Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There they go again

This time it's the staid Finance Committee disingenuously spinning figures to aid town officials in their faltering battle to raise taxes.

According to their unanimously approved manifesto, the FinCom lays the blame on Prop 2.5, which Amherst overwhelmingly voted against 30 years ago: "Even with careful management, costs for local communities to provide education, libraries,public safety and other community services increase at an inflation rate greater than 2.5 percent."

But our supposed watchdog financial consultants are conveniently forgetting "new growth" allowed by Prop 2.5. The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee recognized that in their financial report two years ago by clearly pointing out:

"Prop 2.5 allows for an annual increase in property taxes of 2.5% plus any new growth in taxable property such as new construction or additions.

Amherst has averaged 1.5% per year during the last ten years for a total average increase of 4% in the tax base."

And last I looked, inflation was below 4% over the past ten years--and in 2009 almost 0%.

Particularly troubling, rookie Finance Committee Chair Andy Steinberg (also a long-time Town Meeting member) was a member of the FCCC and present on the day the discussion of "new growth" took place.


Taylor said...

Yes, Larry you have a vaild point about inflation being less than 4%. It is usually between 1.5% and 3.5%. This past year there was actually deflation. A result of the recessionary economy. However, certain costs have outpaced inflation. Many of those costs are incurred in the public sector because of their inability to pass them on to their employees. Particularly in Massachusetts. The most generous public pension program in the country, rich health insurance plans whose cost to municipalities go up every year, while employees pay far less than their private sector counterparts for an equivalent plan. These cost continue to skyrocket far faster than inflation, often 3 to 5 times faster. The problem is much bigger than Amherst. It is the whole state. Seeing that Amherst's largest employer is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, reform will not be coming anytime soon and costs will not be coming down in Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, maybe the State (and the Town) should take a look at how the private sector deals with--you know--reality.

Taylor said...

Yes, in the private sector if health insurance premiums increase by 15% then the employer can pass the cost onto the employee or offer the employee a lower cost alternative with different benefits, or reduce some other beneifit to make up the cost. In the public sector that does not happen with enough regularity.

Cowardly Anon Nitwit said...

And who has limited growth, Larry?

That would be you and all your Town Meeting buddies. Town Meeting has consistently voted for open space over growth and put the burden on property owners. It had to catch up eventually.

So don't blame us. You are the TM member, not us. You could have spoken up years ago.

Everyone knows what you guys do, Larry. Enough with "Most Open Space in the Commonwealth", and becoming "Section 8 Capital of the World" on the backs of property owners. Screw the schools, we got open space. If Town Meeting wants that stuff, they can find another way to pay for it. The party is over.

Go ahead, blame the messenger. What ever gets you off.

But, I said this before, you should be proud for what you accomplished, Larry. You defeated the override in 2007 and the town is in better shape than it has ever been. Everyone agrees on that.

Imagine where we would be now if we hadn't made the cuts when we did? You saved all of our asses at a time when no one wanted to face the truth. Kicking and screaming all the way. You were right.

Painful, yes, but necessary. And needed.

And just in time.

You did it.

Of course, no one is going to thank you for it, but...

Thank you, Larry.

And only Town Meeting can pass an "underride". Next year, when the results from all the cutting begin to show, you can be the one to propose an underride. No one will stop you.

Anonymous said...

"There is no other responsible mechanism to confront the crisis we're facing," Steinberg said."

What is this crap?

Anonymous said...

"AMHERST - Former Superintendent of Schools Alberto Rodriguez, who left the position on Monday, will be paid his $158,000-a-year salary through May.

Farshid Hajir, chairman of the Regional School Committee, has declined to disclose the terms of the financial settlement, citing advice from the committee's attorney. A source close to the situation, who declined to be identified, provided the information to the Gazette.

The dollar value of the settlement is approximately $36,000, plus the cost of continuing Rodriguez's health care coverage."

WTF is this shit?!

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this, the more I believe the senior staff of the school system just pulled off a major coup. They will not stand for anyone or thing that does not fit their plan.

Unfortunately the only way to stop this is to reduce their funds.

Anonymous said...

Coup. Period.

Anonymous said...

AMHERST — Voters here are on the cusp of deciding the fate of a $1.68 million override at the March 23 town elections.
Proponents say the override will preserve essential town, school and library operations; opponents believe that town government is already rife with waste, and that now is the time for belt tightening. The override would add about $264 to the annual tax bill for a resident who owns a $334,600 home.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Amherst Bulletin will help voters sort it all out, with an override forum slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Town Room at Town Hall.
The forum is open to the public, and two panelists will field questions from the audience and from public at large via email and mail.
The panelists are Andy Churchill, override advocate and outgoing Amherst School Committee member, and Stan Gawle, override opponent and spokesman for Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change.
The event will be broadcast live on ACTV channel 17, and streamed live on A Webcast will be available on Wednesday at the ACTV Web site, and the event will be covered in the print edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette and on
The forum will be moderated by Gazette/Bulletin staff, and all questions from the public will be directed to the panelists by a moderator.
Questions for the panelists may be brought to the forum or emailed in advance. Send questions to, or call Bulletin editor Noah Hoffenberg at 585-5254 for more information.