Specifically, what will this override money be used for?
How is it that the powers that be would not schedule or pay for a Special Election for something as critically important as replacing the mayor for two years, but suddenly the city can afford to do this for another override referendum?
As far as many of us are concerned, if the city wants an override and special election, it can first prove the facts of the matter with a full forensic audit (and yes, that is costly, also). This local administration has played fast and loose with plenty of "alternate facts" for the last 15 years, and it's time for some real accountability. They want an override, so they can produce actual provable facts, and that doesn't mean the kind of obviously incomplete and/or outright false representations that have come from this administration, city solicitor, city auditor, board of aldermen, and certainly a proven lying/cheating school committee and superintendent. These are the same ones who conspired to keep inconvenient truths like many federal civil rights violations from the public and even an elected official! So there is absolutely no reason to trust those who are now calling for another override based on similar lines of hand-wringing as before. Do a full and complete audit with a reputable, not-in-the-tank firm and prove the facts. Only then might there be any credibility from this Trumpian Melrose city government.
Thanks for reviving this valuable public service message board!
Forensic audit before EVER doing an override. Follow the money. Is the key to ending this budget shell game.
I personally would have liked this override vote to take place when the new elected Mayor is in office. They might have different options or opinions. Would have been a great debate ! Why are we rushing ?
We are rushing because our schools are overcrowded, kindergarten kids are in modular classrooms, and our town doesn't have the money to fix the issues because we have some of the lowest tax rates in the reason. Because we needed it last time, so we are now a few years deeper in the hole. That's why we are rushing.
No override. There are enough boodoggles being run now that if eliminated would provide substantially more funding for all city departments.
For instance, right now there are approximately 450 city retirees. You can't count teachers - they have their own state pension system. Of that number, only about 25% are retired police officers and firefighters. Most of the rest are retired part-time employees who worked the minimum of 10 years in order to qualify. Now, their pensions are quite small given the way they're calculated, but I wouldn't be averse to making the minimum service time 20 instead of 10 years.
The real budget buster is their permanent full health care, which amounts to about $18,000 per person yearly, or about $6,000,000 per year. Desperately needed is some plan that does NOT provide for full health care until you reach the age when eligible for a maximum pension. There should be a chart similar to a retirement chart that raises the percentage of your healthcare eligibility by a small amount each year after the minimum service requirement for retirement is reached, what ever that may be, until a person reaches the point where he/she qualifies for a maximum pension.
Apr 14, 2018 - 9:53AM
No override needed
In case you missed the oped in this week's Free Press:
In the coming weeks, interim Mayor Gail Infurna and the Board of Aldermen will complete a required cycle toward a fiscal year 2019 operating budget for the city and schools to begin on July 1. The total budget will come in at about 80 million; about 30 million will go to the public schools.
If the many cycles of such are any indication, the powers that now are will complain again about lack of funding and then pass yet another budget with no significant changes or restructurings. All while rumblings of yet another override attempt percolate behind the scenes. The last two would have added millions more; both were resoundingly defeated by a 2-1 margin. A third override attempt will follow the same defeat. Eighty million is plenty to run the city ands schools, especially with the annual budget increases coming from unregulated water and sewer increases and no major management or restructuring initiatives for long-range planning.
During Rob Dolan’s reign, I offered gratis to assist him in major undertakings that any well-run municipality implements. He balked at all. Today, there are about 350 city-side retirees (public teachers and administrators are under a totally separate and independent retirement system). They fall into two groups: Group IV is all police and fire employees; Group I is all other city workers without delineated categories of service. Group IV is about 25 percent of the 350 total; Group I the other 75 percent. All city employees are eligible for a life pension and life health insurance after just 10 years service. These include all mayors and aldermen. The 350 current retiree’s names and their pension amount is public information. Most are former part-time employees collecting a life pension and health benefits.
After 16 years of the Dolan administration, the number of projected retirees is now about 450 according to the city’s Retirement Board. Their names, current salaries and Group membership toward life benefits are not public information.
For the city to financially survive, it is mandatory that Infurna and the aldermen, especially wannabe mayor and attorney John Tramontozzi (who takes the18K health package) begin the process of reducing city employees who are currently paid part-time wages for current and future full-time benefits.
In the school department, the last two Melrose FY budgets had some 35 percent dedicated to special education—about 10 million. The national average is about 12 percent; the state average about 18 percent. Such an expenditure screams for a coordinated and accountable curriculum in Grades K-3. The majority of SPED services in all school systems begin in Grades K-3; the majority of such referrals are for reading and language related reasons. Add that Melrose skirts state and federal mandates for regular-education intervention strategies before SPED kicks in with parent awareness and it all add up to major and wasted education dollars.
The third and final major initiative needed is an “Early Retirement Incentive” in the school system. Simply put, the ERI pays teachers that are retirement eligible a bonus to retire with one year’s irrevocable notice. The payout is usually for three years after retirement, and a win-win for the teacher and the taxpayer by hiring a first-year teacher to replace the top-scale retiree as well as saving current “longevity” stipends received annually by teachers with 10 or more years in the system. Those bonus amounts are, for example: 10K in Year 1 of retirement; 7,500 in Year 2 and 5K in Year 3. The majority of all Melrose teaching staff, numbering about 275 of 350 school-side staff according to the school website, is currently eligible for ERI. While most Melrose teachers are dedicated professionals, too many are biding time and need an earlier path to retirement.
An organized curriculum in PK-3, 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12, all approved by the school committee as policy and managed by each principal, makes teachers accountable to measurable outcomes aligned with special education protocol and state and federal assessments, not to mention their annual performance evaluation. This organization and accountability would push many retirement considerations. Look no further than the lack of such organization and accountability as the major reason why so many Melrose parents opt for charter or private or parochial settings.
Here we are in early April. If we restructure just 5 percent of the FY19 budget –- a very very respectable amount – that’s 4 million dollars to lower water and sewer bills or to increase teacher salaries or to bond a new police station -- or all three.
Transparency is required and major budget adjustments are necessary. Gail can disprove the opinion that she is an Illegitimate Mayor by ordering a Forensic Audit.
I would find it hard to believe that anyone on a fixed income has given an iota of consideration to voting yes.
And for those who think the possibility of "us" having to leave if the override passes is simply bologna, think again!
Unfortunately, Gail and her predecessor, Rob Dolan were keen to the fact that there are many retirees in public and senior housing in the city who also just happen to be most likely to vote. They are not impacted by higher local taxes as home owners are. Thus, Gail's senior housing tour to tout the override initiative. Did Gail ever mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on legal costs attempting to cover up the multiple Federal Civil Rights violations perpetrated by many of the top school administrators? How about the millions of dollars spent in legal settlements and outplacements for students and parents whose civil rights were violated, again, by top administrators? Again, millions of dollars could be saved each year if Melrose administrators would discontinue their unlawful strategy of retaliating against students and their parents who file complaints about unfulfilled IEPs. They simply want top administrators to stop illegally harassing them just because they want their kids to get an education too.
Infurna now wants to spend our dollars on an Override next Spring for the schools. Talk about an irresponsible use of tax money. Questions regarding tax increases should be held during the 2019 Mayoral election. We should not hold a special election before November 2019. Override ballot initiatives should include infrastructure, public safety buildings, the schools and other needs all at the same time.
It is big dark secret, just the way they want it.
Thank you to the previous poster. There is more than enough money to fund the schools, look at the books folks before you agree to an override. Carrie K asked for a forensic audit numerous times and she was bullied. I personally do not trust the fake Mayor and the board members who crafted the behind the scenes deals to invalidate a legitimate election. I just have to keep holding my nose and am forced to wonder if this really about the children or about narcissistic agendas.
QUESTION 1. NO QUESTION 2. YES QUESTION 3. NO AND THAT'S ALL FOLKS...
NO YES NO. DON'T FORGET TO VOTE...
You forgot the word "DUMP" before all republicans.
This will be unpopular but a review of the positions funded by the city is needed. There are part time jobs held by friends and family of those with Melrose connections which don't need to be jobs at all. A few could be combined into one part time job and others could be added to some of the so called full time jobs. It's a publicly funded jobs program down at city hall. Preying on the emotions of elementary parents is a smart move because it keeps them from looking deeper into it.
It's not about the tax rate, it's how the money will be used and there is no guarantee it will be used for education.
Here's how it will likely work. The Mayor will say it's all for education and possibly even set up a budget line item for it. In the most simplistic case, she takes $5.18 million AWAY from General Fund education funding and spends it elsewhere, then uses the $5.18 million override money there. She's not lying but she is being disingenuous as the entire $5.18 million override money is going to education but in reality it's level funded and more money is spent elsewhere through the General Fund.
That's simplistic. In "real life", the General Fund education budget simply erodes over time - up 1% next year as opposed to 2% in other line items - and is "replaced" by the override money.
It's all about the marketing optics. Saying it's for "education" tugs on the heart strings. Paying for a new police/fire center, or especially for unsustainably generous retiree pension and health costs, not so much!
BTW, Melrose is not alone with more and more resources going to retirees. Illinois, Connecticut, and several states are having huge pension and OPEB (Other post-Employment Benefits - mostly health care) difficulties while several cities/towns have declared bankruptcy. However, these difficulties mostly rear their heads not through bankruptcies but through declining services, usually education.
For me, it's a deal breaker unless the Mayor and the Aldermen/people/whatever codify not only that the override money will be used for education, but that the General Fund education budget will not be "punished" to the advantage of other line items.
Folks! As someone who has kept up with school issues for the past 5 years - don't be crazy enough to buy into the phony override request! The current school leadership are corrupt and are only interested in holding their power - particularly the head of the school committee who is only waiting her time to be the next school business manager! I would wait until Taymore and Driscoll leave the system before giving them more money.
Superintendent and Mob only care about a green wave $$$ and that's all. Vote NO on the override and start cleaning the swamp.
If it’s not for police and/or fire, I’m voting no. Schools have had their shot. Time to update our public safety buildings. The city should be ashamed to keep the buildings active in their current state.
Contradictory data and information..After the last override failed the next yer the schools had highest MCAS test scores in the region. 6% increase..that is massive. Nobody gets 6%.. Yes votes when there was no literature to the "law". Yes at the very beginning when the number was about half. I am not saying no or yes but how do you get yes yes yes when there was nothing but air? I keep hearing if you vote NO then you better have a very good reason why. Really? Shouldn't the people asking for over 5 million have all the reasons why. It goes both ways and as of right now their data is incomplete with them admitting there is no actual plan for the future. Are they just going to keep asking for money and throwing it in the wind and hoping money buys a solution. Was it not the same people after Dolan who said the schools and town are in great shape? The people in power at the schools seem to be the problem but the same people who blame Trump for the way the country is will not blame the president of the school? I get so tired of hearing one thing and then another that contradicts it...such hypocrisy. You can't even ask a question because most of the Yes people jump down your throat or act with absolute disrespect. Yes I have seen it way to many times. Funny part is some of the people they trash are not No voters..such a shame.
They can keep throwing data at the voters but yet their is so much out there staying they are wrong.. Even the plan res they are using show they are wrong..Who is getting rich from this? The tax payers suffer for the 1%?
Can someone please find a source about the ratio issue, all the questions and research done show there is no ratio issue.. Just certain peoples preferences. The ratio on the last site i looked showed 20 as the school average. It is below the norm.. Taymore laid off four teachers because there was no need for them so how is there a problem. Spacing? We just spent millions on the PODS to help with that. Why rush something as important as this and without proper information. Lets rush it and not come up with a pan for the future? Just throw a 5.18 million at it and hope it does the trick.
Time to get real about the issue. Melrose school system may have issues like any school but it is so far exagerrated for the purpose of gaining taxpayers dollars. Several other people posted their fear about having such an increase in bills with the new tax added. Do you plan to leave them behind? If you can afford it great but I really find it sad that Melrose is willing to leave behind so many families. Of course the rebutle is what about leaving behind the kids.
After the last override failed the schools had the most improved testing scores in the region..The article was on here.
The BEBE is the answer? I thought the Mayor and Alderman stated it would and could never be saved. Taymore and Dolan stared us in the eyes and said the town and schools were in great shape.
Please read the article because it proved we did NOT need it last time either. It failed in 2015 and the next year was the highest increase in testing scores with a 98% graduation rate.
5.18 million is a lot for preference...