Sunday, April 29, 2007

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

As an example of just how desperate the inexperienced Overriders have become: Shouting that 'No Override' will wipe out the police department, Fire department and all the Teachers is…well, about as absurd as allowing Amherst to have 40% more money than they need next year so they can stash it in their “reserves”, thus swelling them to over $5 million!


rick said...

Thanks for featuring my car Larry. As a gentle reminder, your slogan is not "No Override" but "No More Overrides" – as in plural – as in forever – as in absurd when otherwise it's 2.5%.

A cut of 18% of teachers in 2 years (2007, 2008) is cut rate that is headed toward no teachers by 2018. I imagine we'll stop before we hit zero, but since 18% isn’t bothering you, who knows.

LarryK4 said...

Yes, OUR (not my) slogan is “No More Overrides” because the clueless rookie Town Manager (although not as BIG a rookie as you) actually stated publicly that if this Override should fail on May 1’st he would “give it a haircut” and bring it back. How arrogant can you get?

And remember, for every highly-paid bureaucrat in the School system axed you could save 2 or 3 front line teacher positions (or a half dozen para-professionals).

maryd said...

I would think you, Rick, would know that our TM took police and fire off of the chopping block. Your signs seemed a bit missleading. As I sat at my childrens sporting events today I LISTENED to the parents around me discuss the override, quite the hot topic. I was actually surprised that not one said they were for it. I am also friends with teachers and paras that are not voting yes. Us regular folk are just fed up with the top heavy spending.

rick said...

Glad to know I am in the running with Larry S. for Rookie of The Year. Hope I win. (Trying to have a sense of humor – hope I am I doing better).

It's hard to know what Larry S. is saying. In the paper he did indicate something along the lines of what you are saying but only if a smaller override is passed later. He said this:

"I haven't seen any appetite to do anything but restore the fire and police cuts, and we'll figure out a way to do that," Shaffer said Wednesday. "We're not going to paint a picture of doom and gloom, because there are options out there. If the "no" votes achieve a small majority on May 1, there could be a second, smaller override, he said. And Town Meeting could vote to restore the money for the seven public safety positions, he said."

I believe that is the statement that Larry K. is not happy about.

At the info session on Thursday he made it very clear that police and fire would be cut if no override passes.

The video of that meeting is here:

If parents, teachers and paras are saying no to the override, then we are doing a lousy job of communicating – not helped by the total-lack-of-leadership Select Board we have had whose waffling all over the place about whether to even put it on the ballot certainly didn’t help.

But please, please don’t talk about "top heavy spending" without being specific. Believe me I want to be the first to know where the fat is if it exists but I can’t do anything about it if you are not specific. So if you know of top heavy items or people, just list them and how much each one costs OK?

The school system has published a very detailed list of cuts here:

Which include administrative people. For example, a Vice Principal at the High School who costs $75,000 is being cut, which I guess buys 1.5 teachers (at $52,000 average each). I don’t think that's necessarily a good idea because what that person is doing will just get dumped onto the teachers. But if that’s really what the teachers want, OK.

maryd said...

This isn't the first time public saftey has been used to promote an override. There is no way they will end up cutting the 5 firefighter positions with how seriously low the respone time is now, there are already 20 min. waits for an ambulance, combined with the high injury rate. They are opening the town up for lawsuits. Also, they will have to pay back the Federal grant money or spend who knows how much on legal fees fighting yet another losing battle. Then again, they do like spending our money on lawyers.

rick said...

Well, it really is a fact that they have to lay off firefighters (and police, and teachers, and administrators) if no override is passed, unless money is diverted from schools to fire, but nobody is advocating that. As you say, there is talk that if we do lay off firefighters we will have to give back some or all of the grant money that got used to add some of them, which would make things even worse. At Thursday's meeting, Larry did not say that is false, he just said he would fight hard against that. This should be black and white (yes or no) but, of course, it's not.

Whatever else you think, please don’t think firefighters and police will not get laid off if no override passes because that is just plain wrong.

rick said...

I read the brochure you left on my car today. I am in agreement on a lot of what you say but question some others.

Point by point:

1. Top 10 administrators total $1,003,598. This does not automatically sound like too much to me. It would be helpful if each of the 10 positions was shown with salary and compared to what the same position makes in other towns. As noted below $90,000 is definitely not high for the top finance guy of a $55 million operation. Yes there are two of them. If you had one he/she would go for $125,000 or more. You may think that's too much, but that’s what they get.

2. I agree that spending $300,000 on Leisure Services is definitely a lower priority than paying for teachers, firefighters and police.

3. I don't know the details, but paying $278,000 for preserving a brick house sounds like a job for some kind of historical society (e.g. donations) not the town.

4. I also don’t know enough about the $109,000 for busses. If this helps low income people though I'd think twice before eliminating them.

5. Spending reserves is not great, though what are they for is a "rainy day" and these years that state aid to towns has been cut is what I would call many rainy days. But I see Stanley Gawle is advocating going into reserves, so why does he say that if you say in your brochure that's a bad thing?

6. Your comparison of jobs that are done in the town and the schools:
That is a good and very specific presentation – very nice. First, I would say those salaries do not look out of whack. For example, to hire a CFO for a $55 million operation definitely costs $90,000 or more. Second, yes maybe combining these operations would save some people. In the HR area there are 9 total people. If you combine those operations would there still be 9-peoples-worth of work to do? Maybe that could be cut to 7 (at best)? I believe I heard that the HR departments actually are merging anyways. Maybe some savings in IT and Finance also. That is definitely worth pursing, but my guess is we are talking about savings of 10-20%, which is $172,000 - $344,000. Probably 10% is closer to reality.

Totaling up the things I agree with you on:

$300,000 + $278,000 + $172,000 = $750,000

That is definitely something we should try to achieve, and to me, is a big part of what The Amherst Plan is all about. My goal is to hammer on these things to try to extend the plan as far beyond 3 years as possible – long enough to get Massachusetts to turn around and start sending money back to the towns.

But this not enough alone to keep us from major, major cuts in 2008.

In addition, we have to work hard on development to get our property-without-school-kids (commercial or retirement) tax base up. We'll never be the 20-30% of Northampton and Hadley, but maybe we can go from 8% to 12-13%? That would do a lot.

Larry will say, again, that I'm a rookie and naïve. OK fine. But its worth trying to do anyways.

LarryK4 said...

The chances of five firefighters getting laid off WHEN the Override fails is exactly the same chance of Cherry Hill generating $130,000 over April, May and June in order to break even in FY07 (as predicted by Mr. Shaffer a few weeks back): LESS THAN ZERO!

And anyone who believes different must also believe in Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny and (sorry Mr. Weiss) that our government sent civilian airplanes into the Twin Towers.

maryd said...

I finally had a chance to read my Sunday Republican. Diane Lederman reports it is now 2 police and 1 fire position. Amazing how many different things we hear. Also, our town manager has been told by many that we will have to pay back the Federal grant money. Kay Moran knows what shes talking about when it comes to AFD.

Belchertown was able to cut money on school busses by cutting down on the stops. My kids will not be happy that I'm saying this but there is no reason teens can't walk to the end of the street. I think it is Conway that cut by limiting night use of buildings. We need to look around us and see what others do, every penny counts.

maryd said...

I found the following on the masslive amherst forum. I never really thought about if "The Plan" was binding. Most parts of it can be done even when the override fails.

by BrisketBoy, 4/27/07 11:50 ET
The promoters of this plan are very clever in the ways they try to position the override as only one component within a larger three-year plan. Of course, the only piece that is legally and permamently binding is the tax override. None of the other component pieces of the plan (budget cuts/freezes, hiring econ development director, no more overrides for 3 years)is anything more than suggestion, guidance, encouragement etc that no public official or board is required to comply with. The way the pro-plan people spin it, makes it seem like if you vote for the override you'll get the whole package. . .and it even implies that the override is also a three year phenomenon. . .just not so.