Thursday, January 28, 2010

Struggling in a bog


11:45 AM

So this must be serious as the Budget Coordinating Group is meeting twice in one week. They are the budget Override Czars comprised of components of the Select Board, School Committee, Library Committee, and the Town Manager.

I have a young daughter to pick up So I can't cover the entire meeting. But it looks like before the meeting is over we will know what the Override amount will be on the 3/23 ballot. I feel kind of like the Mac folks sitting around yesterday watching Apple unveil the new ipad and anxiously awaiting that all important PRICE point.

11:50 AM
John Musante, assistant town manager, talking about $2 million in cuts and possibly a $2 million Override. Budget growth next year for town about 2.5% (amazingly, corresponds to Prop 2.5) and Elementary Schools about 4% and 3.3% Regional School.

12:00 Noon
Possible going for an Override and if unanticipated money comes in from the state then the town will not implement the extra levy if the Override is approved.

12:40 PM
So Daddy duty called and I will not be able to cover the rest of the meeting (posted to end at 2:00 PM) but I can prognosticate based on the minor amount I observed:

The Override amount will be just under $2 million (and they will promise that if passed they will not come back for another Override for a few years--reminiscent of the "3 year Amherst Plan" that failed three years ago.)

And it's a safe bet the Override will be an all-or-nothing single general amount (actually maybe two) but certainly not a "menu Override" where taxpayers get to pick and choose programs they really cherish.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not a menu, because the town wants the money and will then decide how it is actually dispersed. It is the old big goverment mentality of:

"you give us the money and we will decide how to spend it for you. We understand what is best for you better than you do."

You put $500k for public safety on the ballot and it would pass, but the town will not do that, because they know all their other pet projects would get denied. So they will dangle the threat of no police to answer the call or no ambulance to rescue your child, in hopes of getting more money to spend on what they want, but very little of it will go to public safety.

Anonymous said...

Bingo

LarryK4 said...

Yep, that is the way they HOPE it will work.

But it's also Old School, and with the transparency that comes with all things Internet--not nearly as effective as back in the Good Old Days.

harry shafter gets chaired said...

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scary chair
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Ed said...

Sorry, JUST SAY NO!!!

Ed

Anonymous said...

Ed,

Do you actually own property in Amherst?

kevin said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a menu, because the town wants the money...

What the **** do any of you know about running a Town? When was the last time you sat down with 55 employees and told them, one by one, that their services would no longer be needed. Who made you so smart?

This shortfall stretches out over the next five years, from $2.6 million this year up to as much as $10.2 million in FY2014. That is a total of $28 million to $38.7 million.

And, if we are lucky, we will squeak by.

You are the last person I would trust with $2 million.

In the world.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second that "Bingo".

Anonymous said...

"But it's also Old School, and with the transparency that comes with all things Internet--not nearly as effective as back in the Good Old Days."


You mean it's had a "chilling effect":



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI7

hwnRBsG4

Anonymous said...

Would public safety really get its override?
At the 250 parade I saw a lot of shiny new cruisers. It was kind of a slap in the face - while the rest of the town has to cut back the police still get all their toys. Oh and don't forget about the Quinn bill.

cinder joans axe mistress said...

"At the 250 parade I saw a lot of shiny new cruisers. It was kind of a slap in the face"

i'm gonna restrain myself on this one

amherst 250th screwed 'bach said...

ok fck it...


amherst sux

harry throberts said...

they lied, and dumped bach like a bad hobbit....you know the rest of the story

Anonymous said...

I for one will not support an overide without some form of menu / guidelines on how it will be spent. I know it's a daunting task but if we don't go into this with a solid plan then we most certainly can plan to fail.

It's no secret the town has some pet projects and some of these projects will need to go. It's unfortunatly a difficult task, but isn't this why we hire leaders. It's no different than running any business when times are good everyone prospers. But when times are bad the owners/presidents of companies have to look at their budgets and make the adjustments needed and in most cases make some very unpopular decisions.

I will not cut a check to anyone that is having financial trouble, but will not specificly tell me how they intend to spend the new money, or what the long term solutions are. We cannot set this our next generations to mop up the mess we create. We cannot keep operating in reactive mode this can only work as a short term solution and does nothing for long term goals.

Best Regards,

Dale

LarryK4 said...

Yeah Dale, what's odd is the Select Board struggled for hours and will continue to struggle for many more on a cut list that specifically spells things out: reducing the Animal Control officer half time to save $21,820,cutting a Dispatcher for another $44,568 or a DPW laborer for $32,420.

But yet they don't want the voters to have such an itemized list when it comes to an Override to restore such positions.

The old 'Big Government is Good Government' and we know best routine.

Anonymous said...

Kevin- I have told dozens of people that they might not have jobs over the last 20 months as my business has seen revenues decline by 25%. However, we have maintained profitability and positive cash flows during that time. We have done it in a transparent way that has been discussed with all of our employees. So, I suggest to you, I know far more about managing a budget than you and I can communicate that message without using profanity like you must. It must be your insecurity about the issue, because you must know that their can be no trust between management (town officials) and labor (town taxpayers) without transparency of where the funds go. Sorry Kevin, I am in the right on this, and everyone, except for you, knows that. Perhaps it is you who need further education, to rectify your simultaneous arrogance and ignorance? Do you have a pet project that would not be funded if the people got to decide what their spending priorities were? Why does that concept frighten you so much?

N R-C said...

I can't imagine a worse idea that a menu type of overide. Do we really want to pit a police officer against a teacher? A fire fighter against a DPW worker? We're all in the same boat folks, lets pull it together and pony a few bucks to keep this town running through these tough times.
And just for the record, I punch a clock for a living and so raising my taxes hurts, but so does laying off teachers and cops.

LarryK4 said...

Well you must be fun company at a fancy a-la-carte restaurant.

N R-C said...

Fancy restaurants are not really in the budget, but we do love a-la-cart from Portabella's Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

OK, Larry, so tell us what should be cut?

LarryK4 said...

Raises for one thing, negotiated by a clueless School Committee.

Let every union decide (although the Teachers Union is really the Top Dog): either forgo COLA and step increases next year, or watch dozens and dozens of fellow workers succumb to pink slips.

Anonymous said...

If every raise was given back, how much would that save?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

is there a place online that you can see what all the town employees are individually paid?

LarryK4 said...

Raises and step increases are about $2 million with $1.3 million of that due to the Schools.

AJ said...

We should focus on schools and public safety. My taxes have gone up at an annualized rate far higher than 2.5% for the past decade. I'll be damned if I hand over still more money to this town without greater transparency.

Here some cuts that I'd suggest, right off the top of my head. If I worked for the town, I'm sure I could suggest a lot more:

1) Leisure services. Sorry folks, but it's time to say good-bye to our municipal department of leisure. With benefits, the director alone costs us about a hundred grand a year.
That would also save the cost of tax-supported catalog mailings multiple times a year, and mailings advertising the latest musicals. Of course there's nothing morally wrong with musicals. If you like them, fine, but pay for them yourself. I'd rather watch 'em on Netflix, personally. Much cheaper than an override.

2) The planning department. This would eliminate salaries of several employees and benefits. Many would blanch to hear Amherst described this way, but it's a fundamentally conservative town resistant to any changes, any development. Prosperous NIMBYs and knee-jerk earthy-crunchy types slow down all development to a glacial pace. It seems overkill to have an entire department devoted to something that is held so tightly in check by volunteer forces.

3) Sell the parking department's car. Why the hell does the parking dept. need a sedan?

4) Nothing personal, but I was flabbergasted a few years ago when the Select Board promoted John Musante to Assistant Town Manager as a consolation prize for not becoming TM. Why did they do this? Abolish the position and reinstate a director of finance, at a lower salary. He's welcome to apply, and I'm sure he'd understand the need for strong measures. This saves twenty or thirty grand a year.

5) I agree entirely that the town auto fleet seems to be updated far too frequently. Stop it.

6) Say no to those ridiculous wage hikes of over 2.5%. That's what a structural deficit is, old school board-- regularly spending more than you have. I'm grateful to see some on the new school board starting to pay attention to basic arithmetic.

I don't trust this town with a non-menu override. Rejecting an override is a blunt instrument, yes but I think it is necessary to shake out hidden fat. And anyone who tells you that we're already at the bone has no idea what they're talking about.

I would love to see a complete list of jobs and salaries for every municipal employee. (Or a link to a spreadsheet-- that's a LOT of positions!) This blog would be the natural place to put it, too.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, the data base of all Amherst town employee salaries is coming (and I will try to include perks like cellphone, auto and housing allowances as well).

I still get a TON of hits for my publishing the Umass and total State employee salary data base.

Anonymous said...

"or watch dozens and dozens of fellow workers succumb to pink slips."
Maybe you don't care because your daughter is in a charter school, but my son is in the Amherst public schools and when his teachers are fired by the dozens, his education will be affected. When firefighters are fired, we're all affected, and when public safety people get pink slips, our town gets less safe.

Larry, you sound like you're using an anti-override position to bust unions in our town. Is that really what you want to do?
~EL

LarryK4 said...

No, just trying to get them to act a tad altruistically.

After all, teachers and school officials keep saying it's "all about the kids."

Anonymous said...

I always find it odd that the people who have kids want those who do the work to be more altruistic. Sounds backwards to me.

LarryK4 said...

I pay the same you taxes anybody else pays.

And it sounds like they probably pay your salary.

Dont Assume said...

not everyone who supports teachers and town employees is a town employee.

I, for one, am a taxpayer and amherst resident who supports teachers, town employees, and an override. You really shouldn't assume that "they probably pay your salary"... because you would be wrong. Unless that's just an effort to intimidate people.

LarryK4 said...

Hmmm...And I'm supposed to know that exactly how?

You sir are an Anon lacking the balls to leave your name; so why should I believe anything you say?

In more polite journalistic terms, you are hardly an "informed" or "high ranking" source, you lack any "credibility" and I'm not seeing any "corroboration."

Anonymous said...

"I don't trust this town with a non-menu override. Rejecting an override is a blunt instrument, yes but I think it is necessary to shake out hidden fat. And anyone who tells you that we're already at the bone has no idea what they're talking about."

The only thing we need to cut right to the bone is corruption.

And Amhesrt, it's time to start using that word openly...

Anonymous said...

he said balls

Anonymous said...

Did Rod Blagojevich ever visit Amherst does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

In more polite journalistic terms, you are hardly an "informed" or "high ranking" source, you lack any "credibility" and I'm not seeing any "corroboration."

Larry, I hate to break it to you, but you are aren't exactly any of these things either.

Please stop acting like you are better than us, just because we don't want to be one of the most infamous people politically in our town.

Anonymous said...

Are the teachers in the chinese immersion charter school part of a teachers union?

LarryK4 said...

I have no idea. It's a public school and they are certified teachers, so... maybe.

My mother was a MTA member for over thirty years.