Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Live from Town Hall: It's BCG Wednesday morning!


10:36 AM
Well, this will pretty much decide the amount of the Override and structure.

10:38 AM Stephanie starts (without the Town Manager). John Musante on cell phone, presumably calling the town manager.

10:45 AM John Musante Updated Cut list. Let's hear from the heads of those budgets. Streetlights put back on list if addition funds come in. Grand total for town budget is $537,252. If state aid is only cut 5% then Pubic Safety (including Police Animal Welfare Officer) are safe. (the Governor's budget actually calls for 0% cut)

10:48 AM Elementary Schools: (Rob Detweiler Business Agent) $400,000 is our request from an Override. SC voted 5-0 for that.

Regional Schools: Asking for $950,000 from the Override. Amherst taxpayers will pay almost $750,000 of that (since we are three quarters of the Region.) Region vote was 8-0-1 (one abstention)

Library: met last night reconsidered the Override and went back to an amount of $88,994 from an Override.

Stephanie: Did they make any strong statement on the Override?

Pat Holland: "No"

Gerry Weiss: Trustees voted for this amount ($89,000) but they are not asking for an Override???

Holland: They are not taking a position on the Override. (Gerry looks a tad pissed)

11:05 AM The Town Manager has entered the room! (who needs Elvis?)

John Musante: $1,765,000 is the new (and improved) grand total for the Override.

11:10 AM Stephanie: Priorities are good--but they are inexact. Doing the best we can. We do not have strong Ra Ra support from all the boards. Looking at $1.8 million Override and $2.5 million in cuts. What is our best way to go forward? With a goal of getting some restorations would a Menu Override have a better chance of getting something passed or would a lump sum work better? Had this discussion before but it's now a "fever pitch" point with the general public. Do we want some rather than none?

11:15 AM Irv Rhodes: our 5-0 vote was NOT to support an Override, it was simply to put the $400,000 into the mix but not an official vote on the overall Override. If we had more time we would have come up with a different number. Very, very imperfect number (the $400K.)

Stephanie: "It's clear the School Committee is not vociferously supporting this."

11:20 AM Gerry Weiss reads the entire SC statement. Stephanie: "Again, not strong support for the Override." So how do we get them (schools, town, library) the extra money? Some of this is not "sexy". Library has a serious PR problem with its request (I assume she's talking about the recent six digit gift the Jones Library received)

Catherine Sanderson told Regional School Committee she strongly supported a Menu Override. Andy Churchill on the other hand strongly supported one lump sum (we all rise or fall together.)

11:25 AM Stephanie parses the written report of the FCC. They said to "consider" a menu override and that is what we are now doing. (Hmm...but they were a tad more definitive than that Princess Stephanie--and they also said an Override would be necessary in the next FIVE years.)

Gerry Weiss: Why did FCC recommend Menu?

Stephanie: Because it allows many different people speak to aspects of an Override. The problem is it gives people the right to say NO to certain parts, and it's only a tiny statement. "We give choice too much credit" (Hmm..why am I reminded of President Reagan's observation that the scariest line ever is, "I'm here from the government and I'm here to help".)

11:30 AM Gerry Weiss: "I think a lump sum Override will sink. As a lump sum we're holding each other hostage."

Bonnie Isman (Library) The voters are going to be skeptical. If schools are not ready now, why not go to Town Meeting and have them vote a budget contingent on an Override.

11:45 AM Irv Rhodes: I would welcome a delay. Otherwise, a Menu Override.

11:47 AM Stephanie: Extraordinary amount of discussion with unions (Police and Fire) giving up COLA's. Not fair to now NOT have the Override on 3/23. Contingent Override via Town Meeting is still a "safety net" if the 3/23 Override fails.

11: 52 AM Stephanie: BCG sent preliminary report to Select Board Monday night suggesting "lump sum". Do we now (BCG) still support that?

Gerry Weiss: Yeah, MOST people at this table still supports that (Lump Sum with Allocations)
###################################

HERE IT IS FOLKS:

Shall the Town of Amherst be allowed to assess an additional $1,765,441 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the following expenses: Town Operation Budget ($537,252) Elementary Schools Budget ($400,000), Regional schools district Budget ($739,195) and Library Operating Budget ($88,994) for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2010?

####################################

Musante: Explain it to the community this way. Extra state aid would be a "Great problem" to grapple with. We can then not levy to the limit as the town in 2004 when that $2 million Override passed. We got an extra $650,000 from the state and the town did reduce the levy of the Override amount that year. (Yes John, but what about the following year and the following year. Amherst has only had two general operation Overrides over the past 30 years and they are still both to this day generating extra revenues.)

Heated discussion between Musante and Rhodes (voices raised), Stephanie acts as ref.

12:08 PM GOTTA GO. If I had to guess they will put the above lump sum Override on the ballot for this coming 3/23. But as Bill O'Reilly would say, "I could be wrong."

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

The whole world is watching. Lay it on us.

Anonymous said...

Larry, ask them how they feel about corruption.

LarryK4 said...

They are not taking questions now.

Anonymous said...

Is that room "smoke-filled"?

LarryK4 said...

No, but I heard a ton of blaring sirens a few minutes ago. AFD on the job.

Anonymous said...

The Library Trustees' sleepwalking continues.

LarryK4 said...

Now, now--it's not like they need a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

http://amherstparkingtrap.com/

Anonymous said...

Let them have whatever they want.

Don't ask why.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/

27337041@N00/3182485869/

Anonymous said...

What SOK wants, SOK gets.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, for sure. Maybe I should upgrade her from Princess to Queen.

But SOK also very much wanted the 2007 Override (and that too was an all or nothing lump sum) and it went down in flames.

Anonymous said...

I think the override should be more like $3.5 milion. We have so much erosion in the quality of our schools that needs to be corrected, and services for the homeless need to be increased not level funded. Instead of an additional $150 a year we should all pitch in $300 and really have the town all our citizens deserve.

LarryK4 said...

Feel free to pitch in as much as you want.

Anonymous said...

If the vote were held today:

On a lump sum with the schools portion constituting the bulk, I would vote NO.

On a menu broken out in three lines: I would vote YES on the Town; I would vote NO on the Schools; I would vote NO on the Libraries.

On a menu broken out in two lines: I would vote YES on the Town and the Libraries; I would vote NO on the Schools.

If the elected representatives cannot endorse the increased allotments to their own budgets, I think voters should vote NO until they do.

Subject to change by persuasion. So far, this has been a bad process, and we as voters should say so.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

You guys are just a bunch of cheapskates.

Anonymous said...

Morse, What process would have been a good one?

Anonymous said...

A BCG that communicated with its boards in the way that SOK expected

OR

Simply bringing all 15 elected representatives around a table in Town Hall in front of the cameras periodically to discuss and "take ownership" of the override starting in October, and to work out timetables and other problems.

It appears that, for whatever reason, various elected officials were blind-sided by the schedule AND what they were going to be expected to decide.

I am in no way blaming Stephanie for what went wrong. But at some point, this turned into a bad process.

Rich Morse

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

I know that this was patently obvious to Mr. Kelley long before it was to me:

This has been an override of, by, and for Baer Tierkel and his political machine. They are driving this from their echo chamber and this is why all other voices intended to tweak the overall effort are being politely listened to, and then disregarded.

Rich Morse

Joel said...

Rich Morse for mayor of Amherst -- seriously.

Anonymous said...

Um, we don't have a mayor, seriously.

Joel said...

Right, but we need one and Rich would be a great one.

Anonymous said...

God, no.

Rich Morse

Joel said...

Rich,

So you won't sign the petition?

I guess you won't take me seriously because I don't have the stomach for TM.

Anonymous said...

Joel,

I would sign each and every petition that calls for a mayor in Amherst.

Because you're right, we need one. You just have the wrong person in mind for that job. You need to get that checked.

Rich Morse

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Joel, send me the petition -- Rich has my vote (even against his will).

Anonymous said...

It's confirmed. Rich Morse has become the Larry Kelley Mini-Me in training. The manual goes like this. Be as out there as possible with your own opinion, all the while crouching in wait for--GASP!--a different way of looking at things. Then, after recovering from self-righteous apoplexy, be prepared to spring forward with a full on assault of resentment and ridicule. He still has a way to go before achieving Larry's full level of mastery but he sure is closing the gap.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, not bad for a government employee.

Anonymous said...

I'm devastated.

Rich Morse

Rick said...

”A BCG that communicated with its boards in the way that SOK expecte..."

The SC knew what the deal was; from Regional School Committee Meeting of December 15, 2009:

”Mr. Hajir noted that the BCG has asked the School Committee to vote a budget on January 26th. This would provide them with the maximum information possible regarding all of the town department’s budgets in order to make the best case for the override question. ... Ms. Sanderson stated that because it is a very difficult budget year, there would have to be a public hearing between the meeting on January 12 and the meeting at which a vote is taken. Mr. Churchill reviewed the proposed BCG calendar, which was included in the Amherst agenda packets. After extensive discussion, consensus was that the Regional School Committee will discuss the detailed budget cuts at the January 12th meeting, host a public budget hearing on February 2nd, and agree on a budget proposal at the February 9th meeting.”

Anonymous said...

Rick's recent post puzzles me. so according to the december minutes, not only did the school committee know about the timeline and the need for a budget decision but unlike they stated at the meetings in the past 2 weeks, the members agreed to this schedule and knew they would be expected to do this.

what does this mean?
I thought School Committee members argued in the past 2 weeks that they didn't know about the need for a budget answer by Feb. 9 and were feeling like they were being steamrolled into making a decision. Does it mean anything that apparently that was not the case?

Rick said...

They definitely knew what the schedule was to produce a budget. I think what they didn’t all know about is that they would be asked to support the override. They were asked this at the February 2 SC meeting and this is when things went a little haywire.

I don’t think they should have been asked to support the override. I get why the SB wanted that, but they really don’t need it. They should have simply been asked to say how much money they think they need (e.g. produce a budget or at least a preliminary one). It’s then up the SB, FC, BCG or whatever to determine where that money should come from, not the SC.

So the SC may legitimately feel like they were steamrolled on being pushed to support an override, but not on the timeline.

Anonymous said...

Nah, someone who remembers 2004 and 2007 better than I do will correct me, but I believe that it was always in the cards that the Trustees and the SC would have to weigh in with a number and an endorsement of an override.

I could be wrong.

Having watched Alisa from Monday's meeting, I'm reminded of earlier days when I was an enthusiastic supporter of hers. But, let's face it, she operates best from petulance, and she can be terrific in cutting straight to the salient issue. She and Stephanie have a perfect right to be a little pissed off about how the BCG-School Committee nexus worked in this process. (How did I do not personalizing it?)

But anyway, the dust will settle on Friday, because a vote for a lump means the override is effectively dead. The sky will fall, many voters won't see it fall, the connection will not be made with voters, and we'll move on to Town Meeting.

And then it's actually time to start thinking about Plan B post- March 23. The Town, more than any part of our government, desperately needs the additional money.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Rich 9:30 how would one personalize "the BCG-School Committee nexus"? I'm not sure I know what you mean.

Anonymous said...

Now you made me do it:

Irv Rhodes
Andrew Churchill
the Regional SC chair

RM

Anonymous said...

why did the nexus drop the ball? or are you saying something else?

Ed said...

This has been an override of, by, and for Baer Tierkel and his political machine. They are driving this from their echo chamber and this is why all other voices intended to tweak the overall effort are being politely listened to, and then disregarded.

From "LinkedIn" re Baer Tierkel:

(Former) Executive Vice President, Worldwide Marketing at PeopleSoft, Inc.

This would be the same PeopleSoft that created a legendary mess at UMass. Ask anyone about "peoplesoft" - any secretary, any student, just about anyone and the response will be "PeopleSoft SUCKS!"

And I find this all somehow ironic. If Mr. Morse is right, this is a really small world...

Alisa V. Brewer said...

Like Larry said:-)

BCG's February 10, 2010 recommendation to the Select Board:

Shall the Town of Amherst be allowed to assess an additional $1,765,441 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the following expenses: Town Operating Budget ($537,252), Elementary Schools Operating Budget ($400,000), Regional School District Assessment ($739,195), and Libraries Operating Budget ($88,994) for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010?

So for those of you who didn't notice me mentioning this at the Monday Feb 8, 2010 Select Board meeting: If you have an opinion on the March 23 ballot question itself, speak now via email to selectboard@amherstma.gov -- we're signing off on the language tomorrow morning Friday Feb 12, 2010 at an 8:30 am meeting at which there will be no time set aside for public comment.

LarryK4 said...

And if I had to guess Alisa you will--no matter how many emails you get--"sign off" on exactly what Princess Stephanie and the BCG orchestrated.

Just as the Captain of the Titanic signed off on the goal of setting a new record for crossing the Atlantic.

Anonymous said...

I disassociate myself with anything said about Baer Tierkel by Ed.

What I do associate with Baer Tierkel is promoting "groupthink". I think that there is a narrower range of opinion being listened to by the majority in Select Board than was being listened to one or two years ago. But I am willing to be corrected on that.

From Alisa's comments on Monday and from what I know of her, all prior criticisms aside, I actually believe that she is sincerely grappling with the issue of menu versus lump sum. But I think that the political pressure on her on behalf of a lump sum question is enormous.

But once the lump sum language is adopted Friday morning, it's effectively dead.

I'm discouraged.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LarryK4 said...

Damn, I guess so there Grumpy--double posting and all.

Yeah, not that I have anything nice to say about the SB of one or two years ago--or 15 or 20 for that matter--but I think you're on the money saying this current Select Board stifles opinions from outside the perceived "Amherst Center."

Notice how lackluster the 6:30 Question/Public Comment period has become for instance.

Marcy said...

Rich,

I'm curious about your thoughts on this issue that I've been tossing around in my head. So, if we have a menu and some of the items lose (as I think you predict they will), then do we just say, "Oh well" and move on, or do we put them up for another ballot vote at another time? I'm worried, given what a lousy appetite there is out there for any override, ever, that trying to pass ONE this year for whatever voters are ready to embrace now and then ANOTHER one next year for whatever remains underfunded will be a nightmare. I get what you're saying about trying to salvage as much as we can out of the current override effort, but I'm not sure it will be worth it in the end.

LarryK4 said...

Just for the record Marcy: Town Meeting starts well after the Override and Princess Stephanie already at the BCG meeting yesterday called that a "safety net" because they can pass anything they please as a "contingent Override."

And Mr. Morse is a Big Boy and almost guaranteed election to venerable TM, so I would assume when Police and Fire come up (after the 3/23 Override fails) he will make a motion to add X amount to their budget "contingent on a Prop 2.5 Override."

Marcy said...

So Larry, are you suggesting a lump sum? Because my assumption was that that was what the potential TM contingent override was about. If the lump sum amount was unsuccessful, we could always budget contingent on a future successful override at TM. That doesn't answer my question about a potential "partial" victory through a menu override. If some, but not all budget areas passed the sniff test, what would happen to the others?Another override (next year I presume), or just sorry, you're stuck living within your "means"? I have worries about either of those eventualities, more so, I guess, than a completely failed override because I think that it will be easier to pitch the latter the second time around (given that taxpayers have not already ponied up, so to speak).

LarryK4 said...

If I were in charge (yeah, be afraid) it would be a Menu Override because the starving Irish learned many generations ago that "half a loaf is better than none."

Town Meeting can do whatever the Hell they want (yeah, be very, VERY afraid.)

Princess Stephanie and Assistant Town Manger Musante can talk all they want about how the town can "not tax to the full levy" if the Override passes and then unexpected revenues come in (as happened in 2004.)

BUT, Town Meeting can spend it! All of it--AND THEN SOME. Town Meeting could use up the entire $1.765 Million AND add another $1 million for another "contingent Override" if they damn well please.

And I guarantee you, if the Override passes and extra money comes in and the town does not tax to the full levy at the start of the new Fiscal Year, they will take the full amount the following year (plus 2.5%) and every year thereafter.

Because that is exactly what they did after the 2004 Override.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the double post, Larry.

Hard day on trial in Springfield.

This override is it until 5 elected officials all on the same board begin screaming in harmony at the top of their lungs over and over in a rising crescendo that they need more revenue.

And that's actually the best way for the override process to be initiated: through our elected representatives and not via some self-appointed political boss's Email list.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

As you well know we have an asinine form of government.

I still remember being weirded out six years ago when I got calls from Anne Awad henchmen encouraging me to knock down the 2004 Override (not that I needed any encouragement) because it was one hatched by the 'old' SB majority --Seppala,Schiffer, and Jolly--and it was the first time in town history an Override was going to the voters prior to Town Meeting.

Awad felt that it was insulting to Town Meeting. Of course, the really weird thing is that Town Meeting creates a "contingent Override" (all of the previous ones--mostly Capital debt exclusions--were done that way) BUT the SB still has to vote to put it on the ballot.

Having just now watched the final hour or so of the Monday SB meeting it's pretty obvious that Brewer and Weiss support a Menu Override.

Yes, if they had a Chair with savvy experience and leadership qualities and they placed a Menu Override totaling $1.765 million on the ballot and began "screaming in harmony" to promote it, the entire thing damn well might pass.

But a single lump sum, all or nothing amount, sends an arrogant message.

And one thing the voters really, really hate is for arrogant government officials to shortchange their intelligence.

Like Princess Stephanie saying at the recent BCG meeting ""We give choice too much credit."

Anonymous said...

As each day passes in this override bru-ha-ha, I am reminded of two wise quotations from one of favorite New England curmudgeon-contrarians, Henry Adams

1) "A friend in power is a friend lost."

2) "Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds."

8:30 tomorrow: either we can kiss this override good-bye with a lump OR we live to talk on for another six weeks about a menu. Sort of like Groundhog's Day!

Rich Morse

Ed said...

I disassociate myself with anything said about Baer Tierkel by Ed.

And for what it is worth, I disassociate myself from anything and everything, and wish to identify myself as the founding member of the Commission to Restore Lake Hitchcock.

Beyond that, will someone please ask the following three questions:

1: How much do we intend to spend (of local resources, any outside money is of course a bonus to be used) for K-12 education?

2: How will we equitably divide it between those students in regular education and those in SPED?

3: Having decided 1 & 2 above, will we have the moral courage to say "no mas" -- that the allocation to the schools and to SPED is what it is and both will have to live within their means?

We have spent the past 30 years throwing money at K-12 and I honestly don't think we are any better off than we were in 1980. And at some point we have to say "this much and no more." Maybe the current allocation isn't the line to draw it at, but we gotta draw one somewhere....

Alisa V. Brewer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hello,nice post thanks for sharing?. I just joined and I am going to catch up by reading for a while. I hope I can join in soon.