I would like to start out by saying that back in the mid-1980s I ran the budget committee for United States Air Forces in Europe. I learned a lot and was very happy to move on to a flying job after one year. My number one lesson from that experience is that "Anyone with an initiative and without an offset is a liar and a thief". Yes, that is a harsh attitude, but I learned the obvious—everyone has a need and very few are turning back in excess money. Doing a budget is a chance to make everyone angry. This is the point that Councillor Rita Mercier just made. She pointed out that every time she goes to the supermarket she gets button holed by voters who think the taxes are going up to fast and the City Council is spending money recklessly.
The proposed budget is $336 million and half of it goes to the school. On Monday, on "City Life" George Anthes and John McDonough argued that half doesn't go to the school, since Chapter 70 money from the school is from the state.
People, it is time to admit that money from the State (and money from the Federal Government) is NOT free money. It is our money, either what we paid in taxes, directly or indirectly, or it is borrowing, which we have to pay interest on while we are paying it back—with our taxes. I am not against paying taxes. It is a necessary part of having a Government. However, I believe we should all acknowledge the fact that we are paying taxes.
On page 17 of the Budget we find that Chapter 70 funds (for the schools) is $114,495,103. This is from the total state aid of $139,544,487.
The good news about Chapter 70 funds is that we are almost certainly getting more from the State than we give the state in terms of taxes. That is part of the state-wide school reform project. So, Carlisle, Concord and Lexington send more tax money to Beacon Hill than we do. But we do send our fair share to the State Government, which we get back in State Aid, amongst other things.♠
During the discussion in the early hours a number of citizens talked to the shortfall in the school budget, which has taken a hit of not just $1.7 million, but several million more. This has resulted in a lot of folks being eliminated, like school librarians and other people who make the learning process more effective. A number of people pointed out that as the quality of our schools go down, people who can may well move to other communities. It is my understanding that the people who sold their house to us sold the house so they could move to Harvard for a better educational experience for their children.
During the debate it was noted that Stimulus Money is drying up.
Citizen Mark Goldman, speaking to the Council, said that the budget should goals and objectives for each department. I believe Mr Goldman is correct.
Teachers' Union President Paul Georges brought up the fact that the top 25 Hedge Fund managers on Wall Street made 25
A motion to send the budget back to the City Manager was just defeated 3 to 6.
Now the motion is on the floor to accept the budget and Councillor Caulfield is speaking. He is quoting State Senator Steve Panagiotakos saying: "The private sector can no longer afford the public sector".♥
City Councillor Rita Mercier just reports an error on page 58. It is agreed that there is an error in the City Auditor (135) salary. I am with Rita on this one. The numbers should all work.
Rita also brings up the question of if we should have money in the budget for a "certain" Councillor who is not taking his salary. The Manager, correctly, pointed out that if said Councillor were to leave we would need the money for the person who fleeted up to replace him.
The Motion to accept the budget is defeated at 10:38 PM.
We are now doing this line by line.
At 11:05 a motion to adjourn was defeated, 5 to 4.
It is midnight and I am giving up.
Our City Budget is controlled to some extent by decisions taken years ago. There are union agreements, negotiated and agreed. There are consent decrees entered into with the Federal Government. In some cases departments that are paid for by fees, like Waste Water, are not being carried by the fees. The debt service on the rebuilding of 30 year old facility is 38%. That is a big slug.
The big lesson to take away from this is that in good times the City Council should not be letting the budget creep up, since we won't have the money to pay that for it when times are not so good.
Regards — Cliff
♠ And, when we get our tax money back from the State or the Federal Government it is usually with strings attached.
♥ And he is correct.