of $444 million in free cash and stabilization funds as of July 1, or 7.5 percent of their fiscal year '02 budgets.

So, though mayoral rhetoric brims with apocalyptic predictions, Romney's proposed local aid rescission shouldn't be disastrous. And if city halls around the state honestly can't deal with a 5 percent reduction without major disruption? What that really proves is that the figure in charge is merely a good time mayor and not a manager for all seasons.

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The MetroWest Daily News
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Editorial
The ups and downs of local aid

Cutting local aid six months after cities and towns began spending it is no one's idea of good government practice. Neither is approving a budget based on groundless optimism about an economic recovery.

The latter sin was committed last year by the Legislature and former acting Gov. Jane Swift. They enacted a budget on the assumption that the economy would be rosy in the first half of 2003, a guess that now appears to be off by $600 million or more.

It is that mishap that Gov. Mitt Romney must now repair, and cutting this year's local aid is just one of the distasteful strategies. The governor already has the power to make emergency cuts in areas that account for 63 percent of the budget, mostly in the area of health and human services. He is asking for new powers to cut from the parts of the budget previously off-limits, primarily aid to municipal governments and school districts.

The numbers are daunting: Swift already slashed $200 million last October, mostly from human services. Romney says he'll have to cut another $600 million, a third of it from local aid. That will still leave $400 million to be cut from other accounts, many of them serving the state's neediest citizens.

Romney proposes cutting 10 percent of the local aid payments through the rest of the fiscal year, which translates, he said yesterday, to a $3.6 percent reduction in the $5.5 billion appropriated for the year.

The response from city and town officials has been predictable. The effects will be "devastating," they say. Municipal budgets are already strained by increases in the cost of health care, by contracted pay increases and by a winter that has already drained the snow removal accounts of many cities and towns. We feel their pain.

But as the pain spreads from the state to the local level, it's helpful to put Romney's proposed 3.6 percent cut in context. According to the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation, here are the increases in local aid over the last eight fiscal years:

1995:   9.4 percent

1996:   9.2 percent

1997:    9.1 percent

1998:  10.5 percent

1999:  10.1 percent

2000:   9.1 percent

2001:   8.1 percent

2002:   2.4 percent

These statewide numbers don't hold for every city and town. Some got more, some less. Likewise, different communities spent it differently. Some built up rainy day accounts that will help them cope with whatever cut comes down the pike in the next few weeks. Some put it into new hires, new programs or salary increases that will be difficult or impossible to undo.

House members have asked Romney for more specifics. Which accounts will he cut from? How will he make sure every municipality is treated fairly? What are the revenue projections, and how will he adjust his plans if the numbers change?

All are good questions and they should be answered before the governor is given more authority. But as these cuts hit municipal budgets, local officials will have to answer some questions as well, beginning with this one: What happened to the money that flowed in during the fat years?

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The Brockton Enterprise
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Editorial
Local aid cuts will be painful but will help

The state's budget crunch has brought out the whole cast of characters, from those who think the sky is falling (Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who says tax hikes are the only option) to those who think there is plenty of cash lying around (Brockton teacher union president Joseph O'Sullivan, who says teachers will strike if they don't get an exorbitant 6.84 percent pay raise this year).

The reality is somewhere in between, although elected officials who are supposed to do something about the out-of-balance budget have abdicated their responsibility and left it up to Gov. Mitt Romney to do the hard work and take the heat. Romney is the only person willing to deal with the infinitely disparate interests that have much at stake in how the budget gap is closed.

Examine this scenario: Menino is plotting to tax everything from movies to meals so Boston doesn't have to cut back trash pickup from three times a week to two times a week. What homeowner around here gets trash picked up twice a week?

On the other end of the spectrum, the Brockton teachers union and School Committee will continue negotiating today. The teachers have rejected a three-year contract with nearly 12 percent in pay hikes and generous benefits. If the School Committee were responsible, it would take that offer off the table. How can any public employee (except a state legislator) accept a pay raise in such dire circumstances?

These are two of many reasons people should support Romney's plan to put local aid on the table. Romney needs this authority so he isn't limited to making cuts to social services that would disproportionately affect the state's most vulnerable residents (Jane Swift's cuts already did that). Local government needs to share the burden of reining in government spending from trash pickup to teacher salaries. Some local governments are sitting on sizeable reserve funds while others need to make tough decisions about priorities and challenge themselves to think outside the box and save money.

European police, fire and public works departments get along with smaller, less expensive and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Why don't ours? Do public safety officers really need $30,000 Chevy Trailblazers with all the goodies?

There is fat remaining in many cities and towns and Romney wants that slimmed down. O'Sullivan says there's not much fat in the Brockton school system, but there is especially in the administrative offices. Romney is seeking flexibility to manage the state's finances, so he should provide the same for local governments. Any barriers the state has thrown up that prevent local government from operating more efficiently need to be eliminated, and promptly.

Local officials should be prepared to make their case to taxpayers about what's essential. Tax hikes cannot be considered as long as raises are being offered. The Legislature in no way should get credit for anything. The cowards on Beacon Hill will probably give Romney the authority he wants because they don't want to take the heat for making the cuts. They have proven they are incapable of managing the state's finances and are best left on the sidelines.

The problems that need to be fixed from the Quinn bill to the Pacheco Law are of their own making and they refuse to do anything about them. Romney will be no hero to most people if he balances the budget. The pain will be spread far and wide and few taxpayers will be able to see the forest for the trees.

But the bottom line is the bottom line and Romney apparently is the only person capable of accepting reality in a world filled with charlatans like Menino, O'Sullivan and 200 overpaid, underworked legislators.

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The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

How about sharing our pain?
By Taylor Armerding
Staff Writer

Looks like we might get a chance in the next few months to see if those who run and staff the public schools in our area communities are really "for the children."

After all, that's their mantra when they are seeking money from us, the taxpayers. More like a guilt trip, actually, but it is a constant refrain: How can you even think of opposing an override for that new $60 million school, for that new union contract, for that essential new program, when it's only going to cost you a couple hundred more per year for 20 years? Aren't your children worth that much? Sure, inflation was only 2 percent this past year, but how can you oppose an 8-percent budget increase? It's for the children.

So, one might think that when economic times get truly bleak, and there is a need for all sectors to sacrifice, they would be more than willing to do the best they can with less. After all, it's for the children, right?

Don't hold your breath. With fledgling Gov. Mitt Romney seeking authorization to cut local aid for the last half of the fiscal year in order to balance the state's books, the word from a couple of our local superintendents -- Wilfredo Laboy of Lawrence and Arthur Tate of Haverhill -- is that rather than work within those limits, they will simply shut the schools down early.

I suppose there's a good chance they'll each be nominated for president by a few thousand deliriously happy students whose summer vacation could begin in April or May, but it does make their sloganeering about children sound a bit hollow.

It makes me recall my own fifth-grade teacher, Miss Smiddy, who used to ask me, when I was whining about this or that, "Are you going to be a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person, Taylor Armerding?" In the case of Superintendent Laboy, the glass is clearly half empty. Heck, even when it's 95 percent full, it's more than half empty in his view, since the risk to the Lawrence schools, funded entirely by the state, is that their budget could get cut from $110 million to $104.5 million.

That's significant, and Laboy wouldn't be a good advocate for his system if he didn't protest at all, but it is a vast stretch to say, as he did, that it will "completely dismantle us." Any good administrator should be able to cut 5 percent without shutting the entire operation down. Many area households, confronted with wage freezes or layoffs, are having to do that and more.

And to say that he'd rather shut the schools down than see students get less than a "quality" education rings hollow as well. The school budget in 1999, only four years ago was $96.2 million. That's more than $8 million less than this year, even with the threatened cut. Did none of the kids in 1999 get a quality education? That's not what we were hearing at the time.

What we were hearing in 1999, in the pages of The Eagle-Tribune, was that communities across the region, were sitting on an "embarrassment of riches ... stashes of surplus taxes." Haverhill and Lawrence were among them, having recovered from debt to being "firmly in the black."

If that money is gone, it's not because taxpayers got it back. It is because government spent it. So how about school departments sharing our pain, instead of just feeling it? As Laboy points out, 80 percent of his school budget is salaries. A temporary 5 percent pay cut across the board could close most of that gap. Why would any school staff oppose such a thing, when a quality education of the community's children is at stake?

Taxpayers have sacrificed year after year "for the children." It's time for government to prove it believes that slogan with more than words.

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