Friday, January 28, 2011

FY 12 Local Aid Projections

From the Dept of Revenue:

The FY2012 local aid estimates based on Governor Deval Patrick’s budget proposal have been posted to the Division of Local Services’ web site at the link below:

The Governor’s budget proposal recommends funding FY2012 Chapter 70 at $3.990 billion or $139.3 million higher than FY2011. The Governor’s budget also recommends reducing Unrestricted General Government Aid by $65 million to $834.0 million in FY2012. Most other cherry sheet accounts are funded at the FY2011 level.

Please be advised that these estimates are based on the appropriation levels appearing in the Governor’s FY2012 budget proposal (House 1) and may change as the legislative process unfolds and proposed appropriation levels change.

Please note that Charter School and School Choice assessments may change significantly when updated to reflect spring enrollment data and final tuition rates.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) has published the Chapter 70 aid calculations, minimum contributions and net school spending requirements on the Office of School Finance website at:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Paid Parking on the Agenda Tonight

Here is the Status Quo:

We have THREE separate parking approaches.

City----Street and lots are free, timed, with limited enforcement; Green Street lot is usually jammed not just in the summer but all year. Employees downtown are frequently doing the three hour shuffle.
NRA----Parking is free 75% of the year, it’s dirt, and priced astronomically high during the summer, in fact it’s so high that few locals will even bother to use it during the warm months.
Waterfront Trust---Parking is paid 24/7 and rarely used except when the NRA is charging an arm and a leg or the NRA is full during the warmer months or when you're desperate to get into the Black Cow and you have no choice.

In September 2010, I had sent a survey via email to 107 Ward 4 constituents.

These are constituents with whom I've had contact in my 3 years on the Council. They are not necessarily friends or supporters; in fact, many of them have had disagreements with me; they are of all political persuasions and ages; most have been in Newburyport for at least 15 years.

I received 56 responses to the survey which is over a 50% response rate.

I don't claim to be a statistician. 56 opinions out of approximately 1900 registered Ward 4 voters might not seem like much. But I compare this to pollsters, such as Suffolk University which accurately predicted both the Scott Brown-Martha Coakley race and the Charlie Baker-Deval Patrick race with a survey sample of 500 out of 4.1 million registered voters. So I think my survey has at least some validity. The results are here:

I want a parking program that has four related elements:

1. net revenue gain for the City (and I have no opposition to the NRA and Waterfront Trust also sharing in this net revenue since they also use their income to provide public benefits)

2. a mechanism for the City to better manage and direct parking demand utilizing the available supply in a way that will provide better access to residents, visitors and downtown employees

3. a unified approach which allows for operational simplicity to the greatest degree possible and allows for future modifications to the parking program. A unified approach allows the City to manage the parking program and allows the NRA and Waterfront Trust to perform their public missions

4. and FAIRNESS---so that local residents and downtown employees bear as little of the brunt of this change.

I am not in favor of all elements of the current proposal, but I will support it as the best way to move us forward.

The benefits for residents:

1. additional revenue for the City to maintain the services that we need with most of that coming from tourists for whom paid parking is the expectation since it's in place from Boston to Salem to Rockport to Gloucester to Salisbury to Hampton Beach to Portsmouth. With talk on the Council of lowering the Resident Pass to a nominal price, the burden on locals will be even less.

2. access to downtown parking supply so that all the parking lots are used not just a few. Again on-street spots are free all the time. You can get your cup of coffee at Richdale or your pizza at the Factory without being charged. Counterintuitively, creating a parking program and encouraging more parkers to use the underutilized waterfront lots in the short-term provides the mechanism to eventually decrease the number of waterfront parking spots and allow that area to be developed as a public space with more green and perhaps a building or two.

It should be an interesting night.

Ed Cameron

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Boston Globe: Patrick plan would slash local aid

Patrick plan would slash local aid

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / January 22, 2011

Governor Deval Patrick, moving to close a gaping shortfall in next fiscal year’s state budget, proposed slashing local aid to cities and towns by 7 percent yesterday, but giving them more money for schools and roads, along with greater power to curb crushing health insurance costs.

The governor’s proposed $65 million cut in local aid would mark the fourth consecutive year that the money — which helps pay for police officers, firefighters, senior centers, and other local services — has been reduced. Local aid has been cut by 32 percent, or $416 million, over the last three years, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Municipal officials, who were bracing for a local aid cut in the budget year that begins July 1, nevertheless expressed chagrin that the account would be slashed again. They said it would inevitably trigger further cuts in communities that have already laid off workers in schools and town halls, closed libraries and firehouses, and reduced other basic services.

Yet even as they lamented the proposed loss in aid, local officials welcomed the governor’s plan to increase spending on schools by $140 million, to the highest level in history, and on roads and bridges by $45 million. And they warmly, if cautiously, greeted the governor’s proposal to help them cut their health insurance costs, even though the plan deliberately pushes off the most difficult decisions for a later day.

“He understands that if he’s going to cut local aid — which every one of us acknowledges he has to do — in order to survive, he’s got to do something with health insurance,’’ said Mayor Robert J. Dolan of Melrose. “It has to get done now.’’

Offering a preview of the state budget Patrick will unveil Wednesday, the governor outlined the proposals before hundreds of local officials at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents cities and towns.

His proposals now become part of the budget debate with the House and Senate.

The governor said that the cut in local aid was “unavoidable,’’ with the state facing a $1.5 billion budget gap and the loss of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money next year. He acknowledged that local aid is one of many areas of the budget that will have to be trimmed to make up the shortfall.

At the same time, Patrick said, he was filing legislation that would help cities and towns cut their health insurance costs, in part by requiring them to move municipal retirees into Medicare. Currently, town meetings and city councils must vote to move their retirees into Medicare, and only 40 percent of cities and towns have done so, state officials said. If enacted, Patrick said, his bill would save communities $120 million, more than making up for the cut in local aid.

“That’s money you can use right now and in the future to keep teachers in the classroom, police and firefighters on the streets, senior centers and libraries open,’’ Patrick said.

In making his municipal health insurance proposal, Patrick is seeking to force a resolution between city and town leaders, who have been fighting to cut their insurance costs, and labor unions, which have fiercely protected their members’ benefits, many of which are far more generous than those in the private sector.

Currently, local officials must negotiate any changes in benefits with municipal unions, making it difficult to cut costs. Cities and towns must also win union approval to join the state health insurance program, the Group Insurance Commission, which would save them money. Some communities have joined, but unions have blocked many from doing so.

Patrick’s plan would give more power to municipal leaders, because it would allow unions to negotiate changes for only a “very truncated and abbreviated’’ period, he said. If unions and local officials cannot reach an agreement by July 1, their communities must either join the Group Insurance Commission or devise a local plan of equal or lesser cost.

“As I said all along, labor is entitled to, and deserves, a meaningful role,’’ he said. “They will have it, but not a veto.’’

The governor was vague on a few key points, including exactly how much power unions will retain in the negotiations.

Patrick said he was intentionally glossing over some of the thorniest questions because he did not want the bill to get bogged down in the details. He said his unsuccessful push for casinos had taught him not to let lawmakers scuttle bills by haggling over the fine print.

“We worked and worked and worked and got it just perfect and then sent it down the hall, and they started over,’’ Patrick said of his failed casino bill. “I’m not doing that. We don’t have time for that right now.’’

Union officials, wary of the missing details in Patrick’s plan, held their fire yesterday.

“Unions stand ready to be part of the solution to the health care cost crisis in which we all find ourselves,’’ Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “The only way to ensure we are part of the solution is to guarantee that we have a voice and meaningful role in how cost savings are achieved. That voice and that role is called collective bargaining.’’

Some mayors and town administrators expressed disappointment that the proposal would not give them unilateral power to design workers’ health plans.

But they still praised it as a major step forward.

“Cities and towns need this relief,’’ said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which helps 101 communities in Eastern Massachusetts manage their growth and finances. “It’s a good way to save money, employees will still have excellent coverage, and it will prevent layoffs of municipal employees, which is key if local aid is going to be reduced.’’

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who earlier this month broke with his union allies by advocating a lesser role for labor in health care negotiations, said through his spokesman yesterday that he welcomed the governor’s proposal.

Senate President Therese Murray released a noncommittal statement, saying, “I commend Governor Patrick for working with us and sticking to his mission to help communities weather the economic downturn and give them the tools they need to grow stronger.’’

Patrick, who had vowed not to raise taxes this year, also proposed removing the sales tax exemption on telecommunications equipment, which he said would raise $26 million for cities and towns.

Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, defended the move, saying every other state imposes sales taxes on the equipment.

“There’s no rationale for this exemption,’’ he said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Newburyport: Snow Emergency/Parking Ban and Trash/Recycling Pickup Delayed One Day

Below is some information on Snow Emergency/Parking Ban and
Trash/Recycling Pickup Delayed One Day.

From the City of Newburyport's website:

Snow Emergency/Parking Ban

Mayor Donna Holaday and City Marshal Thomas Howard have declared a
snow emergency in the City of Newburyport for Wednesday, January 12,
2011. This snow emergency & parking ban will begin at 11pm this
evening Tuesday, January 11, 2011 and will continue until further

Blue Emergency Warning Lights will be illuminated today at 2:00 p.m.,
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 for your advanced warning.

All vehicles must be off all streets. Vehicles left on the street
during the parking ban will be ticketed and towed.

City Hall will be closed and all non-essential personnel will not be
required to report to work. In addition, the public schools will be
closed. Mayor Holaday is also recommending all non-essential private
business remain closed due to extremely dangerous weather conditions
forecasted for the next 24 hours.

For additional information regarding policies and procedures during
snow emergencies please refer to the City's website

If determined appropriate a shelter will be opened, the location will
be posted. Please contact the Newburyport Police Department at
978-465-4444 should you need assistance.

Trash pick up will be delayed one day for the rest of the week.

Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

If you have not already done so, please register for the City's
Reverse 911 system. Reverse 911 is the City's primary resource for
distributing information to the public. You can sign up by clicking
the Reverse 911 Registration option on the City's website.

And Trash Pickup information
With the impending snow storm arriving Tuesday
Jan 11 and ending Wednesday January 12, all trash and recycling
pick up will be delayed one day. That means for the rest of the
week your regular day’s pick up will be one day later; Wednesday
to Thursday, Thursday to Friday and Friday to Saturday. If you
have any questions regarding solid waste/trash please call Mello
Disposal at 978-352-8581 and Integrated Paper Recyclers for
recycling at 800-933-3128.
Also remember during the entire month of January, Christmas trees
will be picked up on your regular trash day. Any trees picked up
before January 14 will be brought to Spencer Pierce Little Farm
(SPLF) in Newbury for a community wide bonfire sponsored by
the Newbury Fire Department. You may also bring your tree to the
Newbury Fire Department or call for a pick-up.
For additional information please contact the Newburyport Health
Department at 978-465-4410.

TEL: 978.465.4413
FAX: 978.465.4402