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The outdated “Visual Budget” data was not only a waste of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on this service, but also so inaccurate that it was actually misleading to the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.
Bravo and Thank You Monica!
Naturally the nasty ignoramuses have already begun posting on the FP site. One was just some ignorant person claiming that special education services will be cut, even though the superintendent said loud and clear that this cannot and will not happen, and is legally forbidden. Another snarky probable young parent tried to impugn MM's integrity and intelligence by condescending to her about how she supposedly didn't know the city's budget forecast, bypassing her sound explanation that the city does not have a budget forecast, which is a large part of why she doesn't support this measure! These people are certainly an embarrassment as fellow community members!
Oh good, another parent ignoramus, this time a bragging, self-important room mommy who is apparently an expert on education and municipal finance. She is continuing the insufferable trope of the proponents that "no suggestions" for how to deal with the (real?) budget crisis are being presented by Ms. Medeiros.
This same nastiness was put forward about Ms. Kourkoumelis' letter, when the "suggestions" are right there front and center, starting with holding officials accountable and expecting full disclosure of facts and figures, which has still not been done and should be the first starting point in any finance discussion! On a FB screed and here on MM, proponents try to discredit CKK by implying that she could only be getting involved in this because she must be planning another public office run, which says plenty about the nonsense these proponents stoop to in order to try and assert their points.
Good for Ms. Medeiros in articulating her position so well!
I will be voting for Monica if she runs for Mayor.
I will be writing her name in even if she decides not to run.
Thank you, Monica!
Yes, Monica Medeiros deserves our thanks!
Melrose Dems truly do behave like Trumpites, sadly. It's ironic that the only public official calling for opening the books and telling the truth is Monica, who of course is being treated in the most vile manner by all the "fair" dems in town. (Granted, MM would help herself by repudiating a vile party of Trump, but to give her credit, none of her conduct as a city official has been in the least bit partisan, and all of her focus is for what's best for the community regardless of party.)
Totally grateful for Alderman Medeiros' consistent dedicated service with integrity!
There's no more perfect irony than MikeF's opinion piece today (Free Press), speaking of fake dems:
"It’s never a politically popular idea to raise taxes, yet our local officials are nearly unanimous in their support of this override, because I believe that they understand the reality and severity of the city’s fiscal woes through firsthand knowledge acquired by attending innumerable meetings and making difficult decisions.
There is no doubt that for homeowners with limited or fixed income, this override is an extraordinary burden to bear, and for most of us, it will be a significant additional expense. The alternative, however, is potentially much worse: a noticeable decline in city services over time and an inevitable negative impact on property values.
Proposition 2 1/2 was intended to give voters control of their fiscal destiny, and ultimately control of their quality of community life. The time has come to make that choice. Please vote in favor of the override as if our future depends on it, because it really does."
MF states that officials "understand the reality and severity of the city’s fiscal woes through firsthand knowledge acquired by attending innumerable meetings," which would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic. Just because they attend and/or organize the insufferable, pre-scripted, bagjob meetings does NOT mean they make well-considered, responsible decisions.
Consultants are hired (at great expense to the taxpayer) to "prove" the points the officials want the public to buy (like the water and sewer rate structure)--oh and that consultant was hired by a Republican (Don Conn), so this criticism cuts both ways. The information handed out (electronically) predictably is of low quality, typically in unsearchable (illegal) .pdfs taken from low-quality accounting and even lower quality (incompetent) "management" practices.
When even elected officials (MM or CKK) have to resort to going to the state Public Records Office and Attorney General's Office to get the local officials to abide by the most basic laws, there is no reason to trust the validity of any "data" being pushed by these same officials. When Della Russo snottily retorts to a dignified and fully valid request for information regarding long-term budget forecasting from Alderman Medeiros that “We don’t make predictions. This is not a magic show....” that should make it patently clear that facts don't matter. However, smearing the opposition does (especially when, as the city CFO, you know you don't have the data and never even did your job to create it, and if it existed, it would prove you dead wrong, so your only hope is to deflect and smear when asked for it!). When PDR similarly resorted to calling Ms. Medeiros "ignorant" (again in request for actual facts, which of course he would not produce--with the wholehearted bystander bullying of the rest of the BOA), again, the City made its case AGAINST facts and FOR vile smears instead.
And oh, by the way, why would any thinking person give a shred of credibility to MF given his well-known past (Perkins School, Sal DiMasi...on and on)? Having witnessed first-hand his "hands-on" approach, he is truly despicable! Where are the MeToo protesters in Melrose?
I was captivated by the stark contrast between two opinion letters that showed up in the Melrose news media this week from two of our Alderman at Large: Monica Medeiros and Kate Lipper Garabedian.
Medeiros has served as a Melrose Alderman since 2007, has run in several statewide elections for State Representative and State Senate, been on the Board of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, chaired the Melrose Republican Committee and is currently the President of the Massachusetts Municipal Councilors Association. A seasoned politician no doubt.
Lipper-Garabedian, on the other hand, moved to Melrose recently and was first elected to the Board of Alderman in 2018, the only political position she has ever held.
Medeiros claims that her view of the City of Melrose finances has been obstructed and our finances mismanaged…even though she has voted in favor of every budget put forward by the Mayor's office since she has been in office (2007). As a member of the Appropriations Committee she is part of the decision-making process. How can she possibly claim poor fiscal management and an obstructed view of City and School finances when she has sat in the front row for 12+ years and voted yes on every budget?
Interestingly, all the data Medeiros claims she doesn't have access to is written plain as day in Lipper-Garabedian' s opinion piece supporting of the override. There are direct links to the data right in her statement, which cites compelling facts and figures arrived at by "pouring through annual budget documents, the Visual Budget website, the State's school and municipal finance materials and a real effort to communicate with various employees involved in the fiscal accounting for both the schools and the municipality at large." At a critical moment for the City of Melrose Lipper - Garabedian did the work she was elected to do.
Facts and figures versus rhetoric and vagaries. Same position, same seat at the table. If Medeiros has an obstructed view she either doesn't understand fiscal finance (shocking given her political experience), has been too distracted running for other offices, or maybe she just isn't paying attention Monday nights before her annual "yes" vote on the budget gets registered.
Alderman Medeiros' letter struck me as a "Kick Off" letter for her next political campaign. An appeal to a very cynical base…not an analytical look at Melrose's fiscal picture and its future needs…which is what her current position requires of her.
The data is crystal clear for any individual interested or capable of understanding it. Our community needs the override. Vote YES!
It's possible McLaughlin actually believes the crap he wrote, but he's always acted as a shill for the city regardless of the truth. He quotes Lipper-Garabedian's rhetoric of "pouring through" documents as if it means something. There are no facts in her article. Only rhetoric, and he tries to support it.
Medeiros has always called out at budget meetings that the most important information isn't on the table. It's always fun when she asks Dello Russo questions about information he misrepresented because you get to watch him on TV squirm while giving his slippery responses. When he's really in trouble he goes into his self-righteous indignation.
Although I wish Medeiros would vote against the budgets, I don't fault her for voting for them, while holding her nose. She tries to make the City more responsible, but can't do it alone. By voting for it, she agrees to keep the city going another year. Perhaps she hopes things can change. It seems they never will.
McGl is totally full of it. This string was about Medeiros, though, and included Festa's thing, too. Where is MCGl's piece (full of excrement though it is)? Perhaps it should be listed, along with your correct response, in another new string.