Chip Ford's CLT Commentary
"Fifty-four coaching positions?" In
Stoneham alone? Oh my goodness, the hardships to come . . .
bridges may fall, children may die! They probably must, first.
Say what? This is "cutting to the bone"
enough for senior citizens to be dislocated, made homeless? Do the
Boston Red Sox or New England Patriots have 54 coaching positions?
And are the Red Sox or Patriots coaches collecting
benefits and pensions paid by taxpayers who can't afford their own
mortgages and property taxes? Have the big team owners threaten
children for a few more bucks?
Oh boy, Proposition 2˝ override failures surely are
revealing things we never before knew . . . aren't they now?
Can this be a bad thing?
The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The days of financial reckoning
By John Hamill and Thomas Ambrosino
In Saugus, officials are shuttering the library, eliminating 10 public
safety positions, closing one of only two fire stations, and cutting up
to 27 educators and support staff in the public schools.
In Northbridge, the public schools are laying off 64 teachers and 23
support staff members, moving from full-day to half-day kindergarten,
and eliminating language courses in the middle school.
These are not isolated stories. According to The Boston Globe's Override
Central, 60 percent of override votes are failing this year and cities
and towns across Massachusetts are increasingly facing similar,
difficult choices to cut education, public safety, and other municipal
These daily headlines underline what is fundamentally wrong with
municipal government in Massachusetts -- the basic business model of
local government is beginning to fail.
Three years ago, the Metro Mayors Coalition brought a group of
stakeholders and specialists together in a Municipal Finance Task Force
to coordinate a study of 25 years of municipal finances, local aid, and
local expenditures. The task force published the report "Communities at
Risk," which analyzed why almost every community -- city or town,
affluent or poor, from Cape Cod to the Berkshires -- was struggling
financially. The report is available at www.mapc.org.
For taxpayers, the story of municipal government over the past decade is
universal: higher property taxes and increased fees combined with
diminished public services and deferred investments in infrastructure.
Faced with this zero sum game, the politics of local government has
turned increasingly sour.
There is reason to hope that this gloomy picture may improve. A number
of proposals in Governor Deval Patrick's Municipal Partnership Act would
make a real difference.
For example, municipal government should have revenue options that do
not depend on residential property taxpayers. The Municipal Partnership
Act would give cities and towns options to raise revenues by modest
increases in meals and lodging taxes. Even a 1 percent local option
meals tax could raise as much as $120 million for Massachusetts cities
and towns. These options would take pressure off the property tax and
help fund critical local services.
The act also includes a local option for municipalities to join the
Group Insurance Commission, which provides health coverage to state
workers. According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the
commission's premiums rose by an annual average of 6.6 percent between
2001 and 2005, compared with increases of 13 percent annually for
municipalities. Joining the Group Insurance Commission could save
municipalities millions of dollars, while still providing outstanding
health insurance options to their employees.
The act also starts an important dialogue about the need for increased
home rule power for municipalities to manage themselves and creates a
commission focused on breaking down barriers toward regional service
These common-sense changes would help financially struggling cities and
towns, and take the pressure off residential and commercial property
taxpayers. Municipal government educates our children, protects our
lives and property, maintains our local network of roads, and provides
services from libraries to senior centers.
We cannot continue to let municipal government fail. The House and
Senate can provide meaningful relief by adopting these necessary
reforms, so that layoffs and service cuts will no longer be front-page
John Hamill is chairman of Sovereign Bank New England and chairman of
the Municipal Finance Task Force. Thomas Ambrosino is mayor of Revere
and chairman of the Metro Mayors Coalition.
WBZ TV4 -- CBS4
Saturday, June 23, 2007
High School Sports May Be Cut From Stoneham Budget
Come football season, the only spirals at Stoneham High School will be
attached to notebooks. That's because voters just defeated an override
-- spurring a slew of budget cuts, including town sports.
Now, students are still hoping for a miracle comeback.
Even though their high school athletic program may completely wiped-out
next fall, on Tuesday, the town defeated a $3 million override which
sparked a number of cuts, including the town's entire high school sports
program. For sophomore Shawn Secondini, it means the end of a long
tradition. "Sports has been my whole life its tradition in my family to
play sports. My grandfather went here my father went here and I have had
cousins go here now I m here as a generation."
"It's completely devastating… thinking about moving to a new town," said
Stoneham senior Tim Lee.
The school committee also eliminated 54 coaching positions, and the
middle school arts and music programs.
"But the voters voted against the override? I was one of them that did …
I have to be truthful," said Donna Secondini, a Stoneham parent. "I
voted against the override because its time the town look closely at the
budget and live within the budget."
But there is still hope for Stoneham. If the town votes for a trash fee
or finds other money they could restore the cuts and keep the sports.
"That's the rumor and it's a substantiated one that if the trash fee
comes back then the sports program will come back," said parent Susan
On Tuesday, Stoneham selectman will meet to consider continuing the
town's trash fee, which would bring in at least $1 million to the town.
Overrides and budget cuts have been a big issue this year. Statewide, an
estimated 33 communities have also ejected overrides this spring --
forcing many cities and towns to make tough decisions.
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