Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NAMI: "In Our Own Voice" Program, Thursday, July 1, 2010, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

From a friend....NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of those with mental illness.

NAMI: "In Our Own Voice" Program by NAMI Northeast Essex

Thursday, July 1, 2010, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, 63 State St., Newburyport, MA
In Our Own Voice (“IOOV”) is a free presentation given by two people living with mental illness about their journey with their diseases. The hour-long talk is appropriate for family members, friends, professionals, lay audiences and other people living with mental illness. It includes a videotape, personal testimony, discussion and enriches the audience’s understanding of how people with these serious disorders cope with reality of their illnesses while recovering and reclaiming productive lives.

For more information and to see a brief video please click here

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Local Excise Taxes: Meeting of Budget and Finance Committee

The City Council's Budget and Finance Committee (Councillors Cameron, Cronin, and Herzog) will meet Tuesday, July 20th at 7PM in the Program Room of the Library.

The purpose of the meeting will be to get public input on the proposed local meals excise tax and the proposed increase of our current local room occupancy excise from 4% to 6%.

The meeting has also been posted as a Committee of the Whole, so that other Councillors can participate.

Ed Cameron

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mass Municipal Association: Legislature OK’s budget with no further cuts in main local aid accounts

Legislature OK’s budget with no further cuts in main local aid accounts

June 24, 2010

Both branches of the Legislature today approved the $27.6 billion fiscal 2011 state budget released by the House-Senate Budget Conference Committee 24 hours earlier.

The budget cuts the main local aid accounts by 4 percent, but makes deeper cuts to numerous other programs throughout the budget due to the possible loss of federal aid.

For the second year in a row, disagreement between the branches sidetracked legislation to allow municipalities to implement changes to health insurance plan designs in order to save taxpayers and communities up to $100 million a year.

Budget negotiations were disrupted earlier this month when the fate of $687 million in expected federal Medicaid funds became unclear, threatening to remove a vital revenue source upon which the governor, House and Senate all built their budget plans.

Thirty states have banked on receiving a share of $24 billion in temporarily higher federal Medicaid reimbursement (FMAP) percentages that Congress, the U.S. Senate and the president have all supported at various times. Congressional leaders, however, have been unable to secure the necessary votes to approve the funding in recent weeks, derailing budget planning in many states. Every member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation is on record in support of immediate passage of the FMAP funds with the exception of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.

Preparing for the potential loss of the $687 million in FMAP funds, the spending plan cuts tens of millions of dollars below the budgets approved in the House in April and the Senate in May, draws $100 million from the state stabilization fund, defers the transfer of another $95 million to the rainy day fund, and axes significant health access programs for immigrants and MassHealth recipients.

The Legislature, however, protected the Unrestricted General Government Aid and Chapter 70 accounts from any cuts beyond the 4 percent included in spending plans passed in the House and Senate earlier this spring. Gov. Deval Patrick has already announced that he would not impose any additional cuts on these accounts.

The Conference Committee crafted a framework that would add or restore funds to many budget accounts if the FMAP funds do materialize during the year. This is accomplished by creating an FMAP stabilization fund into which any additional FMAP funds would be deposited, and using that fund to supplement appropriations from the state’s General Fund for certain accounts identified throughout the budget.

Other than UGGA and Chapter 70, key municipal and school accounts are funded as follows:

• Regional school transportation reimbursements are level-funded at $40.5 million, though this account would be increased by $3.5 million if the state receives the full FMAP increase.

• The Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes program is funded at $25.27 million, a decrease of $2 million compared to fiscal 2010, but the $2 million would be restored if the state receives the full FMAP increase.

• The Special Education Circuit Breaker program is level-funded at $133.1 million, though this account would be increased by $12.5 million if the FMAP funds materialize.

• Kindergarten Development Grants are funded at $22.95 million, a cut of $2.75 million below fiscal 2010, but $3 million would be added to the account if the state receives the full FMAP increase.

• The Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program is level-funded at $4.5 million, though $2 million would be added if the state receives the full FMAP increase.

• Charter School Reimbursements are funded at $71.5 million, a $3 million reduction below fiscal 2010 levels.

• The Police Career Incentive Pay Program is funded at $5 million, down from $10 million in fiscal 2010.

• Library aid accounts are funded at $15.6 million, a $3 million reduction below fiscal 2010 levels.

Municipal health insurance reform
The Senate budget bill had included a provision that would allow municipalities to make changes to insurance plans outside of collective bargaining, but the MMA and other organizations argued that the proposal had serious flaws that needed to be addressed. The Senate proposal would have guaranteed too little savings for communities and taxpayers, required permanent acceptance of Section 19 coalition bargaining, which would have given unions permanent control over every other aspect of health insurance, and would have instituted binding arbitration, which would have allowed an outside authority to impose costs on cities and towns.

The MMA had urged legislators to address these and other flaws so that meaningful reform could pass this year and local leaders would be able to implement cost savings immediately. The House and Senate could not reach agreement, however; advocates for reform pushed for a stronger bill, and union allies looked to further water down the measure.

The MMA will continue to work aggressively with all cities, towns and stakeholders to keep this top priority front and center, as taxpayers are demanding reform that will reduce costs and protect local budgets.

The passage of the conference committee budget today gives the governor seven days to review the budget before the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Link to DLS website for local aid estimates based on Legislature’s budget

Download full text of the conference committee’s fiscal 2011 state budget bill (2.4M PDF)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mayoral Salary Increase

The City Council will discuss the proposed increase during a meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, the General Government Committee, and Committee of the Whole on Monday, June 28th at 6:30PM at City Hall.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stories from the Trenches: Poop Patrol #1

Since the big brouhaha over a proposal increasing the fines for not picking up your dog's poop, this issue has been on my mind. Well, actually it's always on my it is for every dog owner at least a couple of times a day.

Speaking of curbing your cur....

True confessions -- and I believe the statute of limitations has passed for getting a $10 fine -- I have left poop unpicked up. First was during a howling blizzard along the Merrimack Riverbank behind the water treatment plant, probably in the winter of 2002/3. Even though the dog was only feet from me, I could not find the offensive matter.

Second, another slightly less howling blizzard on Walnut Street in winter of 2004/5. I simply did not risk life and limb as a snow plow (a big DPS one, not those little contractor plows) bore down on me and the dog. The poop was pushed away. Finding it was futile, so I gave up.

Tonight, seeing another dog's poop on Walnut Street curb, I picked it up....with a bag, not by hand. My dog did not seem jealous.

I may need to go behind the Sewer Plant to pick up more, so that I'll balance out the canine karmic forces.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ferraz Shawmut is now Mersen

Seems like it's just a name change....

Ferraz Shawmut, your supplier of electrical protection solutions, is pleased to announce that we are changing our name to Mersen. The name change reflects our history - and more importantly our strategic direction. Ferraz Shawmut is now Mersen.

Mersen is One Company
Ferraz Shawmut has long benefited from being part of Carbone Lorraine, a large international group which specializes in providing high-performance materials for extreme environments and solutions to enhance the reliability and safety of electrical systems. The company now consolidates its identity under one name – Mersen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Budget: The Library and the Overall Context

Like all Councillors, I’m getting many many emails and calls from citizens about the proposed cuts to the Library budget.

All the Mayor’s requested cuts including the $40,000 from a Library budget of $1.2M have to be seen in a broader context.

The School Dept has cut over 30 teacher positions over the last 5 years, the Highway Dept has gone from over 40 fulltime workers in the 1990's to 21 today, and the Police Dept is operating with less of a budget than in 2001.

Most of these problems are the result of much less State aid and increases to Health Insurance. Municipal unions have been helpful (compared to some communities) on delaying salary increases and assuming more of the burden on Health Insurance, but we’re still in a tight spot.

We're not the only ones in this predicament as Lowell proposes massive teacher layoffs, Lawrence may lay off 155 City employees, and Boston wrangles with its Firefighters Union. These communities are much bigger than we are, but the parameters of revenue and expense are the same.

The Mayor’s FY 11 Budget Proposal has the following percentage cuts (FY10 compared to FY11):

City Clerk: -1.4%

Library: -3.2%

Health: -3.7%

Fire: -4%

Police: -4%

Mayor: -4.2%

Animal Control: -6.1%

IT: -8%

Highway: -12%

Legal: -13%

Veterans: -14%

Emergency Mgmt -48%

To balance our budget this year, the Mayor is requesting among other cuts that:

  • the Fire Dept cut 4 fulltime firefighters, so we'd be down from 28 fulltime to 24; right now we have 7 firefighters per shift, so this reduction will mean one less firefighter per shift
  • the Police Dept will go without 2 patrol positions
  • Emergency Management will lose a position and that function will be handled by the Police Department

Surprisingly I’ve not gotten one call about the cuts to the Public Safety Departments.

Regarding the Library, even if we are not able to restore the proposed cuts to the Library budget, I believe we can retain our Library certification.

In FY10, the MA Board of Library Commissioners granted waivers of the FY2010 Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) to 97 libraries and denied one.

In FY09, 24 of the 26 libraries requesting waivers were granted them.

My personal feeling, and I’m only one of 11 Councillors, is that we are going to implement many of these cuts; we simply don't have the money.

At the same time we need (and I will be working) to implement additional revenue measures such as the local meals excise of 0.75% and paid parking. These additional revenue sources are always contentious; some residents have no problem paying more while for others on a fixed budget or with lower income it’s a real burden. But I think it's clear that we're hitting the point where we're we have no other choice.

The City Council will vote on the Mayor’s proposed budget on Thursday night, June 3rd. The Council can make additional cuts but cannot on its own add money to line items. However the Council can make recommendations to the Mayor on certain line items, especially if money is cut elsewhere in the budget.

Thank you,

Ed Cameron