CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Public Employee Unions
Will we let them eat us alive?


I will be applying for the job of King Philip Regional High School Principal. Why not? ...

Iím really looking forward to this job because Iím 61, intend to be Principal for only five years and will then leave KP with the mother of all health insurance plans....

But wait, this good-bye kiss gets even better. I can go to another state and like Mr. Levine make $112,500 in another school system -- and the King Philip educational budget STILL pays for my health insurance. What a country! What a school committee!

The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Letter to the editor
By
Chip Faulkner


An agreement to cover the costs of former King Philip Regional High School Principal Michael Levine's health insurance stirred up a fuss at town meeting, with some residents labeling it as "outrageous" and a costly blunder....

Calling it a "sweetheart goodbye kiss," tax foe Chip Faulkner estimated the insurance could end up costing the town $250,000. "This whole agreement is a joke," Faulkner said.

"This is a shame on us." ...

While acknowledging the other two district towns have already passed the school budget, Faulkner advocated cutting funds from the budget "just to teach the school committee a lesson it can't get away with something like this. These people should never be re-elected."

The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Town in huff over insurance deal


Taxpayers and a Republican state senator on Tuesday supported legislation providing a new way for communities to lower property taxes and limiting the number of times communities could place Proposition 2Ĺ overrides on the ballot.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham), the bill (S 1702) would limit local elections concerning property tax overrides to once every 12 months and allow communities to lower their taxes through a local referendum without first obtaining a recommendation from the local board of selectmen....

Chip Faulker, associate director of Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT), spoke in favor of bypassing the board of selectmen's approval for Proposition 2Ĺ underrides. He said selectmen are often against referendums lowering property taxes because they are under pressure to support local schools. Collecting 10 percent of the registered voters' signature "is not easy," Faulkner added.

He also spoke in favor of limiting override questions on local ballots to once a year because some communities are faced with the same override ballot question three times during the same year, he said, a costly measure to taxpayers who need to pay for election costs, he added.

"We found that over the years if an override fails, especially if it was a fairly close vote, the proponents will try to pass it again," said Faulkner. "In a sense this is harassing people."

Len Mead, a Westborough resident, spoke in favor of Brown's legislation.

"The power to tax is the power to destroy," said Mead. He said in Westborough, taxes are 30 percent higher than the state average and called overrides a measure that "just destroys the community where I live." ...

According to Citizens for Limited Taxation President Barbara Anderson, Brown filed the bill on behalf of CLT, which has been advocating for alternative methods for underride ballot questions for several years, she said.

She said Brown's proposal comes during an "interesting" time as Patrick won the gubernatorial election "promising local property tax relief to everyone," said Anderson.

"Everyone seems to be in an agreement that overrides are a problem," said Anderson. She said more override questions have failed than passed in the past two years.

State House News Service
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Bill proposes circumventing selectmen
for tax underride ballot voted


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

This limitless public employee benefits scam must end -- or homeowner taxpayers are doomed.  We're almost at that point of damnation now, but taxpayers slowly are awakening.  At least some of them are, more of them.  But not enough.

One of the finest, most organized, local taxpayer groups -- in North Andover -- just lost to an override yesterday, 4,161 to 3,761.  This is discouraging, for we know of none more organized or effective.

But still, overrides are being more often shot down than voted in.

Driving these annual override campaigns is public employee union demands, acquiesced by elected public officials without backbone, who rubber-stamp the contracts year after year, whatever the costs to taxpayers.  Then we're told these are "fixed costs" we taxpayers must pay for their malfeasance or misfeasance.  Then we voters re-elect them.

We taxpayers are reaching the tipping point -- and the media has caught on too.  Everybody has come to recognize the problem at last.  If we can't rein in the public employee unions now, can it ever occur, or will they eat us alive?

Chip Ford

 


The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Letter to the editor
By Chip Faulkner


To the Editor:

I will be applying for the job of King Philip Regional High School Principal. Why not? I graduated from Holy Cross, possess a Masters from St. Johnís and taught in public and parochial schools for nine years during the 70ís in New York City and on Long Island. One year I was Chairman of the Social Studies department, had some real life experience moonlighting driving a taxi cab in the City and for three years was Vice President of the second largest teachers union in New York City. The teachers and other administrators will love me because working for Citizens for Limited Taxation I helped prevent their property taxes from doubling and cut their auto excise by almost two-thirds. Whatís not to like about this resume?

Iím really looking forward to this job because Iím 61, intend to be Principal for only five years and will then leave KP with the mother of all health insurance plans. I just want the plan former Principal Mike Levine received when he left this same job: the school system pays 75% of all premiums until my death and if I die before my spouse, she gets the plan for the rest of her life. Since I donít have a spouse, I intend to will the benefit to a relative with longevity so they can really milk this giveaway. Of course the King Philip school committee wonít mind giving me this deal. They have plenty of money to spend otherwise they wouldnít have even dreamt of handing out this costly benefit. Keep in mind, though, through this whole process both the school committee and I agree on one thing: weíre doing it for the children.

But wait, this good-bye kiss gets even better. I can go to another state and like Mr. Levine make $112,500 in another school system -- and the King Philip educational budget STILL pays for my health insurance. What a country! What a school committee!

Sincerely,

An eager and appreciative Chip Faulkner
Wrentham


The Attleboro Sun-Chronicle
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Town in huff over insurance deal
By Stephen Peterson


WRENTHAM - An agreement to cover the costs of former King Philip Regional High School Principal Michael Levine's health insurance stirred up a fuss at town meeting, with some residents labeling it as "outrageous" and a costly blunder.

The pact, approved by the regional school committee that authorized Superintendent Richard Robbat to sign the agreement in October 2003, calls for Levine to receive the insurance for the rest of his life, and if he dies, extend to his wife.

A citizens' petition that was supported by Town Moderator Keith Billian at the opening session of the annual town meeting in May asked the school committee to determine if the agreement was legally binding.

School committee Chairwoman Clare Sullivan told residents at town meeting Monday night that school counsel had concluded the pact is legally binding.

But that far from settled the matter as far as some residents were concerned.

Calling it a "sweetheart goodbye kiss," tax foe Chip Faulkner estimated the insurance could end up costing the town $250,000. "This whole agreement is a joke," Faulkner said.

"This is a shame on us."

King Philip Business Administrator Paul Schaefer said the cost of a family health insurance program is about $15,000 a year, with Levine and other employees picking up 25 percent of the cost.

While acknowledging the other two district towns have already passed the school budget, Faulkner advocated cutting funds from the budget "just to teach the school committee a lesson it can't get away with something like this. These people should never be re-elected."

Planning board Chairman Patrick Moore added, "We are fighting with police, we are fighting with firefighters with insurance. We know it is an enormous part of our budget."

Selectman Edward Goddard remarked, "At first blush, it seems outrageous."

The agreement was that Levine, who served as King Philip principal for about five years, would retire Sept. 30, 2004, but would serve as interim principal until June 30, 2005. A salary of $50,000 was stipulated, as was Levine becoming "eligible after retirement to receive medical insurance of the same type as other eligible retirees of the district."

Levine formerly was principal of Attleboro High School. He is now principal of East Greenwich High School in Rhode Island, a post he held before coming to King Philip.

Faulkner said he is disturbed Levine is working for another school district, but King Philip is picking up his insurance tab.

"The fact Mr. Levine sought and obtained employment doesn't affect the legality between the parties," Sullivan said, noting many public school employees in Massachusetts reach their maximum retirement benefits and retire but continue to teach out of state.


State House News Service
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bill proposes circumventing selectmen
for tax underride ballot voted
By Priscilla Yeon


Taxpayers and a Republican state senator on Tuesday supported legislation providing a new way for communities to lower property taxes and limiting the number of times communities could place Proposition 2Ĺ overrides on the ballot.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham), the bill (S 1702) would limit local elections concerning property tax overrides to once every 12 months and allow communities to lower their taxes through a local referendum without first obtaining a recommendation from the local board of selectmen.

Testifying before the Committee on Revenue, Brown said he filed the legislation after receiving several requests from senior citizens struggling to pay property taxes to support local schools and finance municipal services. Rep. Jeffrey Perry (R-Sandwich) is the chief sponsor of the bill in the House.

Brown said the bill would offer a mechanism for communities to vote on property tax "underrides" to reverse the impact of property tax increases. The legislation represents an alternative to the push to lower property taxes by delivering more local aid. Like override questions, a majority vote would be required to pass underride questions.

A proliferation of override votes, many of which are failing, has Beacon Hill leaders, including Gov. Deval Patrick, contemplating ways to deliver more local aid, help cities and towns control rising costs and raise revenues on their own, and slow the growth of property taxes.

Most town charters require Proposition 2Ĺ questions to be approved by the local Board of Selectmen before being placed on the ballot. Brown's legislation would bypass the requirement by allowing residents to file a petition signed by 10 percent of the registered voters for an underride ballot question.

Another similar bill filed by Rep. Paul Casey (D- Winchester) and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, facilitates underride ballot questions by requiring the collection of 500 registered voters' signatures. Casey did not testify today and could not be reached for comment.

Chip Faulker, associate director of Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT), spoke in favor of bypassing the board of selectmen's approval for Proposition 2Ĺ underrides. He said selectmen are often against referendums lowering property taxes because they are under pressure to support local schools. Collecting 10 percent of the registered voters' signature "is not easy," Faulkner added.

He also spoke in favor of limiting override questions on local ballots to once a year because some communities are faced with the same override ballot question three times during the same year, he said, a costly measure to taxpayers who need to pay for election costs, he added.

"We found that over the years if an override fails, especially if it was a fairly close vote, the proponents will try to pass it again," said Faulkner. "In a sense this is harassing people."

Len Mead, a Westborough resident, spoke in favor of Brown's legislation.

"The power to tax is the power to destroy," said Mead. He said in Westborough, taxes are 30 percent higher than the state average and called overrides a measure that "just destroys the community where I live."

He said it is essential the Legislature give residents the tools to have the option to lower their taxes.

Committee member Rep. Patrick Natale (D-Woburn), who is co-sponsoring Casey's bill, told Brown he is supportive of giving cities and towns additional tools to lower their property taxes.

According to Citizens for Limited Taxation President Barbara Anderson, Brown filed the bill on behalf of CLT, which has been advocating for alternative methods for underride ballot questions for several years, she said.

She said Brown's proposal comes during an "interesting" time as Patrick won the gubernatorial election "promising local property tax relief to everyone," said Anderson.

"Everyone seems to be in an agreement that overrides are a problem," said Anderson. She said more override questions have failed than passed in the past two years.

Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoffrey Beckwith told the News Service the association is "highly opposed" to both bills. He called the proposals "anti-home rule bills" that would interfere with local town charters and micromanage communities.

"Quite frankly the legislation would be a huge encroachment on local home rule and should be opposed by everyone," said Beckwith. "Communities should have the ability to make their own decisions on underride questions."

In response to arguments alleging selectmen are reluctant to place ballot questions lowering property taxes, Beckwith said: "This is a local democracy at work." He said most towns hold elections for a selectman's seat every year. "Voters have an opportunity to influence and weigh in through the local election process."

After the hearing, Committee Co-Chair Rep. John Binienda (D-Worcester) said the underride proposal is "fairly new" to his committee and has not been discussed in the past.

"We need to take a look at it, but I don't know if we should ever have the right to limit communities to what they are allowed to put on the ballot," said Binienda.

His counterpart, Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), said she hasn't received requests in the past concerning the bill's proposal. "It's a new concept we haven't had the chance to talk about," said Creem.


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