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Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

These are excerpts from the Mayor's blog "Inside the Budget, Part 9". People often ask me what sort of oversight there is on the city budget? As a matter of fact, the City of Melrose budget is reviewed by multiple officials from local, state, and federal agencies, as well as by an independent outside auditing firm each year. These audits cover everything from the big picture of the budget and our long-term outlook to the small details of how we document expenditures.....Every spring, my office works with all city department heads to develop the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. During that process, the department heads review the prior year’s budget and year-to-date actual spending numbers.

The School Department’s budget, which makes up a large portion of the city’s total operating budget, is reviewed through a series of public meetings by the School Committee.

Throughout the fiscal year, our independent auditors come to City Hall and review all our financial documents....includes a thorough review of our general operating budget, as well as our four enterprise funds (Water, Sewer, Ambulance and Mount Hood).
After the independent audit is completed, the outside auditing firm sends an audit report directly to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. We are also required to send our financial audit to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education....
These compliance checks look at a multitude of financial factors including:
that the city spends money according to the budget approved by the Board of Aldermen in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws;
that we have met all State and Federal compliance requirements;
that there were no improper expenditures.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

Medeiros: Taxpayers need unobstructed view

from the M Free Press:

Opinion: Medeiros: Taxpayers need unobstructed view
Posted at 12:40 PM Updated at 12:41 PM

Submitted by Alderman Monica Medeiros.

Last November, I, as an Alderman, voted against moving the Mayor’s proposed $5.18 million tax override question forward. I felt the city had not been thorough enough in evaluating our financial picture, nor in considering the effects of adding these millions of dollars of new spending.

In preparing for this vote, I learned that our city had much bigger problems than I had suspected. Namely that the executives in our city government have failed to do any long term evaluation of our financial outlook.

I felt it critical to have a full understanding of the financial assumptions the city was making before I could vote to pass such a hefty burden on to seniors and families.

After asking Mayor Infurna for copies of any long range budget forecasts that had been prepared and used by the City of Melrose over the last five years, I was forced to appeal to the Secretary of State’s office for this information only to learn that no such documents exist.

The Mayor’s office directed me to a tool on our city website, “Visual Budget.” In the Aldermen meeting, I asked our CFO & Auditor Patrick Dello Russo if this was the tool he was using to make our predictions in terms of revenues and expenditures. His reply? “We don’t make predictions. This is not a magic show.”

Try as I might, I could not seem to match the “Visual Budget” figures to the actual budgets I had voted on. Days later, Kerriann Golden, our Assistant Auditor confirmed, “The last actual figures reflected are Fiscal 2016,” -- two full fiscal years behind.

The outdated “Visual Budget” data was not only a waste of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on this service, but also so inaccurate that it was actually misleading to the public. Most importantly, it could not have been being used as an accurate tool for evaluating our city’s financial outlook by anyone including our city executives.

Melrose is at a crossroads. Real estate prices have skyrocketed to an all-time high. Many new families have chosen Melrose for its great schools, beautiful downtown and its relative affordability.

Conversely, many of our families, seniors and one-income households are struggling. Recently, a Melrose Housing Authority Commissioner testified at our meeting that the waitlist for housing of Melrose families, seniors, Veterans and the handicap is in the thousands.

Sadly, I hear from residents who are told if they can’t afford this increase, they should move along. But where will they go? After paying their taxes for years, volunteering in our community, donating to all kinds of causes, including our schools, they are told they haven’t paid their “fair share” and should move along. I can think of little that is so cruel.

Even for those of us who are working, many of us are only one lockout or government shutdown away from being in financial peril.

But regardless of income, every taxpayer deserves good fiscal management.

As an Alderman-at-Large, my job is to consider the big picture ramifications of our decisions, especially when it comes to spending and taxation. When it comes to the big picture, the taxpayers deserve an unobstructed view.

If our leaders are not looking forward to ensure we can sustain the costs associated with the hiring of nearly 30 new positions and school department raises (not teachers only) of nearly $2 million included in this proposal, every one of these positions is at risk.

Before final decisions are made, the voters also need to know that large expenditures are waiting in the wings. What’s not included in this override, may be most significant.

This proposed tax increase includes no money for any other city department other than the schools. Although $250,000 is included in the override for the loss of rent from Beebe School, no plan exists to bring this building back online and fund the staff, renovation nor utility costs. As we make room for some Melrose students, we will disrupt the lives of the 30 or so Melrose special needs children who currently attend the SEEM Collaborative who will be uprooted and bussed to a new school outside our city limits.

Plans are in the works for the rebuilding or repair of the police and fire stations, and renovations of the library. Whether or not this question passes, each of these is expected to be presented to the voters in the form of an increase above the Prop 2 ½ limit.

Like our taxpayers, our leaders need a panoramic view before they make decisions that affect individuals so significantly. Financial forecasting in budgeting has been considered a best practice for more than a decade. Melrose can do better. Before any tax increase is considered, our taxpayers deserve an objective analysis of our financial picture and an independent audit of our books.

Demand accountability. Vote NO.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

Another bunch of duplicitous claptrap from Infurna. This so-called oversight tells you if you are spending it legally, not if you are spending it wisely. Go away, Gail.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

The academic statistics and rhetorical debate of “facts” will not convince anyone to vote Yes or No. People will decide based on their family circumstances. How they view Melrose politicians and their track records will also be a factor.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

Go Away
Another bunch of duplicitous claptrap from Infurna. This so-called oversight tells you if you are spending it legally, not if you are spending it wisely. Go away, Gail.
But multiple people on this board have accused various city officials of all kinds of illegal fraud.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

There can only be one reason for endlessly repeating the exact same post, and that's to step on prior posts and derail the discussion. And who, pray tell, may want to do that? Keep it up though, because all you're really doing is strengthening the argument against the override with your underhandedness.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

Better go in that voting booth alone and vote "No". Tell her there's not enough room. Avoid nasty "pillow talk" later. You're still King of the Castle.

Re: Mayor's Blog inside the budget part 9

The rubber stamping by ALL members of the BOA is why we are voting NO on the Override!
Illegitimate Gail and ALL BOA members have been complicit with mismanagement, lying and coverups for decades.
There is no long range planning or fiscal expertise. Crisis management and impulse decisions are standard operating procedure.
Go along to get along, fear to raise issues, selling out to be part of the “insiders” club.
The political culture in Melrose (especially over the last year) is why the Override will be defeated.
NO Voters may not hold signs or canvass but will go to the polls on 4-2 and send a message to city politicians.
NO, NO, NO and NO!

When will any of the BOA members advocate for the Fire and Police?
We will not vote for any new taxes unless new Fire and Police Stations are includes.
toting NO on the “Schools Only” Override