The EU

Google says the EU requires a notice of cookie use (by Google) and says they have posted a notice. I don't see it. If cookies bother you, go elsewhere. If the EU bothers you, emigrate. If you live outside the EU, don't go there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lowell City Budget for 2011

I have been listening to the City Council debate the Lowell City Budget for FY 2011, submitted by City Manager Bernie Lynch.  I was at City Hall from 5 PM, but then, when the City Council went into Executive Session, I came home to watch it on Channel 10 of LTC.

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 millionbillion dollars for themselves.  Given that none live in Lowell, I am not sure of the relevance of that fact.  It was, however, part of his plea for getting the $4 million back for the School Department, by raising taxes.

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.


Jack Mitchell said...

One can only take so much of "7 Yeas, 2 Nays." Ordinarily, I love kabuki. It was great, early in the program. Acts I & II, top notch speechifying. By Act III, it was rote.

Joe and I popped the canopy around 10:30.

JoeS said...

Not that it makes it any more relevant, but those "top 25" pulled in $25B in 2009, not $25M. Maybe it is the fact that they can influence tax code so that they only pay the 15% capital gains rate on that income, notwithstanding the fact that it is not their money being put at risk with the investments. Had they paid the 35% going rate for billionaires, there would be another $3B available to the federal government, possibly to fund school systems. And since Lowell is about 1/3000 of the nation, that alone would provide the $1M that they are short at this time.

C R Krieger said...

Early in the meeting I thought of using the term kabuki to describe what was going on, but then it slipped from my mind.  In its way it is definitely kabuki:

"[T]he highly stylized classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama..."

The only thing missing was the heavy makeup.

Regarding Joe's comment, I meant to use the term billion and have since corrected it in the text.  I think Joe's point is valid, if we assume that the US Congress would put that money into Education, rather than some pet projects across the fruited plain (read that as pork barrel projects).  Union President Georges should have hired Joe to talk for him.

Regards  —  Cliff