Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peter Sullivan is NOT censured by his fellow Aldermen!

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The Manchester Express, December 22 - 28, 2008, Page 4
~In Part~
"Money freed up for low-income housing: Board allows group to use building as collateral in loan"
By Michael Stridsberg, mstridsberg@manchexpress.com
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"Aldermen don't censure Sullivan"

Aldermen voted to file a request from Jonathan A. Melle to send Ward 3 Alderman Peter Sullivan before the city's conduct board for an incident at Manchester Community Access Media's (MCAM's) studio last month.
Peter Sullivan allegedly ripped up Jonathan Melle's newspaper and later made disparaging and possibly false remarks about the downtown resident in this newspaper. MCAM's board of directors sent Peter Sullivan a letter of reprimand for the first action.
Deputy solicitor Tom Clark said that the incidents are not within the conduct board's jurisdiction. According to the city charter, city officials and aldermen can be brought before the board if they interfere with the actions of another official, if they or an immediate family member have undisclosed personal or financial interest in any city contract, if they accept or solicit bribes or if they release confidential information.
Aldermen Peter Sullivan abstained from the 13-0-1 vote to file Jonathan Melle's complaint.

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Jonathan Melle's COMMENT:

I am very upset with the Manchester New Hampshire Board of Alderman and Mayor Frank Guinta for filing my complaint against my Ward 3 Alderman Peter Sullivan. I find my city government's actions in response to my complaint to be totally unacceptable.

We are a nation of laws, not of men (or women). Within the law, there is a concept called "discretion", which means that even if the statute does not specify the merits of my complaint of being intimidated, harassed and slandered by Alderman Peter Sullivan, the people in authority may use "common sense" or "thought" to determine if my complaint may be forwarded for review for remediation.

For example, if I am driving on a highway with a speed limit of 55 mph, and everyone is driving no less than 65 mph, then I use my discretion and drive no less than 65 mph. That does not mean I am entitled to drive 90 mph, but it does mean I am safer to drive with the flow of traffic than by the strict construction of the law. On the other hand, if the road is icy, I may drive no more than 25 mph to stay safe.

I am surprised that the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Frank Guinta did not have even one comment, one thought, one discretionary motion, or even one question about this matter. The Board of Aldermen and Mayor Frank Guinta have now shown themselves not only to be hikers of local taxes and budget deficits, but also, they are without conscience, justice and fairness, too.

It is not acceptable for Frank Guinta to serve as both Mayor and Honorary Chair of the NH Advantage Coalition, which raised over 6 figures in lobbyist dollars from undisclosed and outside special interests. It is not acceptable for Alderman Peter Sullivan to rip up my newspaper and then later slander me to the local media as retaliation for my complaints against him.

I believe the reason why the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Frank Guinta filed my complaint with total banality and false pretense is because they are all corrupt Pols who do nothing more than raise our local taxes in return for diminished public services, and then intimidate and harass any and all citizens who exercise their right to Free Speech: Dissent!

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle
Manchester New Hampshire

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Alderman Peter Sullivan's harassment and intimidation of me!

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Below, please find another harassing and intimidating email I recently received from my Manchester NH Ward 3 Alderman Peter Sullivan.

The day before Peter Sullivan wrote his "lovely" email to harass and intimidate me AGAIN, he distributed my court records (indictments and competency motions) to his fellow (13) Aldermen & Alder-women and Mayor Frank Guinta, as well as to the local press or news media.

My written complaint to the Aldermanic Board & Mayor was discarded without debate. Peter Sullivan is able to manipulate "justice" via dirty politics, harass and intimidate me from Freedom of Speech, and slander me to the local news outlets without consequence.

In Dissent!
Jonathan Melle

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Subject: Your actions
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 5:57 PM
From: "Peter M. Sullivan"
To: jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

Jonathan,

Please be informed that I am forwarding your new blog and your recent messages to me to Attorney Harpster. In addition, I am forwarding your name and contact information to the Manchester Police Department in regards to their ongoing investigation into the death threat that was posted on NH Insider last month.

Peter Sullivan

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March 26, 2009

Re: New Trial Date

My new trial date is 6 months away beginning at 9 A.M. with jury selection on September 28, 2009 in NH Superior Court - Manchester.

- Jonathan Melle

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Eileen Gloster on North Adams Mayor John Barrett III & his appalling bad boy bullying behavior!

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"Appalled by mayor's actions"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To the Editor:

As a teacher and member of the executive board of the North Adams Teachers Association, I have urged our city leaders to consider switching to a comparable, yet more affordable, health insurance plan. Our current premiums are among the highest in the state.

Meanwhile, a publicly available analysis has shown that if North Adams switched to the GIC, (The Group Insurance Commission, which carries the plans currently offered to state employees and legislators), the city and its employees could realize combined savings of roughly $1. 5 million. The mayor has disputed those figures but has not presented evidence to the contrary.

With this much money at stake, and in these hard times, shouldn't the two sides at least agree to sit down and bargain the issue in good faith? And so, I welcomed Mayor John Barrett's invitation -- as reported in the Dec. 2 Transcript -- to come to City Hall because "his door is open to any union employee who wants to see the real figures." I asked my MTA field representative, Cindy Polinsky, to join me, and we arrived at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting began pleasantly enough. Cindy and I stopped at the mayor's office and were directed to Nancy Ziter's office by the mayor's assistant. Ms. Ziter invited us in, and we began a very respectful discussion.

Suddenly, Mayor John Barrett charged into the room and screamed, "GET OUT!" During the roughly 20-minute harangue that followed, the mayor shouted at Cindy, his finger inches from her face at times. At one point, the mayor directed Ms. Ziter to call the police, which she began to do.

I told the mayor that I was a city resident and employee and that Cindy was there at my request. Cindy had already explained that, as my union designee, she had every right to be there. I found it bizarre to be in the position of defending anyone's right to be at City Hall. But it didn't matter. The mayor continued shouting at us and then began to shout for the commissioner of public safety. Finally, the mayor made clear that, as a city employee on the city's health insurance, I could stay. But the mayor insisted that Cindy leave.

I hadn't come looking for a fight. I had come to discuss legitimate concerns and to see "real figures" within the public domain, in a public building. But it seemed clear that the mayor would have Cindy thrown out or arrested if she didn't leave. No professional, constructive discussion was possible, so we left.

I am appalled and disappointed that the man I have long supported and even defended as "always having the best interest of the city at heart" would behave in such a manner.

Argue with us, disagree with us, get passionate about your position. No problem. We welcome vigorous and respectful debate. But this encounter started at a level beyond absurd and quickly got worse. It doesn't seem too much to expect that our city officials treat people with decency and respect. I think it's time we demand it.

Because of the mayor's unwillingness to negotiate, the city has missed its chance to join the GIC in the upcoming fiscal year and lost the accompanying savings. It is my hope that Mayor Barrett will quickly comply with our request to make available the important and legitimate information that he has promised to provide and that he will sit down with the coalition of unions to explore and bargain over affordable health care. Let's not miss another opportunity.

Eileen Gloster
North Adams, Massachusetts
Dec. 8, 2008
Publication Name:NAT-Daily
Priority: Sent NAT-WWW

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"Let the Finance Committee do its job"
The North Adams Transcript, Letters, 7/22/2009

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my dismay that the North Adams City Council has voted to keep information about the city finances out of the hands of the Finance Committee. And I feel I must share some information that came my way back in late December -- information that led the unions to believe both that city employees were being overcharged -- and that the mayor knew it.

First, a little necessary history: Last year, my union rep and I tried to see health insurance information the mayor had said was available. We were cordially meeting with Business Manager Nancy Ziter when the mayor charged into her office, shouted at us, and eventually threw my union rep out of City Hall.

I tell my students that to do nothing when someone is being bullied gives the bully too much power. And so, in part to practice what I preach, I wrote a letter to the editor about that experience. A link to the letter is available at the North Adams Teachers Association Website at http://northadams.massteacher.org.

Sometime later, I got a phone call from Kathy Eade, the city’s former administrative officer. She told me that after reading that letter, she had to call me. She had become too uncomfortable living with knowledge she had of an injustice and felt compelled to come forward. Ms. Eade told me that one of the reasons she left her job at City Hall was because she believed city employees were paying more than their fair share of the health insurance costs and that the mayor knew it.

During that phone call and in some conversations thereafter, Ms. Eade told me that in the spring of 2008, she had reviewed a spreadsheet that had been prepared at City Hall, which revealed that for several years, city employees were paying more than their 30 percent share of health insurance costs. She told me that the spreadsheet documented one year in particular where it looked like city employees were paying nearly 35 percent of health insurance costs. Ms. Eade told me that it was her understanding that the mayor had also seen this spreadsheet.

What were we to do with this information? Before making any such serious assertions about an unfair split, we wanted to see for ourselves if there was enough information available to support this claim. And so began a very time-consuming process of getting documents.

Under Mass Public Information law, we asked for the spreadsheet that Ms. Eade had seen. The city denied our request, citing exemptions allowable by law. The Police Association has appealed this request to the supervisor of Public Records. (We find it telling that at the City Council meeting, when Chairman Marden asked if there were records we have not yet received, that the mayor would not allow Nancy Ziter to answer any of the unions’ questions.)

We also requested additional raw data from the city, so we could see for ourselves what the numbers revealed.

Fifteen hundred documents and many months later, we have finally drawn our own conclusions that the employees have indeed been overcharged. We wonder if our conclusions and the ones we believe were already reached by the city are the same. If their documentation still exists, we would like to see it. (You can see some of our numbers, analysis, and documentation for yourself at our Web site. )

This whole process has been a difficult and time-consuming one. It took us the winter and into the spring to get the documentation -- minus the spreadsheet, and additional months to carefully look at the data that we obtained from City Hall and have it analyzed by the independent firm Boston Benefits Partners. And so it was not until this summer that the unions felt we had enough documentation, analysis, and support to make our beliefs public.

Mediation, arbitration, and hearings with the Division of Labor Relations will take months, or even years, to conclude -- and will cost lots of money in legal fees. If the issue could be resolved at a local level, it would save everyone involved time and money.

At Tuesday’s Council meeting, ALL the unions that have filed grievances or charges offered to hold ALL litigation in abeyance if the Finance Committee would look into this in a timely manner. We would like the city to take us up on this offer.

It’s time for open government in North Adams. Let the committee charged with overseeing the city finances do its job.

Eileen Gloster
North Adams, Massachusetts
July 21, 2009
Eileen Gloster is the Vice President of the North Adams Teachers Association.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TKL20G14N7KSCK02J
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THE ADVOCATE (WEEKLY): A View From Adams
"City unions, meet reality"
By BILL DONOVAN, Thursday, December 11, 2008

North Adams city unions must be living in a dream world.

The union's members want the city of North Adams to join the state-run Group Insurance Commission. They claim $1.5 million in savings could be made by the city.

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III says the cost savings claimed by the union just aren't there. He believes enrolling the city in the GIC could be very costly down the road for city taxpayers and would also be a bad deal for the city's employees themselves.

He believes the whole story is simply not being told by the city's municipal union leaders and that there is a disconnect between the union leaders and the rank-and-file workers.

Last summer, the union leaders asked the city to explore the possibility of joining the GIC. To help make their case, the North Adams Teachers' Association brought in a consulting group called Boston Benefits Partners. Interestingly, they never revealed that another one of their clients was the GIC itself. The consultants were promoting one client to another client.

The main selling point Boston Benefits and the city unions made for GIC was cost savings. When making their presentation, however, the figures they used were based on a premium split of 85 percent for the city and 15 percent for the employee, instead of the split the city currently offers, which is 70 percent city and 30 percent employee. This change in the payment split would make it a very good plan in the eyes of city employees. But it would be very costly for the city.

The mayor knew the only cost savings would be to the union members, and that the city simply could not absorb that large an increase. The city then approached Health New England, as well as Blue Cross Blue Shield, and asked if they would offer additional alternative plans without changing the existing Blue Cross Blue Shield plan at all.

By going directly to the members without changing the existing plan in any way, the city put union leaders in a quandary. Participation in the expensive GIC plan was removed as a bargaining chip. That's when the union's leadership, realizing that this would derail their plans, threw a temper tantrum and filed unfair labor practice charges against the city.

What is ironic about all of this is that the union leaders are protesting the city's attempt to lower rates directly, while at the same time, the GIC commission is going to be raising rates on all of its plans midyear. Copayments and deductible amounts will also double. This is because Gov. Patrick recently announced the state's funding of the GIC was being reduced by $32 million.

And guess what? It looks like he will have to lower the state's contribution even further next year. That will mean even greater premium and copayment and deductible hikes for the GIC.

The mayor certainly is not alone in his concern about enrollment in the GIC for the city of North Adams. Out of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns, only 21 have decided to participate.

The city also has offered each and every union member a very fair wage package for not just one year, but three years. They have rejected it.

Do they read the newspapers? Can they see the country is in a national recession, and the state coffers are being emptied at an alarming rate?

Whenever the city has faced tough economic times in the past, any necessary reduction in force has always been done by attrition. And in these tight budget times, when layoffs and givebacks are the order of the day in the private sector, the mayor has tried to avoid cutting real live people, especially in the city schools.

In the real world that sounds like a pretty fair deal. The union leadership would be doing its members a favor if the leaders stopped fighting for a bad insurance program and started focusing on a fair wage settlement.
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Bill Donovan lives and writes in Adams. Send along any feedback to news@advocateweekly.com.
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"Confronting the cost of civic health plans"
By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle, Sunday, June 28, 2009

PITTSFIELD -- With increased health care costs adding strain to cities and towns trying to craft budgets around shrinking state revenues, a proposal to exempt municipal health plans from collective bargaining, drew support here last week from Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael J. Widmer.

He told a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday that his organization favors such legislation drafted by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

"Health care is the area in which the costs have been going up across the nation, but in municipalities at a greater rate than the state," Widmer said. "One of the key factors is that officials can't even make the most minor changes in heath plans without going through collective bargaining. To go from a $5 to a $10, co-pay you have to get [approval] from every union, which is virtually impossible, and you have to give something up to achieve that.

"This proposal says simply that municipal officials should have the same right in designing health plans as the state has through the Group Insurance Commission and outside collective bargaining," he said.

In an interview following his speech, Widmer said the changes would allow municipal officials to craft health plans similar to the GIC, which includes more co-pays, different products and boarder payment options than most municipal health plans.

"The GIC does not have to negotiate with the unions, but municipalities do," he said. "So, we're saying give the municipalities the same power the state has -- equal-equal."

Pittsfield joined the GIC last year, but it needed approval from its 17 municipal collective-bargaining units to do so. The city's collective bargaining units had already agreed to pay a greater share of their health insurance costs a few years before.

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, whose city has not joined the GIC, said he is in favor of the initiative, referring to the legislation as an important municipal-relief proposal.

According to Barrett, the North Adams Teachers Association expressed an interest in joining the GIC last year, but the city determined the amount that it would save didn't justify joining the state-run plan.

"We want to offer different [health] plans so that our employees can have an a la carte menu," Barrett said, adding that, "we can't do that now."

When North Adams recently tried to raise the rates for municipal employees' health insurance by 1.5 percent, the Massachusetts Teachers Associa-tion filed an unfair labor practice on behalf of the North Adams Teachers Association, Barrett said.

"Many unions strongly oppose it," Widmer said. "But the reality is it saves union jobs because there's a direct connection between the growth of health care and the number of people you can afford on your payroll. It's not complicated."

MTA officials could not be reached for comment on Friday. But according to a statement on the MTA's Web site, the organization is opposed to the MMA-backed proposal because it would not only allow city and town officials to bypass the collective-bargaining process, but also do away with the dispute-resolution process that would kick in if the two sides are unable to agree.

In a statement on its Web site, the MMA says that the proposal, "would save more money, more quickly and more efficiently than any other option, including joining the state plan, which doesn't work for many communities."

The state Senate approved an amendment to its fiscal 2010 budget proposal that used the GIC as a benchamark for determining the cost of insuring municipal employees. The proposal would have preserved both the collective-bargaining and dispute-resolution process, according to the MTA's statement, but the initiative was not included in the final budget that was sent to Gov. Deval L. Patrick.

"The legislature really hasn't engaged this issue yet," Widmer said, adding that it could be this year or next year before it acts on the proposal.

The proposed legislation does contain protections for municipal employees and retirees by providing a standard that would prevent municipal officials from gutting a health plan, Widmer said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolksi - (413)496-6224 - tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/TRDJV2MFDATR2E5QR
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"Alcombright to challenge Barrett for mayor"
New England Newspapers Inc.: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, 4/6/2009 - Monday, April 6, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — There will be a race for mayor in November.

City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright told the media today that he will announce his bid Tuesday morning at his home to unseat longtime incumbent John Barrett III.

Alcombright, a Hoosac Bank vice president and city native, is serving his fourth full term as city councilor and has been a member of the McCann School Committee since 1991. He was appointed by the council in 2000 to fill the unexpired term of his late father, longtime City Councilor Daniel F. Alcombright Jr.

Barrett, the longest-serving mayor in Massachusetts, is in his 13th term. He will face his first substantial opposition since he defeated Paul Babeu, a former city councilor and county commissioner, in 2001 for the second time.

Alcombright was the top vote-getter for councilor in the 2001, 2005 and 2007 city elections.

Alcombright was not immediately available for comment. In an e-mail to the media, he said he would issue a press release and take questions at Tuesday's news conference.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/T263O5P03M80B4988
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"The race is on"
The North Adams Transcript, Editorial, 4/8/2009

City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright surprised very few locals with his announcement Tuesday, as the city has been abuzz for months with word of his potential run against John Barrett III, the dean of Massachusetts mayors.

What may have surprised some, however, is that Mr. Alcombright chose to run this year, as opposed to waiting two more years for Mr. Barrett to retire, as the mayor has made it known privately that he would.

Nonetheless, the die is cast, and let the campaign begin.

Mr. Alcombright, a bank vice president, four-term councilor and longtime member of the McCann School Committee, certainly promises to be the most formidable opponent Mr. Barrett has faced in 13 elections. Already we predict a lively campaign, heavy turnout and a close vote in November.

There is little doubt the mayor has garnered a few enemies over the past quarter-century who are chaffing for change in the Corner Office. His "tough guy with a temper" reputation and extremely hands-on management style have rubbed some the wrong way -- although few can argue about the positive changes he has helped wrought, as North Adams has undergone a remarkable resurgence under his leadership. Also, taxes have remained low and services consistently excellent.

Mr. Alcombright brings a "nice guy" rep but to our minds has done nothing remarkable as a city councilor (has anyone?).

So, our initial reaction to the campaign is, why change horses in the middle of the stream -- especially when you have an experienced hand guiding the reins?

The current economic crisis for municipalities in Massachusetts is no time for on the job training, and we would like to see Mr. Alcombright prove his savviness -- and yes, a little toughness -- which will be needed in the coming two years. Mr. Barrett has already shown his savviness and toughness, and no one has more experience. He is more than familiar with state politics and the powers that be, and at this time we see no reason to vote him out. Mr. Alcombright could make a good mayor, but he may be a wiser choice in 2011 than in 2009.

That said, we will pay close attention to the coming campaign and hope for lively and intelligent debate on the issues. We will examine Mr. Alcombright's record -- and Mr. Barrett's -- carefully in the coming months and will listen closely to what each have to say about the city's future. It's a future that, either way, looks bright, in part because of each man's formidable public service.

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"Barrett failed on Reservoir Road"
The North Adams Transcript, Letters, 6/23/2009

To the Editor:

It is nice to see that Reservoir Road is finally receiving a long overdue upgrade. What is not nice to see is that Mayor John Barrett III has failed to provide the citizens of Reservoir Road with long-promised and much-needed municipal sewer.

A couple of years ago, when this project was first announced, Mayor Barrett came before the North Adams City Council and publicly promised zero-percent-interest loans for residents to install septic systems to fix failing systems. This promise was dismissed by Mayor Barrett when a citizen called to take him up on the offer. The current mayor has failed to take action at an opportune time to upgrade city services to those most in need.

Residents of Reservoir Road, Pattison Road, Daniels Road, Woodlawn Avenue, Upper Notch Road and West Shaft Road are in need of public sewer. Those residents pay the same tax rate as everyone else in the city yet are not afforded the same services.

Repaving a road and failing to install basic public utilities is nothing short of a dismal failure to provide service in an area that Mayor Barrett himself has labeled "the next location for development" in our city. The response to the failure to install sewer now, I’m sure, will be that the city could not afford it. However, the city has been able to afford some $1 million to "mothball" the Mohawk Theater. The city has been able to afford over $500,000 to purchase property and have it sit empty. The city has been able to afford over $300,000 to purchase the armory and use it on a limited basis.

The repaving and widening of Reservoir Road was paid for with a federal grant at a cost of over $2 million. Installing sewage pipes before the paving would have been the most cost-effective and the right thing to do for our citizens. Our city infrastructure is crumbling -- we still have wooden water pipes that were installed over 100 years ago.

Our infrastructure isn’t the only thing that is crumbling. By not replacing key positions in City Hall, Mayor Barrett has failed to provide our citizens with a knowledgeable and progressive city government. Recent retirements of key personnel has caused a gap in many of the services offered to our citizens.

It is unfortunate that Mayor John Barrett has chosen to promote his personal agenda over an agenda that is right for the taxpayers of North Adams.

Christopher J. Tremblay
North Adams, Massachusetts
June 20, 2009
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TCDH1503Q2DBM16J5
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"Trust broken with North Adams unions"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters to the Editor, Monday, July 6, 2009

We hope we are wrong, but our analysis, based on documents provided by the city of North Adams, shows that during 2005-2008 the city underfunded the Medical Insurance Trust Fund by failing to pay nearly $1.8 million into that fund for health insurance costs that would have ensured they pay their share of the premium costs. Because of that, our analysis also shows that during those same years, the city overcharged retirees and employees over half a million dollars.

This is a violation of our contracts and therefore a violation of labor law. Grievances have been filed and charges have been filed with the Mass. Division of Labor Relations. We believe the Medical Insurance Trust Fund should be subject to an independent audit. In response to our concerns about the inappropriate management of the trust fund, it seems like the city has turned its back on transparency and therefore, accountability.

For instance, weeks ago, the city met with employees and retirees on the Insurance Advisory Committee, which is a legally mandated committee designated to discuss the health insurance plans. Before the meeting, the public employees asked the city to substantiate the health of the trust fund. Instead of accounting for how it has managed the trust fund, the city announced additional hikes in insurance costs. The city provided us no documentation about the health of the trust fund.

Bottom line -- our analysis shows that city employees have been shouldering more than their 30 percent share of health insurance costs for at least the four years in question. Our analysis shows that this has cost employees and retirees, many of whom reside in North Adams, over $600,000. What about the last 20 years?

Last year the mayor refused to join a state health insurance plan that could have saved an estimated $1.5 million for city employees and citizens. Why did he attack us for even asking for discussion? Were we asking too many questions? We had to; our health insurance costs have been among the highest in the state. And now, it seems, we have been paying more than our share.

This year the mayor finally agreed to sit down with all of the unions to bargain over health insurance. Why now? The trust has been broken. We believe the city can no longer afford to be self-insured and that the mayor realizes he can no longer use employees to subsidize the Medical Insurance Trust Fund by overcharging us. We request that the city conduct a full and independent audit of the health insurance trust fund. It's time for transparency.

SUSAN CHILSON

BRIAN KELLY

PETE ROBARE

North Adams, Massachusetts

Susan Chilson is president, North Adams Teachers Association. Brian Kelly is president, North Adams Police Association, Local 382. Pete Robare is president, North Adams Firefighters Association, Local 178.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/TCOEH89UM1PF6EKGL
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"Insurance woes"
The North Adams Transcript, Editorial, 7/8/2009

Three North Adams unions have leveled serious charges against the mayor and the city regarding health insurance payments (Transcript story, Tuesday, July 7), and these charges should be investigated immediately and thoroughly by the proper authorities.

Mayor John Barrett III has obviously denied the claims from the police union, firefighters union and teachers union that the city has overcharged employees and retirees by $600,000 since 2005 and has not paid its fair share of health insurance benefits. As is their right, the unions have filed grievances with the state Division of Labor Relations.

Already, enemies of Mayor Barrett and forces with the Dick Alcombright campaign for mayor are chomping at the bit, pointing fingers and jumping up and down in their efforts to discredit the mayor. We suggest that they and everyone else sit back and wait for the facts to come in before jumping to conclusions.

Let the state Division of Labor Relations do its job and complete its investigation. If necessary, let there be an independent audit of the city’s Medical Insurance Trust Fund, as the three unions have demanded -- an audit that goes beyond just checking to see that the books are balanced.

Insurance trust funds are complicated, and very few laymen understand how they work. We find it telling that Mr. Alcombright, a city councilor, was among the first to admit that, saying of himself and fellow councilors: "I would also suggest that many of us don’t understand how the trust fund works."

That doesn’t promote a lot of confidence in the governmental body that supposedly oversees the city’s finances. Now is the time for everyone -- the council, the public at large and this newspaper -- to find out how the trust does work and to get to the bottom of this mess.

If the city has failed to pay its 70 percent share of insurance payments and wrangled more than a 30 percent share from employees and retirees, the mayor and others will have some explaining to do -- and perhaps will face serious charges from entities more powerful than the unions. If the claims of malfeasance are unfounded or frivolous, the unions will have some explaining to do.

Right now, all we have are charges and counter charges. Let’s get the facts before demanding that heads roll or blood be let.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TFR99E6D72EISS0MP
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"Audit request goes to council"
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript, 7/14/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Three city unions have officially requested that the finance committee audit the city's medical insurance trust fund, and City Councilor and mayoral candidate Richard J. Alcombright has put the issue on tonight's city council meeting agenda.

Alcombright, who is also a member of the finance committee, said he wants the matter to go before the city council and then the finance committee so that any misunderstanding can be cleared up and both the council and the public can get better acquainted with how the fund works.

"I think that the city employees are really questioning the apportionment of the 30/70 split in the insurance premiums and how those things are allotted," Alcombright said. "It's my understanding that they've requested information from the city and were given some figures that they think clearly bear out a discrepancy. My thought is that if we get this to the council and then the finance committee for further study, I think it's a good thing."

In a brief letter to the finance committee, the heads of the teachers, police and firefighters unions ask for an audit of the trust fund to determine if the city has been paying its 70 percent share of premium costs and that the employees have been paying no more than their required 30 percent share. They also ask for an audit of the history of the trust fund to make sure that it is "funded fully and appropriately."

Finance Committee Chairman Mike Bloom said Alcombright has every right to bring the letter to the city council but added that he thinks it is more for clarification purposes.

"I wasn't sure if he was going to do it or not," Bloom said. "Apparently he's interested in it. I've already spoken to the mayor about it and hopefully it can be better explained and clarified for people that have further questions about it."

Alcombright said he is concerned that the unions and the council, including himself, don't fully understand how the self insurance process works including how it's funded and how disbursements are made. He added that he is unsure if an actual audit is warranted.

"I haven't seen any numbers that [the unions] have," Alcombright said. "They certainly think that they are solid, and again I think this goes back to the GIC and the request to move to the GIC last year. It's all part of the ‘what's going on with insurance in North Adams?' question. The biggest thing at this point is that if we can put it in front of the finance committee we can have several meetings where we can learn about the insurance, we can learn about the union numbers, we can learn about the administration numbers and hopefully clear this matter up."

Mayor John Barrett III said he was unsure why the matter is being brought before the council but is not opposed to it.

"Let [Alcombright] make his argument to the council," he said. "And we'll see how it goes."

Alcombright said the crux of his point is for the council to take a proactive stance on the issue through the finance committee. He also responded to comments Barrett made last week referring to Alcombright's lack of involvement in the matter up until now.

"The fact of the matter is, I had met with some of the union leadership when I announced my run for mayor," Alcombright said. "One of the things they mentioned was that they had requested information from the city on this insurance trust. Beyond that, I had no idea if and when they were going to return a report or if numbers were even going to be available beyond that. This all kind of came as a surprise after we had gone over the budget. Also the numbers the mayor came up with were very consistent with the previous year. I had no reason to question it then."
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To reach Ryan Hutton, e-mail rhutton@thetranscript.com.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TDGUCLTQ8JH23ESAS
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"North Adams Council denies audit motion"
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript, 7/15/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Despite the efforts of City Councilor Richard Alcombright and the heads of the police, fire and teachers unions, the city council voted down a motion Tuesday night to have the city’s medical insurance trust fund audited by the finance committee.

The unions have already filed grievances with the state Division of Labor Relations claiming that the city has not been fully funding its share of the trust while overcharging employees since 2005. The three unions also recently sent a letter asking the finance committee to review the fund, and Alcombright -- also a mayoral candidate -- brought it to the council’s attention.

"I have said I don’t fully understand the medical insurance trust, and I went on record as saying I don’t think many of us do," Alcombright said. "ŠThe mayor has pointed out many times in the last several months and we all know that we are in dire financial times. I want to make it very clear that my only interest in all this is to learn much more about the process, get some answers with respect to the issues and determine if there is any financial liability to the city."

Alcombright made a motion that the trust fund be sent to the finance committee for review and that he be removed from the committee when it came to the trust fund.

City Council President Alan L. Mardin said he would take the second part of the motion under advisement, but City Counselor Gailanne Cariddi said she did not think Alcombright needed to remove himself from the finance committee for the issue. The motion was reworked to include only sending the matter to the committee and two hours of debate began.

North Adams Teachers Association President Susan Chilson said that the unions started their investigations into the cost of North Adams’ medical insurance in 2008 and by the spring of this year had "discovered enormous problems" in the city’s insurance setup.

"After examination of information from the city, [it was] concluded the city was not paying its 70 percent share of premium cost for the last four years." Chilson said.

When he finally spoke, Mayor John Barrett III questioned how Alcombright and some of his fellow councilors could claim they don’t understand the trust because they voted its annual appropriation and he has explained it to them many times.

"Since 2002, at various times, I have come to this council and asked you for appropriations transfers of $1.3 million into the trust," he said. "During that time, I explained it all to every member of this city council. The only one that wasn’t here was Lisa Blackmer. I’ve gone through budgets thoroughly Š There was no problem in North Adams and there is no problem today."

Barrett maintained that because the unions had filed a grievance on the matter they should meet again with the state appointed mediator -- whom Barrett claimed has ruled against him close to 85 times over the years -- instead of just walking away and trying a different tactic.

Chilson along with North Adams Police Association President Brian Kelly and North Adams Firefighters Association President Peter Robare maintained that while the city had never been delinquent in paying out any heath insurance claims, it had not proven to their satisfaction that it was paying its fair share.

Barrett said the premiums are all being paid and if the employees are shelling out 30 then the other 70 has to come from somewhere, namely, the city. When asked to prove it, Barrett said "I don’t have to. I don’t have to prove anything."

Barrett went on to say:

"I’ve been mayor for 26 years, and never once have we ended the fiscal year without a balance in the trust," he said. "We’ve been accused of tapping the trust for all kinds of other projects over the years, and it’s just not true. In seven or eight years, we’ve never had an increase in co-pays and our rates are less than GIC’s for a comparable plan."

The final vote was 4-3 against sending the matter to the finance committee with Richard Alcombright, Ronald Bouchard and Robert Moulton voting ‘yes’ and Lisa Blackmer, Gailanne Cariddi, Marie Harpin and Alan Mardin voting ‘no’. City Counselors Mike Bloom and Clark Billings were absent.
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To reach Ryan Hutton, e-mail rhutton@thetranscript.com.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/T6531VUR3T4UQNQS9
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"City owes unions on insurance"
The North Adams Transcript (Online), Letters to the Editor, September 21, 2009

To the Editor:

In the Transcript article from Sept. 9, Mayor Barrett described as "most outlandish" a claim by North Adams Teachers Association President Susan Chilson that the city’s labor attorney, Fernand Dupere, had acknowledged that the city does not always pay 70 percent of the health insurance premiums for public employees and retirees.

Well, we all were at the meeting, and we all heard this admission. Perhaps Attorney Dupere spoke out of turn at this meeting. But speak he did. Mayor Barrett was not at the meeting. Chilson was, and she took notes, as all good teachers do!

At this meeting, we asked the city questions about the current health insurance trust fund. We asked if the city paid 70 percent of the premium costs, as it is contractually required to do. Mr. Dupere told us: "Sometimes the city pays 70 percent, depending on the year."

Finally! The city admitted what our own independent analysis established months ago -- the city does not always pay its share of health care costs and instead overcharges employees and retirees. The city just pays the difference between its health insurance costs and the employees’ contributions. Sometimes the city pays 70 percent as required by contract, but we believe that more often it doesn’t.

When the city overcharges employees, the city needs to reimburse them. That hasn’t happened, to the tune of over $600,000, by our analysis.

But let’s talk about the future.

Time is running out to save money for our community. Our health insurance costs are about 25 percent higher than in many other nearby communities. The city, taxpayers, employees and retirees could all save money by switching insurance plans. In order to get into the state’s less expensive health plan, we need to reach an agreement with the city by Dec. 1. We can’t afford to miss this deadline again. Last year, this missed deadline cost us an estimated $1.5 million in savings. Enough is enough.

If the city disputes Susan Chilson’s account and ours, or disputes our conclusions, then it should open its books and let an independent professional decide. Otherwise, Mayor Barrett, it is time to pay up and to work with us to find more affordable insurance.

Brian Kelly
North Adams, Massachusetts
September 16, 2009
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The writer is president of North Adams Police Association Local 382. The letter was also signed by Peter Robare, president of North Adams Firefighters Local 1781; Glenn Robert of North Adams DPW Teamsters Local 404; Jeanne Lapine, president of North Adams Paraprofessional Association; Stephen J. Finnigan, sub district director of United Steelworkers of America, and Deb Alves, teaching assistant and shop steward of United Steelworkers of America.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/T9FJM1NK6H2B939NF
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"Union is still at odds with city"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, 9/25/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- A feud between the city and the North Adams Teachers Union continues after attempts by a state mediator have failed to bring the two sides together over health insurance costs.

However, each side claims the mediation sessions were ended for different reasons.

The two sides have been at odds since July, when Union President Susan Chilson requested an independent audit of the city's health insurance trust fund be performed by the City Council. The council denied the request, with four votes against the audit and three votes in favor.

The union claims that the city has failed to continuously pay its 70 percent share into the fund over the past several years, which Chilson says results in city employees footing more than their 30 percent share of health insurance costs.

Alison Harris, spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, said Tuesday that the department "could not offer comment" on the proceedings.

"It's my understanding that the mediator ended the sessions because the city failed to supply information by a set deadline," Chilson said on Wednesday. "We had provided all the information that we had compiled and were waiting for the information we had requested which proves the city has paid its 70 percent. That's the bottom line for us. Deadlines have to be set, otherwise things will carry on forever."

She said that once the deadline passed last week, the mediator "said enough is enough and closed the session."

"I have heard that the city provided some information after the deadline," she said. "However, we have not seen that information. I don't know what will happen to it. I do know that our grievances, which have been on hold with the state Division of Labor, will now go before the school committee."

But according to Mayor John Barrett III, the sessions were ended when the teachers union walked away from the process.

"The city did hand over all the information that was requested," he said on Thursday. "There was no deadline and the mediator fully understood that [acting Treasurer] Nancy Ziter was waiting on one final report to come in. Although I'm not directly involved in the process, I had a conversation with the mediator and know that he shared that information with [Massachusetts Teachers Association representative] Cindy Polinsky."

The mayor said the mediator offered to set up another mediation session, but that Polinsky declined.

"I think [the mediator] was just disgusted with the process," Barrett said. "He told me that he could force the two groups to meet, but that he didn't see any sense in it since the union had indicated it wants to proceed with the grievance process. I know that our lawyer also followed up with a letter to Polinsky for one more meeting, but she declined."

Chilson, however, is adamant the teachers union is still open to discussion.

"We did not walk away," she said. "We have tried very hard to make this work. If the city wants to talk any further, we are always willing. Obviously, it won't be in a mediation session."

Barrett said he expects the grievances will now proceed on to the school committee.

"I don't know why this continues to go on. Maybe it's just the political season, but it is discouraging," he said. "This whole process is just mindboggling. They recently filed a grievance challenging the city's right to raise employee insurance rates by 11 2 percent. Again, they're tying up our time with frivolous claims that the school committee will have to deal with."
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To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail jhuberdeau@thetranscript.com.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TR1QSR3FEAS7CI6TS
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"North Adams union says city owes $2M to trust fund"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, November 5, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Union officials presented the North Adams School Committee with documentation Wednesday night that they say proves the city has shortchanged the Health Insurance Trust Fund by $2 million over the last five years.

"This is the information we tried to give to the City Council," Eileen Gloster, union member and Brayton Elementary School teacher, said after the meeting. "We felt that we were heard and that the School Committee wanted to know if something is wrong, and if it is, to fix it."

Gloster and Susan Chilson, teachers union president, presented the documentation, which shows the city paying 67 percent of employee health insurance costs over the last five years instead of 70 percent, during an open grievance hearing at the School Committee’s monthly meeting. The union filed a formal grievance in September with the state Division of Labor and Workforce Development after mediation attempts between the city and the union were shut down by a state mediator this summer.

School Committee members voted unanimously to take the information under advisement and to continue the hearing in order to go over the data independently, acting on the advice of the school department’s counsel, attorney Fred Dupere. Mayor John Barrett III, who serves as chairman of the School Committee, did not attend the meeting.

"I think it’s important for everyone in this room to remember that this information represents just one side from one organization and has not been verified by us," Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger said.

During an hour-long presentation, union officials charged that the city has failed to keep up its contractual agreement of paying 70 percent of employee health insurance costs and in the process had overcharged employees and eliminated an account surplus that could have reduced employee premiums.

City employees are charged 30 percent of insurance premiums -- a rate based on projected insurance costs for the coming year, according to Chilson, who said the city is expected to pay 70 percent of the premiums.

"All of this money then goes into the trust fund," she said.

Money in the trust fund is then used to pay the actual costs of the insurance claims and a stop-loss insurance policy.

"The city isn’t paying the 70 percent of the premium cost," Gloster maintained. "It’s not even paying 70 percent of the actual cost. It’s paying what’s left over of the actual cost after the employee payment is used."

According to the union’s data, which was compiled from documents provided by the city and state ledgers, the total amount that should have been paid into the health insurance trust over the last five years is $26,549,587, with the city paying $18,584,711 and employees paying $7,964,877.

However, research conducted by Boston Benefits Partners LLC for local unions, shows that the actual amount paid into the trust over five years was only $24,387,458, with the city contributing $16,337,624 and the employees paying in $8,007,148 -- a split of 67 percent and 33 percent.

"In simple terms, it’s me having to pay $3 and the city having to pay $7," Christopher Caproni, former union president, said. "When the bill comes in, it’s $8, but the city hasn’t paid its $7 yet and instead only puts in the necessary $5. That $2 should go somewhere. In reality, it should have been in the trust fund, where it could help decrease premium costs the next year. In some years, the trust fund has shown a deficit because that money wasn’t there, where it was supposed to be."

Union officials said their request is twofold: for the School Committee to ensure that it begins paying its 70 percent share through the city immediately and for the district to repay the missing $2 million to the trust fund.

School Committee member William Schrade Jr. questioned why the grievance was brought to the district, as opposed to the city.

"The city gives us the bill, and we pay it," he said.

Dupere explained the responsibility of a grievance falls to the School Committee because it holds the contracts with the unions, regardless of which entity puts the money into the trust fund.

"Realistically, you must discuss this with the mayor’s office," he said. "The [unions] have made it clear they are willing to work to examine this issue to see if there is a liability, and if there is, what the appropriate response is."
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/T0ELBFSLIP289CUFB
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The real Deval Patrick! The OPPOSITE of property tax relief!

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"DiMasi warns localities to brace for 10% aid cut: Leaders hunting revenue sources"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, December 9, 2008

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said yesterday that Massachusetts cities and towns should brace for cuts of up to 10 percent in state aid next year, an ominous sign that the pain of the nation's economic crisis is still just taking hold and could result in layoffs of police, firefighters, and teachers in local communities.

"Massachusetts will not be spared the pain," said DiMasi, after calling a group of reporters into his State House office. He predicted state aid would be reduced by 5 to 10 percent, saying it is "a matter of how much. It's not a matter of whether they will take a cut or not."

The state is providing about $5.3 billion this year in local aid, meaning a 10 percent cut would slice about $530 million from directed payments for municipal services.

That would, in one year, equal the more than $500 million in state aid that was cut un der Governor Mitt Romney between 2002 and 2004. About 14,500 teachers, police officers, firefighters, librarians, and others lost their jobs in those years.

To soften the blow on cities and towns, DiMasi said, he will propose legislation next month that would allow municipalities to join the state's health insurance program without union approval. He also signaled a new willingness to allow local communities to tax telephone poles as well as to levy a local meals tax - two of Governor Deval Patrick's proposals that DiMasi has previously rejected.

Patrick declined yesterday to echo DiMasi's dire local-aid cut prediction, but he did suggest that local officials should gird for cuts.

"I don't think there's a lot of good news on the horizon," Patrick said before heading into an afternoon meeting with DiMasi. "We have done as much as we can to hold local aid and school funding harmless. But I've said all along, if we need to go deeper, we will go deeper."

"Everything's on the table," said Senate President Therese Murray, heading into the same meeting. "Things are bad."

The budget crunch can be seen in a place like Chicopee, where about half of the city's $140 million budget comes from state aid.

"When you know you're about to get rained on, you better get your rain gear out," said Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette, who last week directed city department heads to prepare budgets next year that are 8 to 15 percent less than this year. "So that's what we're doing."

In Boston, where the city is counting on more than $500 million in state aid this year, officials have already started preparing a pared-down budget that anticipates deep cuts in local aid, said Dot Joyce, Mayor Thomas M. Menino's spokeswoman. Menino declined to be interviewed.

Most municipalities still have not recovered from the last round of local aid cuts, which began in 2002, according to Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

"Minimizing the impact of budget cuts to local aid will be very important," Beckwith said. "But we recognize that these are very difficult times."

State officials for months have been scrambling to respond to an international crisis that has already taken its toll on the state's economy. The governor announced in October that the current budget is $1.4 billion out of balance, prompting midyear layoffs and budget cuts.

Patrick, Murray, and DiMasi met last night with the governor's team of economic advisers. In addition, the state's top budget officials are scheduled to hold a hearing next week to determine next year's budget revenue estimates. Patrick will unveil his budget proposal in late January, and agencies have been asked to reduce their budgets.

State officials predicted last week that lottery sales would decline by about 4 percent, or $200 million, over last year. In addition, there will be about a $40 million shortfall in the $903 million the lottery was supposed to provide this year to assist cities and towns.

Tax collections are coming in below expectations, which have already been lowered. Budget watchers are concerned that capital gains taxes could take a nosedive, further worsening the budget outlook.

State officials have estimated that those tax revenues will drop by 30 percent, but some are now worried they could fall further. For every additional 10 percent decline in capital gains, the state loses $200 million in revenue.

"Expectations need to be kept at a realistic level," said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "You can't think that everything going on globally won't affect state revenues and the state's investment in core services. It will."

DiMasi's plan to eliminate the union provision is almost certain to draw heated opposition from entrenched union leaders unwilling to give up their bargaining power.

It also puts DiMasi at odds with many unions that aggressively backed the governor's casino legislation and thrusts him into the forefront of the state's budget problems at a time when he is facing several ethics investigations.

"Unions should have a seat at the table and management shouldn't be able to act unilaterally," said David Holway, president of National Association of Government Employees.

"We're hurting, too," said Bob McCarthy, president of Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. "They want to get all the savings and shift all the costs onto employees,"

Under current law, city and town officials must win the assent of 70 percent of local union members before they can join the state's Group Insurance Commission. DiMasi argues that the provision has discouraged municipalities from joining the state system, which provides more cost savings through bargaining power with insurance companies.

Collectively, cities and towns could save between $436 million and $764 million in fiscal year 2013 by signing up for the GIC program, according to an estimate by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. But so far, only 17 out of 351 cities and towns have opted into the state's health insurance pool. In addition, 10 out of 129 regional school districts, charter schools, and regional planning agencies have joined.

Local officials frequently clash with unions under the current system, in part because unions use the issue to bargain for other concessions such as increased salaries. They also argue that the state system would shift more costs onto them through higher copays.

DiMasi also signaled yesterday that he would be willing to support Patrick's plan to allow municipalities to collect property taxes from telecommunications companies for poles and wires that run over public ways.

Patrick has also proposed allowing municipalities to impose a meals tax, which DiMasi had vigorously opposed but now might consider.

"It's a possibility," DiMasi said of the plan. "We're in different circumstances this year."

When asked whether he would support licensing casinos, DiMasi pointed out that the industry has suffered along with the economy but added, "I'm not saying no at all."

The comment appeared to reflect a new openness on casinos, although his spokesman later insisted that the speaker had not changed positions. Patrick has not said whether he plans to refile legislation on legalizing casinos.

DiMasi, who has been under fire because of several ongoing ethics investigations, reiterated that he plans to run for speaker again in January.

But when asked if he planned to serve the full two-year term, he said, "I don't know. Do you think you'll have your job two years from now?"
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/12/09/dimasi_warns_localities_to_brace_for_10_aid_cut/
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UPDATE 1-"Massachusetts cuts revenue projection, again"
Monday, December 15, 2008, 8:01pm EST
reuters.com Market News By Scott Malone and Kevin McNicholas

BOSTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Massachusetts cut its projected state revenues on Monday by another $749 million as the economy worsened, just months after Gov. Deval Patrick cut spending to close a $1.4 billion budget shortfall.

The latest estimate could be cut again, Revenue Commissioner Navjeet Bal said.

"There is further risk to these estimates from a more pronounced capital gains decline and from a substantial decline in year-end bonus income," he told a four-hour hearing.

The state of 6.4 million people would take in $648 million to $749 million less than lawmakers forecast on Oct. 15, largely because of a steeper-than-expected projected fall in tax generated from capitals gains, he said, adding that turmoil in stock markets made forecasting capital gains difficult.

The estimate followed projections by two private forecasters who said Massachusetts could face a revenue drop of as much as 11 percent over the next two years as the yearlong U.S. recession drives down personal and corporate income, eroding the state's tax base.

State revenue are expected to fall more than $2 billion to $18.6 billion in 2010 from $20.9 billion this year, as Massachusetts loses 126,000 jobs and corporate profits fall about 20 percent, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, an independent forecasting organization, said.

A separate analysis by academics from Harvard University and Boston University predicted that revenue would fall to $19.7 billion by 2010 -- a 5.6 percent tumble.

Massachusetts is not alone in its troubles. As of November, at least 21 of the 50 U.S. states faced budget shortfalls this year, according to Moody's Investors Service.

Other sources of revenue, including the Massachusetts state lottery, were also in decline, state Treasurer Timothy Cahill said.

"It will probably get worse before it will get better and 2009 will be the most challenging and difficult year that we will face," Cahill said. "It may make 2008 look simple in retrospect because we are only now facing the job downturns and the consumer spending cutbacks."

The forecasts came in annual testimony to state lawmakers and members of Gov. Patrick's administration, who are looking for ways to balance the budget even as big Massachusetts industries, including mutual funds, lay off thousands of workers.

State Street Corp (STT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Fidelity Investments are among the Boston-based financial services firms to have announced large layoffs in recent weeks, as the global economic crisis hammers their results.

Likewise, academia, another major Massachusetts industry, has felt the pinch with universities, including Harvard, freezing salaries and looking for ways to trim their budgets as slumping global markets sharply reduce the value of their endowments. (Additional reporting by Jason Szep, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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Photo by Mark Garfinkel
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"Deval Patrick to seek authority for local-aid cuts"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, December 30, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

Gov. Deval Patrick said today that tax collections may fall another $1 billion below projections, so he will ask the Legislature for expanded budget-cutting powers, including the authority to reduce state aid payments to cities and towns.

The new cuts would be on top of $1.4 billion in budget reductions announced in October. Those cuts spared the local aid payments that are the lifeblood of many local school, police and fire departments.

At the time, the state budget was $28.1 billion, but Patrick said the cuts in other parts of the budget were needed because tax collections would be $1.1 billion below projections. Now, local aid is vulnerable.

"Everything is on the table — including local aid," Patrick said Tuesday.

"This thing could be an order of magnitude again of what we had to do in October," the governor told reporters he summoned to his Statehouse office on a day he was scheduled to be on vacation at his Berkshires retreat.

The administration will ask for the expanded powers shortly after as the Legislature resumes formal sessions next week and would try to make any cuts as quickly as possible.

Patrick said the state could also make an additional withdrawal from its $1.6 billion rainy day fund — "It’s raining," he said. But he and his staff are wary because they believe the fund will also have to support the state through the 2010 budget year beginning July 1, 2009, and the bulk of the 2011 budget year beginning July 1, 2010.

A mid-month analysis by the Department of Revenue showed December collections $130 million below where they were at the same time in 2007.

In October, when Patrick announced the state had a $1.4 billion deficit, he said his administration was revising the state’s overall expected tax collections for the year from $21.4 billion to $20.3 billion. Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan has until Jan. 15 to make the next downward revision.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1142104
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"Deval Patrick to slash budget by $1B in ’09: Ball drops, taxes spike"
By Hillary Chabot, Wednesday, December 31, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

Gov. Deval Patrick dropped a New Year’s bombshell yesterday, promising to ring in 2009 with up to $1 billion in additional cuts that likely will put local aid on the chopping block and send property taxes through the roof.

“There’s a lot of pain, and it’s going to have to be spread around,” Patrick said. “Everything is on the table, including local aid.”

Municipal mayors and fiscal watchdogs said the midyear cuts would prompt massive layoffs and cripple services. Along with the $1.4 billion slashed in October, the cuts total almost one-tenth of the $28 billion budget. “It’s going to be a triple whammy,” said Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “Homeowners will see their property taxes go up, the value of their homes go down and their services will be cut.”

The cuts are prompted by plummeting capital gains and sales revenues, which have dropped by another $250 million in the past two weeks. Patrick said he’ll ask lawmakers next week for additional budget-cutting powers, and legislative budget writers indicated yesterday they likely will approve the request.

Patrick admitted the state’s fiscal freefall has put a damper on his campaign promises such as property tax relief and education reform. “We’re going to have to slow it down,” Patrick said.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, head of the Massachusetts Mayors Association, asked the governor and lawmakers to give cities and towns options such as increasing the local meals taxes in order to blunt the property tax hike.

“The deeper the cuts to local aid, the longer the recession is going to last,” Curtatone said.

Property taxes skyrocketed the last time midyear cuts were implemented by former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2002, Curtatone said.

Boston slashed homeowners’ property taxes by 2.6 percent for 2009. That rate is locked in, but Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s spokeswoman Dot Joyce said there’s no guarantee of similar savings in 2010 if local aid is cut.

Patrick hopes to temper the cuts with an expected federal stimulus package from President-elect Barack Obama. Patrick, who jumped on a conference call with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, is asking for $250 billion in social service aid for programs such as unemployment, $250 billion for education and $350 billion for infrastructure.

Patrick also said he would consider a gas tax or sales tax hike, but cautioned that the timing was off. He warned against dipping too much into the $1.6 billion rainy day fund, which will be needed because the recession could stretch into 2011.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1142187
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Phyllis Dubielak, at home recovering from a broken hip, is far down a 320-name waiting list for home care. The 84-year-old learned that she will no longer get physical therapy at home. (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
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"Fiscal woes already mean wait, worry for ailing elders"
By Kay Lazar, Boston Globe Staff, December 31, 2008

More than 300 disabled senior citizens will enter the new year on a waiting list for basic home care services, not knowing when or whether the assistance might arrive, because of state budget cuts.

Just a couple of months ago, there was almost no wait for a home care aide who could help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and grocery shopping, the kind of services that keep people out of far more expensive nursing homes. But budget cuts announced Oct. 15 sliced nearly $4 million, roughly 3.6 percent, out of the program, said Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care. The association represents 27 nonprofits that, in turn, oversee delivery of the care.

The budget cuts resulted in a waiting list that, on Dec. 15, stood at 320 and is expected to grow, especially after yesterday's announcement from Governor Deval Patrick that the state may face a second round of budget cuts of up to $1 billion, Norman said.

"This is like walking below the sword of Damocles," he said, lamenting cuts to a program that "keeps people out of institutions and saves the taxpayers money." It serves 33,400 elders statewide.

The cuts have come amid a broader range of spending reductions that diminished services for some of the state's most vulnerable residents. Programs taking the biggest reductions, nearly $300 million, include the state's Medicaid budget, which pays for health insurance coverage, mental health services, dental care, and an array of other programs for low-income children and elderly residents.

Among those waiting for home care is Phyllis Dubielak, an 84-year-old Bedford grandmother who fractured her hip in early November and now relies on a walker to get around. Dubielak has had home-based physical therapy since she was released from a rehabilitation facility a few weeks ago, but she just found out that service ends on Friday, and she does not yet feel able to live entirely on her own.

For that reason, she was especially eager for home care services to help her bathe and do laundry, she says. But given how far down she is on the waiting list, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

"I fear getting in and out of the shower," said Dubielak, who has started wearing a medical alert button around her neck, so she can call for help if she falls again.

With the governor's warning yesterday that more budget cuts are likely, a state spokeswoman said officials are keenly aware of the seniors who are counting on the threatened services.

"During these challenging economic times, the Office of Elder Affairs had to make the very difficult decision to reduce funding for the Home Care Program," Kristina Barry, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said in an e-mail.

She said that, in total, more than 45,000 seniors receive some home-based care, including those in the program that Dubielak now hopes to enter.

"Our priority is to continue to deliver essential services for the most vulnerable during these difficult times," she added, but declined to say whether the home care program faces further cuts.

In addition to the cuts made in October in the home care program, the budget was also reduced about 7 percent for home care managers, the staff members who help arrange the care for elders and oversee their cases.

Norman, of Mass Home Care, says the program "respects the wishes of elders to remain at home, and it's their civil right to be cared for in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs."

He called the cuts ironic.

"The state is restricting the very programs that have been driving down the use of nursing homes," he said.

The state pays about $158 per patient per day for nursing home services, not including the medical care, but only $8.76 daily for each resident enrolled in the basic home care program, according to the association.

By Norman's calculation, the number of patient days in nursing homes in Massachusetts has fallen by 21 percent since 2000, because of the basic home care program and two other home-based services provided by the state. That translates, Norman said, to a savings for the state of more than $439 million since 2000.

"Phyllis Dubielak is an example of someone you can maintain at a fairly low cost at home," Norman said, "so intervention at this point is much more desirable than what the state would spend after a second fall."
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Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com.
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"State faces $1b more in cuts: Patrick says pain will be spread; local aid may suffer"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, December 31, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday that he was preparing for up to $1 billion in additional budget cuts, raising the specter of reductions in aid to municipalities, more layoffs of state employees, and drastic cutbacks in the services that state government provides to its residents.

"There's a lot of pain, and it's going to have to be spread around," Patrick told reporters during a 30-minute briefing in his State House office. "Nobody's enjoying this. This is incredibly difficult."

The cuts will come on top of those made just two months ago, when the governor announced a $1.4 billion budget shortfall that triggered cuts in almost every state department and spurred several protests on Beacon Hill.

That round of cuts spared the $5.3 billion the state would provide in local aid, which is a mainstay for municipalities. But Patrick said protecting that aid appears less likely now.

"Everything's on the table," he said, "including local aid."

The governor's announcement is yet another indication of the toll that the national recession is taking on local services. Nearly every tax that the state collects is well below expectations, with the biggest impact being seen in capital gains taxes.

State officials also expect retail sales taxes to decline as a result of a weak holiday shopping season, and Patrick cautioned that his estimate of an up to $1 billion shortfall is as much in flux as the national forecast.

Cuts to local aid - coming in the middle of the fiscal year, when municipal budgets have already been set - would probably force some municipal officials to immediately begin slashing services and laying off teachers and police officers.

Local and state officials still hold out hope that a federal stimulus package could soften the blow to their budgets. After briefing reporters and meeting with top House and Senate lawmakers, Patrick participated in a conference call yesterday with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when he planned to continue making the case that state governments deserve a major infusion of federal funds.

President-elect Barack Obama is hoping to sign a federal stimulus package shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, and Patrick said he and other governors are pushing for $350 billion for infrastructure projects, $250 billion for education, and $250 billion in funding for programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. But it is unclear what conditions the federal government would put on the spending and whether state officials could use the money to make up budget shortfalls.

Patrick said yesterday that he plans to ask the Legislature to grant him expanded budget-cutting authority next week that would allow him to unilaterally reduce the amount of money the state gives to municipalities without first seeking permission from the Legislature.

"Reducing local aid midyear will absolutely have a very painful impact on communities across the state," said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. "The result would be very painful cuts that would take years to recover from."

The last time there were midyear cuts to local aid was in January 2003, when Governor Mitt Romney sliced $114 million. Romney cut more than $500 million in state aid between 2002 and 2004, and about 14,500 teachers, police offices, librarians, and others lost their jobs in those years.

Romney was lambasted for making those cuts, and local officials say they have never recovered; after adjusting for inflation, cities and towns receive $566 million less than before Romney's cuts, Beckwith said.

Patrick has forged a more amicable relationship with municipalities, and local officials avoided criticizing Patrick directly yesterday. Still, cuts that slash deep into municipal budgets could begin to strain the relationship.

"We're going to see a replay of several years ago if this goes through, drastic cuts to public education, public works, public safety," said Joseph A. Curtatone, the mayor of Somerville, where local aid makes up nearly a third of the $165 million operating budget.

The state's current budget allocates $5.3 billion in what is considered local aid, which includes education funding, lottery aid, and other assistance. An additional $1 billion is provided primarily for reimbursements for things such as school lunches, regional public libraries, and police training programs.

In the first two weeks of December, tax collections were $130 million below where they were the same time in 2007, according to a mid-month report by the Department of Revenue. State officials say they will have a better idea of revenues in January, when businesses and residents begin to file their estimated capital gains tax forms. Leslie A. Kirwan, secretary of administration and finance, has until Jan. 15 to issue a new revenue estimate.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who warned local officials three weeks ago that next year's budget could include local aid cuts of between 5 and 10 percent, suggested yesterday that those cuts could come sooner.

"The necessity of further cuts will mean nothing can be off the table," DiMasi said in a statement.

Senate President Therese Murray also indicated that drastic cuts would be needed.

"If this revenue comes in short, as we suspect it will, the governor, along with the Legislature, will again need to find places in the budget to make reductions," Murray said in a statement.

"At that point, everything, including local aid, will have to be on the table."

Patrick said he was looking at several different scenarios on how to make cuts, but he deflected several questions about his plans so far, saying he did not want to set off a panic or cause different interest groups to "freak out" about cutting spending in their areas.

"You're getting down to bad choices and worse choices," said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "You really are cutting to the bone of basic programs."

Patrick plans next month to unveil his budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, 2009.

Although the cuts could increase calls for other sources of revenue, Patrick appeared lukewarm yesterday about increasing taxes.

"It's a crummy time to ask people for broad-based taxes," he said. "But I think there's a lot we have to do to demonstrate greater efficiencies and the impact on services before the public will accept broad-based tax increases."

Patrick has also called on the Legislature to pass legislation to allow municipalities to impose a meals tax as well as collect property taxes from telecommunications companies for poles and wires that run over public ways.
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
JOSEPH A. CURTATONE AND BRUCE TOBEY
"Cities and towns need fiscal freedom"
By Joseph A. Curtatone and Bruce Tobey, January 6, 2009

THERE IS NO denying the possibility that the governor and Legislature may be forced to cut local aid to cities and towns in fiscal year 2010. While leaders on Beacon Hill have made attempts to hold local aid harmless, Governor Patrick announced last week that the need for an additional $1 billion in midyear cuts puts local aid firmly on the table. Without reforms at the state and local level, this would prove devastating to cities and towns. With no way to absorb those cuts, municipalities would be limping, if not crawling, to the end of the fiscal year.

Many municipalities have not had their funding restored from cuts made under Governor Romney in 2002. Additional cuts could force local leaders to drastically reduce services, lay off workers, and shutter public buildings.

However, this worst-case scenario is avoidable. Municipalities must be granted the ability to determine their own future by expanding both revenue and management options.

The funding structure for cities and towns is flawed and cannot be sustained. Given the realities of Proposition 2 1/2, and an already overburdened residential tax base, municipalities cannot hope to survive in the current economic climate if they must continue to rely almost exclusively on state aid and local property tax revenue. As the governor and a growing number of state legislators have observed, Massachusetts needs to join the many other states that have given their municipalities a more diverse and flexible set of revenue options.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to raise revenue at the local level without further straining the state's finances. In his Municipal Partnership Act, Patrick proposes giving cities and towns the power to levy a 1 to 3 percent meals tax at restaurants. Such a tax would mean mere pennies to diners but would ease the pressure of the regressive property tax. Hotel taxes could provide similar relief. Additionally, the governor and Legislature should continue their efforts to close the 1913 telecommunications tax loophole that denies millions of dollars in commercial property taxes to local communities. The governor and Legislature should also consider passing legislation allowing for red light photo enforcement; this measure would generate revenue for cities and towns while allowing our police officers to spend more time on pressing quality-of-life issues - and less time monitoring traffic.

There are also fair and practical ways to slow fixed cost increases. Municipal governments should simply be granted the same flexibility and options currently enjoyed by our state government. Moreover, unilateral adjustments to pension system health insurance payouts and education financing would significantly restrain expenditures. For example, the current formula for school reimbursements leads to surpluses for some charter schools while neighborhood schools cut back.

While new local revenue options and fiscal management tools are necessary for the survival of local communities, local leaders must also take responsibility for the efficiency of municipal governments. We must show flexibility and find ways to implement best practices and innovations in management and service delivery. For example, there would be significant savings gained by pooling resources across jurisdictions, and by regionalizing the delivery of services. That is why Somerville and 10 other municipalities in Greater Boston are entering into a study to determine the feasibility of a regional emergency call center.

What we need now from the state isn't a handout but a freer hand to do what must be done to maintain the fiscal strength and the economic future of our cities and towns. If all cost-cutting options are on the table, we must also consider all revenue-generating options. Speaker Sal DiMasi recently signaled that, given the economic climate, all options for revenue must be reviewed and examined. We hope that his colleagues share in his willingness to explore, and implement, these options.

In the end, the success of cities and towns is essential to the success of the Commonwealth as a whole.
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Joseph A. Curtatone is mayor of Somerville and president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association. Bruce Tobey is president of the Gloucester City Council and president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
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"Legislators in line for 5.5 percent raise"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, January 7, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are in line to receive a 5.5 percent pay hike, even as they prepare to make deep cuts to state services.

That would lift lawmakers’ base pay from $58,237 to $61,440.

Under a state law approved by voters in 1998, lawmakers’ pay rises or falls every two years in sync with the state’s median household income.

The law requires the governor to determine the change to the household income at the start of each two-year legislative session.

Gov. Deval Patrick sent a letter to state Treasurer Timothy Cahill today saying he’d determined the increase to be 5.5 percent.

The timing is politically awkward as the state grapples with tumbling revenues and lawmakers face the prospect of slashing spending.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1143792
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"Get ready"

Two years Governor Deval Patrick promised to cut our property taxes. It was a pledge that he never intended to keep or could fulfill.

Right now Massachusetts taxpayers are faced with a situation worse than an empty promise. Not only is Governor Patrick never going to cut property taxes, but he will be increasing our tax burden over the next few months. As you already know he plans on bailing out the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with either $7 tolls or raising the gas tax or maybe even both. But it does not stop there.

You can expect that Deval will suggest and push for an increase in the income tax and our sales tax. I can hear him now suggesting, “It is only a penny.” That will be his spin on raising the sales tax by 20%.

As taxpayers we need to get ready to fight the Governor and the legislature as they try to crush us with more taxes.

Are you willing to stand with me to fight Beacon Hill’s taxpayer betrayal?
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Source: www.bostonherald.com/blogs/news/lone_republican, Holly Robichaud, posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 5:45 p.m.
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"State budget woes worsen; cuts expected in aid to cities and towns"
Boston.com, January 13, 2009, 5:07 P.M., By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick is facing another massive midyear budget gap, which is expected to trigger another round of widescale layoffs and budget cuts, as well as cuts in aid the state provides to cities and towns.

House and Senate lawmakers are expected tomorrow to grant Patrick expanded budget-cutting powers that will allow him to close the $1.1 billion gap. The expanded powers will allow the governor to unilaterally cut the $5.3 billion in local aid, which is yet another indication of impact the national recession is having on state services.

The cuts will come on top of those made just three months ago, when the governor announced a $1.4 billion budget shortfall that triggered cuts in almost every state department and spurred several protests on Beacon Hill.

The previous cuts were painful, but slicing local aid – which funds things like teachers, trash collections, and snow plowing -- is where budget problems begin to impact residents in their local communities.

State revenues have been declining for months, causing state officials to revise their estimates. When the budget was initially approved in July, state officials anticipated $21.4 billion. They revised that down to $20.3 billion in October, and to $19.4 billion this afternoon.

While administration officials announced today that the faltering revenues would trigger up to $1.1 billion in cuts, they have so far declined to say how they would make them, including how much would come from local aid reductions.

House Republicans have been pushing Patrick to release a detailed budget plan before they vote today on whether to give him expanded budget-cutting powers. Today, they sent the governor a letter asking him to present his plans.

“The Governor should spell out exactly how much money he plans to cut, what accounts he will be targeting, and what mechanism he plans to use when making his 9C cuts,” House Minority Leader Brad Jones said. “Until he can give us those answers, the Legislature should not be so quick to cede unilateral budget-cutting authority to the governor.”

The last time there were midyear cuts to local aid was in January 2003, when Governor Mitt Romney sliced $114 million. Romney cut more than $500 million in state aid between 2002 and 2004, and about 14,500 teachers, police offices, librarians, and others lost their jobs in those years.

Romney was lambasted for making those cuts, and local officials say they have never recovered; after adjusting for inflation, cities and towns receive $566 million less than before Romney's cuts, Beckwith said.
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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"Lawmakers OK $500M cut to cities, towns, schools"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Thursday, January 15, 2009

BOSTON — State lawmakers voted Wednesday night to give Gov. Deval Patrick the authority to cut local aid and other areas of the budget to close a new $1.1 billion gap.

Both the House and Senate voted overwhelming to give Patrick expanded budget cutting powers under statute "9c" that could result in up to $500 million in local aid to cities, towns and school districts being trimmed mid-year.

"What else are we going to do? We're in a situation right now where everything is on the table and that includes local aid," said state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, chairman of Senate Ways and Means.

The House voted 132-22 to empower the governor with expanded "9c" powers, with Republicans and a smattering of Democrats opposed. The Legislature did, however, cap the amount of cuts to local aid at one-third of the total budget reductions this year.

Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli was the only Berkshire lawmaker to oppose the measure.

State Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, defended the wide latitude given to the governor as a necessity given the current economic crisis facing not just this state, but the country.

"We had no other choice,"said Bosley.

He also scoffed at Republicans who claimed that they warned their colleagues last summer that this budget was too big and unaffordable.

"I've been here a long time and every year the Republican's stand up and say we can't afford this. Well, they got it right this time, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile," Bosley said.

Patrick was forced to reduce the budget once before in October to close a $1.4 billion budget gap that he thought at the time would carry the state through the fiscal year, that ends June 30. The governor has two weeks to outline a new plan to deal with the drop-off in revenue caused by slow sales and capital gains tax collections.

The Senate voted 32-6 in favor. Panagiotakos said he expected the local aid reduction to be between $350 million and $500 million.

One Democrat who opposed the governor's request was newly sworn-in Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford. Arciero said he would prefer to use reserves from the "rainy day" account to get through the rest of the year rather than impose deep cuts on cities and towns.

"I could not place an additional burden of a mid-year local aid cut on my communities, some of which, like Chelmsford, have not recovered from the 9c cuts enacted in 2003," Arciero said.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney was the last governor forced to cut local aid mid year, trimming $114 million in January 2003 that still elicits criticism from local leaders today.

Republican lawmakers tried in vain to further limit the governor's power to cut local aid, and criticized Patrick for failing to tell the Legislature how he intended to use the power before they voted.

"We should figure this out and do it ourselves rather than farm it out to the governor. He's already proven he can't project," said Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton.

Hargraves said his communities are still reeling from the damage caused by the December ice storm, and can not afford further cuts to funding this year.

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Re: Massachusetts is NOT a democracy!

1/15/2009

When I was still a lifelong resident of Berkshire County in the early part of this decade, I remember when the Governor(s) JANE SWIFT and then WILLARD Mitt Romney with the Legislature, including Daniel BUREAUCRAT Bosley, gutted state aid and public education dollars to the cities and towns and school districts from the Thanksgiving Budget of 2001 (FY02) through the July 2003 (FY04) Massachusetts State Budgets. From FY05 -FY09, the state government NEVER repaid the money they CUT from their political subdivisions. Now, they are going to further cut state aid to cities and towns. All they are doing is making local taxes, especially the regressive property tax scheme, go way up, which hurts seniors and others with low and fixed-incomes. During the 3 consecutive years of state aid cuts, the Legislators voted themselves or accepted 3 pay raises! Moreover, the many millions of dollars in intentional and loophole tax breaks to the state's corporate elite were all kept in place. The rich got richer while the poor and middle class got screwed! Massachusetts is not a democracy, but rather a big business where the Lobbyists, Legislators, and Corporate Elites benefit while everyone else pays.

In Dissent,
Jonathan Melle
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/TEOU0DFLIGOO583PM
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A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Patrick's season of reform"
January 16, 2009

Amid the worst economic news since the Massachusetts miracle melted down in the early 1990s, Governor Patrick sought last night to steel the state for a painful year. In his State of the State address, the governor said that the Commonwealth can ride out these recessionary times - "if we are honest about the challenges we face, responsible in the choices we make, and committed to work together for the common good."

Making responsible choices means, among other things, fixing the long-term problems afflicting state government. And to his credit, Patrick also recognizes the economic crisis as an opportunity for a "season of significant government reform."

Patrick is looking at the right problems. He urged the passage of his proposal to overhaul ethics and lobbying rules on Beacon Hill. He argued that cities and towns should be able to impose, at their discretion, modest meals and hotel taxes. But reform also means pushing the state's 351 municipalities to save money through regionalization.

Perhaps no sector of state government is more troubled than the state's transportation system. Lawmakers are impatient to see the specifics of the governor's long-delayed transportation reform, which - let's hope - should soon be ready for release. But it won't just be a matter of replumbing a messy bureaucracy; at some point soon, paying debts and keeping up maintenance will require more money. Patrick needs to provide leadership on this issue.

This governor has shown a stomach for thankless jobs. Last night, he committed himself to the reform of public-employee pensions. It is an outrage, of course, that a smattering of unseated legislators can use their own political failure as an excuse to bump up their pensions. But "the abuses of a select few," to use Patrick's phrase, don't add up to billions of dollars in pension liabilities. Also costly are rules - wellintentioned or just politically convenient - that offer generous terms even to well-paid public employees.

Patrick didn't cover everything. While he warned that local services will have to be cut, the governor offered no details on reductions in local aid. Healthcare rated only a brief mention in last night's speech, even as rising medical costs threaten the state's landmark health reforms.

Crucially, Patrick continues to believe, as we do, that state government can and must help citizens overcome the burdens upon them. The state's ability to perform that vital function depends on pursuing a sustainable fiscal path. If Patrick and the Legislature can use this crisis to root out some of the dysfunction in state government - while leveling with the public about the need for revenues - the benefits to the Commonwealth will be incalculable.

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"Patrick to seek $128 million cut in local aid"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, January 23, 2009

BOSTON --Gov. Deval Patrick said Friday he would cut state aid to cities and towns by $128 million next week to help close an additional $1 billion deficit in the state budget. He also proposed a far larger cut next year.

Addressing anxious community leaders at a meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the governor noted he was able to avoid a local aid cut when he closed a $1.4 billion budget deficit in October. He said at the time he would do so only as a last resort, yet with the additional deficit, "unfortunately, we have reached that last resort."

The 9.7 percent cut is larger dollar-wise than the $114 million cut made by Gov. Mitt Romney in 2003, which cities and towns blame for public safety and program cuts from which they are still recovering. Patrick also said he would recommend cutting local aid by $375 million from the budget he is developing for the 2010 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

To help offset those reductions, Patrick said he would ask the Legislature to approve a 1 percent increase in the state hotel and meals taxes. He said raising the current 5 percent meals take to 6 percent, and the current 5.75 percent hotel tax to 6.75 percent, would generate $150 million annually.

Patrick proposed reserving that revenue for cities and towns and distributing it to them under the same formula used to distribute state lottery aid.

The governor also will ask the House and Senate to give local communities the option to levy an additional 1 percent in local hotels and meals taxes, all of which they would be allowed to keep.

While Patrick said he would not cut state educational assistance to cities and towns for the remainder of this fiscal year, he revealed that his 2010 budget will level-fund education next year. By not increasing the amount of money flowing to education programs, he could prompt program cuts because teacher salaries and other costs rise annually.

The governor said he would try to offset the cuts with extra education funding from federal assistance he anticipates from the Obama administration.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, facing a $140 million deficit in his current budget, said the changes could help him in the coming fiscal year. He has proposed a wage freeze for city employees, which the Police Department's superior officers have accepted. He said the city could save $55 million if other unions accept the freeze as well.

"These challenges call for courage and bold action," Menino told the crowd before Patrick made his announcement. "We can't tighten our belts out of this situation. We need new and creative approaches within local and state government. And we need to work together, because nobody can solve these challenges alone."

While Patrick smiled and joked with the crowd before his speech, he became somber as he delivered his remarks and snapped at Worcester Mayor Konstantina Lukes when she smirked as he answered a question from her about his plan.

"Before you make a face, mayor, let me finish my answer," Patrick said, sending a murmur through the crowd.

After completing his response, he looked at Lukes and said, "Is that clear? Now you can make your face."

During his remarks, Patrick implored the mayors, city councilors, selectmen and administrators to rally behind his proposals. He said his package was cobbled together after Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, the former mayor of Worcester, conducted a statewide listening tour.

"The ideas in this bill are yours, not mine," Patrick said. "When I file this bill next week, don't sit around and wait to see what happens. Get on the phone yourselves."

The governor added: "You can't afford to sit by and hope someone else puts out this fire. Each and every one of you has to grab a hose and help."

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"Patrick cuts budget"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Saturday, January 24, 2009

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick plans to cut local aid to cities and towns by $128 million next week with larger cuts looming for next year as he prepares to close an immediate $1.1 billion hole in the state budget.

Patrick, addressing nearly 1,000 local officials in Boston at the annual Massachusetts Municipal Association meeting on Friday, also proposed increasing the state's meal tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, and the hotel and motel tax from 5.75 percent to 6.75 percent generating about $150 million in new revenue that mostly will be given back to cities and towns.

Along with the statewide meal and hotel tax increase, the governor said he will ask the Legislature, again, to approve a local option for cities and towns to assess an additional one-cent meal and hotel tax on every dollar.

"We have tough choices among miserable options. My job is to make those choices, and I have," Patrick said.

The $128 million to be cut from the budget mid-year amounts to a 9.74 percent reduction across the board to lottery aid and additional assistance. As promised, Patrick said he would not touch the $3.9 billion in Chapter 70 aid to public schools this year or next year, but local officials said any cuts to local aid will impact schools and teachers, along with public safety and other services.

Several community leaders said the cuts were about what they expected, and would be painful both this year and next.

"This is bad. I'm going to have to use all of our reserves just to get us through the end of this fiscal year," said North Adams Mayor John Barrett.

North Adams faces an estimated $538,000 cut in local aid this year under the governor's plan.

Barrett said he believed Patrick was "philosophically on our side," but said he had hoped cities and towns would be allowed up to a 2 percent local option increase on meal and hotel taxes instead of just 1 percent. He estimates the meal and hotel tax could be worth $250,000 a year to North Adams.

He also expressed his disappointment to the governor that cities and towns do not have the authority to design health insurance plans on a local level without negotiating changes in co-payments and other fees with unions.

Patrick, in jest, joked Barrett always seems to be "cranky," but said he also needed to respect the collective bargaining rights of unions.

"I know there is a lot of appetite around plan design, but this is a proposal and one we can work through," Patrick said.

Pittsfield will have to deal with $1 million less in local aid for the remaining five months of the year.

Though education aid will not increase next year, Patrick said he hopes to offset rising costs with federal assistance from a stimulus package being promoted by President Barack Obama.

The cuts to local aid next year will be much deeper. Patrick said the state budget for 2010, which he will file next Wednesday, will reduce local aid from the lottery and additional assistance by $375 million forcing communities to dig deep to find savings and minimize the impact on schools and personnel.

The last time local aid was cut mid-year, former Gov. Mitt Romney was forced to trim $114 million in 2003.

The governor outlined his approach to budget cuts before local leaders in a feisty speech that challenged the Legislature to debate his proposal, but not waste too much time before taking action.

He said he intended to file a bill next week that would seek to give local leaders more tools to address the financial crisis on their own.

Patrick said he would push to remove the property tax exemption for telephone companies on polls and other equipment meaning millions in new revenue for some communities, and require local retirees to enter Medicare instead of remaining on city or town health insurance plans.

To encourage municipalities to rein in health care costs, Patrick said he would ask to reduce the threshold of union support to join the state's Group Insurance Commission to 50 percent. He also said would be penalized in local aid if they failed to join the GIC or come up with a plan of their own as cost efficient.

"The cuts will be painful and they will impact everything from public safety to public education. We know that. The governor knows that. What we need to do is find ways to make up the revenue," said Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Several city and town managers said what they really need to control health insurance costs is the authority to design the plans on a local level without negotiating changes in co-payments and other fees with unions. Patrick said he understood their position, but was also mindful of collective bargaining rights.

Groton Selectman Peter Coppinger said hotel and meals taxes will not necessarily help small towns like Groton, but lifting the telecommunications tax exemption could make a difference.

"It's disappointing," Coppinger said of the cuts. "But I appreciate the position we're in."
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/TO1CCJLMSS7LP35MQ
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"Time for meals, hotel tax"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Friday, January 23, 2009

Lawmakers regularly discuss allowing the state's cities and towns to raise revenue with meals and hotel taxes and just as regularly reject the idea, but this year it just might happen — and should. If the poor economy is to produce major cuts in local aid, as appears inevitable, then the state must provide communities with other avenues in which to raise revenue.

A legislative commission is considering proposals for community relief, among them a plan to allow towns and cities to impose a meals tax of up to 2 percent and increase the local hotel tax by 1 percent. Governor Deval L. Patrick offered a similar proposal two years ago but the Legislature, perhaps putting the new chief executive through his paces, never acted on it. This year there is no excuse for not passing this measure.

According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), approval of both proposals would generate $250 million a year in desperately need revenue. The town of Lenox has long discussed instituting hotel and meals taxes, and those taxes would also provide significant revenue in other Berkshire towns, Pittsfield, Williamstown and Stockbridge among them. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi complained two years ago that a meals and hotel tax would not help communities "across the board," but that is not its intent and beside the point. The point is to provide an option for communities fortunate enough to have a significant number of motels and restaurants located within their borders.

The state should also finally do away with a property tax exemption given many years ago to telecommunications companies to encourage these fledgling businesses to provide services to communities. With the advent of the Internet and digital technology, these companies are hugely profitable and need nothing more than the potential of profits to motivate them. Telecommunications lobbyists have succeeded in protecting this antiquated tax exemption, but the MMA estimates it will generate more than $50 million statewide for struggling communities when removed.

We agree with Representative Robert DeLeo, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, that lawmakers "have to take a fresh look at all of those items." An increase in the gasoline tax should also go on the list. The Legislature must act boldly in providing new ways of generating revenue to protect necessary programs jeopardized by the national economic crisis.
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www.topix.com/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/T6B8G3NFL4CDMN8LF
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Members of the Massachusetts Municipal Association - including (seated in front row) Vanessa Hale of Southborough and Mark Purple and John Petrin, both Ashland officials - listened Friday to Governor Deval Patrick's grim news about local aid cuts. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
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"Cities, towns expect to fire thousands: Basic services in jeopardy"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, January 25, 2009

Brace yourself: Cities and towns across the state expect to lay off thousands of employees. The impact will be widespread and highly visible - shorter hours and longer waits at town halls, larger class sizes, more potholes.

Nearly every community is "going to see blood," said Mayor John Barrett III of North Adams, who expects to "limp through" June but anticipates having to close one or more schools and lay off a significant number of city workers after that.

The massive cutbacks come as state and local governments respond to the rapidly worsening economy.

Last Friday, Governor Deval Patrick announced that he was cutting local aid to cities and towns by $128 million for the current fiscal year, and he proposed an additional $375 million cut for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The cuts are part of Patrick's larger plan to close the widening state budget gap and craft a balanced budget for next year.

Roughly $1 of every $5 spent by Massachusetts state government goes to cities and towns to help their local budgets, paying for everything from classroom teachers to trash collection. Recognizing the importance of that aid, Patrick said he plans to cut more steeply from other sections of the state budget.

But local spending will still take a beating. With construction and renovation projects grinding to a halt, auto sales tanking, and tourism and business travel in a slump, the money communities generate on their own - from excise and hotel taxes, building permits, and tax on new property - is being hit hard.

"The picture was not rosy," said Roy E. Belson, Medford's school superintendent, and one of hundreds of officials who listened to a stark keynote panel at a conference last week of state school administrators entitled "Preparing for Tough Fiscal Times." Afterward, nearly every school superintendent raised a hand when asked if they expected to lay off teachers. "If you weren't depressed going in, you'd be depressed going out."

Recent history shows what could be in store.

About 14,500 teachers, firefighters, librarians, and other local employees lost their jobs as a result of the state's last economic downturn and a cycle of cuts imposed by then-governor Mitt Romney that reduced local aid by more than $500 million between 2002 and 2004.

In the ensuing recovery, lawmakers reinstated some but not all of the aid, and many cities and towns were unable to fully restore staffing and service levels. They were also constrained by government costs, such as health insurance and utilities, that rose faster than inflation and faster than they could raise money under Proposition 2 1/2, which caps the additional property tax revenue a community can raise yearly at 2.5 percent, not counting taxes raised from new real estate development.

"This is not a pleasant time to be a municipal leader," said Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino, in office for a decade.

Some cities and towns will make dramatic, immediate cuts to balance budgets for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, several local officials said. Other communities will be able to endure this year by spending reserve funds, or by not filling vacancies, before taking much larger action for the new fiscal year starting July 1.

Even Nantucket, with its surfeit of tax-generating summer homes, is worried.

"We have not had the layoff discussion in as serious a manner as we’re having it now, in my tenure," said C. Elizabeth Gibson, Nantucket town manager since 1995. "It's looming right now."

"Factors beyond our control are hurting us all," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "From North Adams to Plymouth, Lowell to Chicopee, the numbers surely aren't pretty." Menino made his remarks in an address to hundreds of mayors, selectmen, and administrators Friday at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the statewide organization of town and city officials.

Aside from the impact on local services, layoffs will take a severe toll on employees, their families, and local economies.

"Whether you like it or not, and whether you think government spends too much, that's an awful lot of money taken out of the economy, and that has a spin-off in every local community," said Chicopee Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette.

Revere, like many communities, already has imposed a hiring freeze as employees leave through retirement or other departures. The city also cut overtime, so public-works tasks like tree removal and pothole repair take longer to be addressed, Revere's mayor said.

"We were trying to squirrel away money for this midyear cut," Ambrosino said. But that won't offset the more than $1.2 million lost this year from local aid. The mayor said the mix of layoffs and other measures could include the possible closure of City Hall on Fridays.

After avoiding layoffs for several years, Medford last summer eliminated nearly 50 school positions, about half of them teachers. Mayor Michael J. McGlynn initially prepared for more education layoffs and proposed public-safety reductions, but avoided them through one-shot measures, like soliciting private donations and redirecting some money associated with the sale of a school building.

Now, bracing for an immediate local aid cut of more than $1 million, and a larger cut next year, McGlynn anticipates multiple rounds of layoffs. "We just don't have 2 million bucks that's sitting around," he said.

McGlynn said laying off the newest employees, according to union contracts, will hurt young families and new homeowners, potentially exacerbating mortgage problems that contributed to the recession.

Still, local officials said they consider Patrick an ally. They overwhelmingly favor the governor's new proposals to allow them to raise money through means other than the property tax, and to rein in fast-growing fixed costs.

Those proposals, which stalled in the Legislature last session, including additional room and meals taxes and curbing health insurance costs.

The measures - coupled with potential aid from a federal economic stimulus package - are unlikely to be enacted in time to avoid the immediate cuts.

In Franklin, staffing is already about 85 percent of what it was six years ago, which means fewer police officers and a library open six days a week instead of seven.

Recently, the town stopped salting side roads during winter storms, preserving salt for the busiest thoroughfares.

That choice was easy compared with what lies ahead, said Jeffrey D. Nutting, Franklin's town administrator and the new president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

"We're going to have all kinds of decisions that were never even talked about or thought about," he said.
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Matt Viser of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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"Unkind cuts"
TheTranscript.com, The North Adams Transcript, Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The shoe fell Friday, as mayors and town managers across the state expected, when Gov. Deval Patrick announced $128 million in local-aid cuts this fiscal year and nearly triple that amount in the coming fiscal year.

The result is likely to be thousands of jobs lost in the public sector statewide, with the brunt of those losses borne by schools, public works, police and fire departments.

Even given the depressing state of the national economy, this is not news that evokes confidence in state government. We just went through this a few years back, when Gov. Mitt Romney chopped $114 million -- and there was no national crisis.

The easy explanation is that the economy goes in cycles and revenues fluctuate, which means state governments go through good times and bad. The more truthful explanation is that Massachusetts has been badly managed for decades and goes through money like a drunken sailor during the good times only to starve itself (or rather, its communities) during the bad.

Lectures and recriminations won't do anything to save the suffering in the coming two years, but wouldn't it be nice if the Legislature -- and the governor -- after learning the lesson for the umpteenth time, started planning ahead?

So far, about all we've heard, aside from the old ideas of hotel-motel taxes and charges for utility poles, is a half-baked plan to charge tolls at our borders. By all means, let's make Massachusetts even more appetizing to visit while penalizing the out-of-staters who choose to work and pay taxes here. Now that House Speaker Sal DiMasi is out of the way, we'll probably get some sort of casino plan, as well. Bet on it.

But our state leaders need to get more serious. We suggest they put the inspector general and the state auditor on the case to come up with long-term plans that carry more impact and make more sense. Plans that involve cutting redundant programs and departments. Plans that call for the inevitable increase in the gasoline tax, plus hikes in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes (better than on food and medicine). Union employees paying more of a share of their health benefits. And all state workers -- including our legislators and governor -- taking at least modest pay cuts.

Tough times, as they say, call for tough measures. It's time Massachusetts got tough on the fat cats instead of continually punishing our local communities.

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"State budget cuts painful"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PITTSFIELD — While local cities and towns await word of exactly how much state funding they will lose, municipal officials have already begun cutting costs.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick plans to reduce local aid this week for the remainder of fiscal 2009 by $128 million to close a $1.1 billion gap in the state budget. Pittsfield faces an estimated $1 million reduction — a figure yet to be finalized — but city officials are already looking at additional cost cutting measures.

Mayor James M. Ruberto, more than a week ago, asked city department heads to submit lists of reductions that would have the least impact on direct services to residents and avoid layoffs. The mayor's office has yet to announce how much more money will be removed from a city budget that was lowered two months ago from $126.8 million to $125.9 million.

In November, the City Council approved a first round of spending cuts of nearly $1 million, mainly because of a shortfall in local revenue.

In North Adams, Mayor John Barrett III said the city may have to close the Silvio O. Conte Middle School to cope with the anticipated loss of $1.8 million from next fiscal year's budget. He said the three elementary schools would house kindergarten through eighth grade in that scenario.

Barrett said the city can "limp" through until July 1 to cope with roughly $600,000 in cuts by using cash reserves and not filling positions, but next fiscal year will be dire.

He estimated $1.5 million in cuts would have to come from the school district, which he said is the only department in the city that hasn't been working with a "skeleton crew" for the last several years.

"We've been looking at the option of closing a school as part of a worst-case-scenario plan," the mayor said. "Over the last three months, as the situation became more clear, the city had to speed up the process."

Barrett said he will offer no recommendations to the City Council, however, before holding a series of neighborhood "informational meetings" in the coming weeks, during which he will seek advice from local residents.

In Lenox, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel put his department heads on financial alert in the fall, when the state budget crisis emerged.

"Last October, when things didn't look good, I told staff don't look for reserve fund transfers for additional spending," said Federspiel, anticipating that the reserve fund will go toward replacing reduced local aid.

But even that fund "won't be enough to plug the whole hole," he added.

Federspiel said cities and towns need more ways to raise revenue on their own, such as a local meals tax. Patrick has said he will call on the Legislature to allow cities and towns to approve a local meals tax or increase the local hotel/motel tax.

"The state needs to give us a toolbox of options so we can pick and choose according to our community," Federspiel said.

The word "option" in local option taxes is what worries Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.

"If Great Barrington creates a meals tax and Lenox doesn't, that's not fair to restaurants in Great Barrington," said Supranowicz. "If there's going to be an increase in taxes, it should be fair and across the board."

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, agreed that municipalities should have additional ways to raise revenue, but they must also make use of existing options to save money.

"They need to avail themselves of more tools in place, such as the GIC," said Downing, referring to the Group Insurance Commission that provides health insurance to state workers and is now open to municipal employees, as well. "I'm asking towns and school districts to simply look at it, to see if it at least makes sense,

The GIC usually contracts for health insurance at a lower cost than private insurance companies. Pittsfield voted to join the GIC last fall; that membership takes effect on July 1, but state officials have said communities statewide have been slow to enroll.
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Reporter Jennifer Huberdeau of New England Newspaper contributed to this report.
To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.
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"Patrick proposes new taxes, deep cuts"
January 28, 2009, 11:14 AM, By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff

Governor Deval Patrick today proposed generating $587 million in new state revenue by increasing taxes on everything from hotel rooms to alcohol in an effort to fill a budget hole created by declining state revenues.

Patrick’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year will total about $28 billion, which is about $200 million less than the budget lawmakers approved this year. It would be only the second time in recent memory that the budget decreased from year to year. The spending plan includes $1.6 billion in spending cuts and savings; withdraws $586 million from the rainy day fund; and anticipates $711 million from federal stimulus package that has yet to be approved by Congress.

The governor also announced midyear budget cuts that include slicing $191 million from state government spending and cutting $128 million from local aid, which will force local officials to close public schools, curtail library hours, and lay off teachers, police, and firefighters. Patrick plans to withdraw $327 million from the state rainy day fund and is anticipating $533 million in federal bailout to make it to the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

His plan for raising taxes and fees includes the following:

Meals tax -- increase the statewide meals tax by 1 percentage point, to 6 percent.

Hotel tax – increase the statewide hotel tax by 1 percentage point, to 6.75 percent. Combined with the meals tax, it would raise $150 million.

Alcohol tax – eliminate a tax exemption on nonrestaurant alcohol sales. The would mean a 5 percent tax would go on alcohol sold at package stores, raising nearly $90 million.

RMV fees – increase a variety of fees that residents pay when they go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. All told, $75 million would be raised.

Telecommunication tax – eliminate a tax exemption for telecommunications companies, which would raise about $50 million.

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"Berkshire County lawmakers express 'grave' concern about budget cuts"
By Scott Stafford and Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, January 29, 2009

As Gov. Deval L. Patrick unveiled cuts that will sap money from cities and towns throughout Berkshire County, municipal officials reacted with concern, and some said they may be forced to lay off workers.

Patrick on Tuesday announced that school funding will remain untouched across the state for the rest of fiscal 2009 and will stay the same as outlined in his proposed fiscal 2010 state budget, which would take effect on July 1. However, he followed through on his promise from last week to slash local aid through June, totaling $128 million.

The cuts from the governor's office had been expected for days, but that hardly softened the blow as community leaders confronted shrinking budgets. Meanwhile, many were skeptical of Patrick's plan to compensate for lost money by raising local meals and lodging taxes, a scheme that the Legislature has not supported.

"There is reason for grave concern with Gov. Patrick's fiscal 2010 budget proposal," said Peter L. Fohlin, town manager of Williamstown. "While aid to local cities and towns is being reduced by 7.1 percent, the only reason the cuts are not deeper is the inclusion of mystery money from a 1 percent increase in the state meals tax and ... lodgings tax. It would not be at all surprising for the Legislature to take a pass on approving the statewide increases."

For the Pittsfield schools — and for most school districts — it was a case of bad news masquerading as good news yesterday: While Patrick is not cutting aid to the schools, the rest of the city could see a $3 million reduction in state funding over the next 17 months. Pittsfield and most communities will be forced to pass on some of that pain to the schools, trimming education spending to cope with diminished state dollars.

Pittsfield School Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III said he's pleased the school aid was "held unharmed" in Patrick's plan. Nearly 70 percent of the school department's budget is funded by the state, but education will still feel the city's pain of losing $2 million in fiscal 2010.

"We're planning to tighten our belt in response to reduced city revenue," he said.

Pittsfield will lose $1 million now and a proposed $2 million more in fiscal 2010. Mayor James M. Ruberto said Pittsfield will use $500,000 in cash reserves to cover half of the $1 million reduction and will cut the other $500,000 from spending.

"The department heads have been challenged to find more reductions," Ruberto said. "My hope is to have them in place by the (Feb. 10) City Council meeting."

The Pittsfield budget was already lowered two months ago from $126.8 million to $125.9 million to cover a decline in local revenue. That first round of cuts avoided layoffs, but vacant employee positions were left unfilled. Round two could see jobs eliminated through attrition.

In North Adams, Mayor John Barrett III said the city has been cutting since 2002 and there is little left to trim except the school budget, forcing the city to accelerate a plan to close Conte Middle School next school year.

Cuts to state aid for North Adams come to $538,000 from this year's spending budget of roughly $35 million and about $1.3 million for fiscal 2010.

"It is not pretty," Barrett said. "Everything has already been cut to bare bones. City hall is a skeleton staff. And we're considered to be one of the poorest communities in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. What's wrong with that picture?"

In Adams, Joseph C. Solomon, chairman of the Adams board of selectman, said layoffs could be possible as the town examines all its spending.

The cut in state aid for Adams this year was about $245,000 from an original allotment of $2.6 million. For fiscal 2010, the total cut is another $260,000. Combined, the reductions drain about 4 percent of the town's $13.5 million annual budget.

"We're going to have to look at all of our positions in town and whether we need to cut there, as well as anything that hasn't been spent yet," Solomon said. "Everything at this moment is on the table, unfortunately."

In Great Barrington, Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell estimated the town stood to lose about $88,000 in state aid.

"Budget cuts are never fun, but the good news is that I was projecting ... a deeper cut (in fiscal 2010) than the present government proposals," O'Donnell said. "So we're still a little ahead of the game."

O'Donnell said that if present budget projections hold, the town anticipates being able to get through the fiscal year without any layoffs, although there will be some "major" belt-tightening.

Lenox Town Manager Gregory Federspiel reported that his financial planning was hatched along similar financial lines.

"I anticipated a bigger reduction," he said. But, he added, "there is still a potential for staff reduction. We may get there by attrition or by retirement, but I think we're going to have to consider it."

While the governor's plan relies heavily on a higher meals and lodging tax to replace lost state dollars, few local officials expressed confidence in that strategy.

Fohlin, in Williamstown, said the Legislature may instead support a local option, passing the burden to local elected officials and town meetings to impose the tax.

"Neighboring communities will have to wrestle with the need to support local schools and services versus their competitive position against other communities, which may not have adopted the local option," Fohlin said. "In the possible worst of all outcomes, neither the Legislature nor the local community will approve the increase in meals and lodgings taxes, further deepening cuts in local education and services."

Fohlin said he would not propose a meals or lodging tax in Williamstown.

"It's kind of a gimmick," said West Stockbridge Town Administrator Mark Webber of the new tax.

His town's overall budget reduction in the present proposal is only about $8,000, "but that supposes the hotel and meal tax increase passes," Webber said. "What are the chances of that? I think we understand that this is preliminary, but we're in a recession. People aren't going out to eat and they aren't staying in hotels as much."
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Berkshire Eagle reporters Dick Lindsay and Derek Gentile contributed to this report.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/T4VU4L21TGTP7TEC9
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"Job losses, big cuts"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Thursday, January 29, 2009

Offered no good options, Governor Deval L. Patrick proposed a series of program cuts and new taxes Wednesday guaranteed to please no one. The need to put together a budget as tax revenues decline and a national recession shows no signs of abating has forced painful choices, with more likely to come.

It was only three months ago that the governor addressed a $1.4 billion budget gap, but the national economic meltdown, perhaps the worst the nation has experienced since the Great Depression, has since cracked open another $1.1 billion crevice. The process of closing it began last week with Mr. Patrick's announcement of $128 million in local aid cuts, which communities in the Berkshires are just beginning to confront. The governor has remained stalwart in his protection of Chapter 70 education aid, but should the economy continue to flounder, as seems inevitable, and if the administration's projections for $533 million in federal stimulus money prove optimistic, education funding may take hits.

The governor believes he will raise $121 million by eliminating the sales tax exemption on alcohol, candy and sweetened beverages, with the revenue to be dedicated to public health programs. Sales of these products are unlikely to be dramatically affected by a modest price hike, and if sales do drop, residents would receive health benefits, in particular the children driven into obesity by readily available sweets and soft drinks. While the Massachusetts Restaurant Association has already come out against the governor's proposed 1 percent state meals tax increase to 6 percent, this modest hike would generate an estimated $150 million designated to replace some of the painful cuts made to local aid.

Mr. Patrick also proposes allowing communities to impose their own 1 percent meals and hotel tax, with the money to be kept locally. The Legislature has stood fast against such local taxes for years, but with such painful cuts coming in local aid, towns and cities must be provided with options to generate needed revenue. Several Berkshire towns catering to tourists would clearly benefit from such a tax.

While the governor's opposition to a hike in the state gasoline tax has lessened in recent weeks, he is still leaving it to the Legislature to take the initiative. We hope it will. The gas tax has been relatively flat for nearly two decades, is about half the size of the tax in neighboring Connecticut and New York, and provides a way to immediately generate revenue, most of which can be targeted to needed road and bridge projects around the state.

The harsh news from Boston comes a day after the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the Berkshire County unemployment rate of 6.7 percent is the highest it has been in 13 years, and represents a stunning increase from the 5.2 percent rate of only a one month ago. The federal stimulus package under design in Washington may give the Berkshires a modest jolt, but there are no miracles on the horizon. President Obama observed in his inauguration speech that some Americans will keep their jobs because fellow employees will agree to sacrifice some hours, which has happened and will happen locally. The Berkshire sense of community is facing a severe test.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/T8AVR64NDVIM2G3Q1
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A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Patrick's bad-news budget"
January 29, 2009

GOVERNOR PATRICK unveiled what he calls his emergency recovery plan yesterday. But it would be better described more modestly - as only a survival plan, and one with an uncertain outcome.

The state budget resembles an unstable glacier riddled with dangerous crevices. In just five months, the administration has confronted a $6 billion shortfall for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. To fill that gap, Patrick mostly relies on budget cuts. No one skates away freely, including human service agencies and municipal governments that depend on the state to support police, fire, and library services.

The only way to balance the budget and stabilize the state is through a combination of new revenues, budget cuts, and reliance on the state's rainy day funds. The Patrick administration wisely recommends raising $587 million in new taxes and fees in ways that minimize the pain for most Massachusetts residents.

One solid proposal would raise $150 million by eliminating a tax exemption on sales of alcohol, soda, and candy. Beer, wine, and cocktails imbibed in restaurants are assessed a 5 percent tax. But Massachusetts is one of the few states to allow exemptions for package store sales.

Patrick is also proposing to raise the statewide meals and hotel tax each by 1 percent, which could bring nearly $150 million in new revenue to the state to help offset cuts in local aid. It's a sound idea, provided the Legislature also supports Patrick's plan to give cities and towns the local option to keep an additional 1 percent. Cities with many restaurants, such as Boston, shouldn't have to subsidize communities with fewer amenities without getting more flexibility themselves.

By embracing these modest and necessary tax hikes, state lawmakers can match the courage of the administration. But Patrick must also stiffen his spine. There are tens of millions of dollars in savings available for cities and towns if only they had the same freedom enjoyed by the state to make changes in public employee health plans, such as setting higher co-payments. But Patrick stubbornly insists on giving municipal unions veto power over the proposal. From 2001 to 2006, municipal health insurance costs rose by almost 92 percent, about double the rate of the increase in health insurance costs for state employees. What more does Patrick need to know?

Patrick's plan to balance the $28 billion budget in 2010 depends heavily on fairly optimistic revenue forecasts, the swift arrival of federal stimulus funds, and big hits on the state's rainy day fund. But the nonprofit Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation warns that Patrick's $19.5 billion revenue forecast is too rosy by about $1 billion. If so, 2011 could make 2010 look like the glory days.

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www.iberkshires.com/story/29679/Budget-Numbers-Bad-News-for-Cities-Towns.html
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"Local officials get the bad news on state aid"
January 29, 2009, 3:56 PM, By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff

City and town officials today began poring over the detail of Governor Deval Patrick's local aid cuts, as the fears of deep reductions became reality.

With state revenues battered by the economy, Patrick made emergency cuts that treat every community the same this year, reducing 2.3 percent from every city and town's local aid, money that localities rely on to pay for everything from classroom teachers to trash collection.

For many cities and towns, that will mean spending reductions, hiring freezes, and even layoffs immediately, with more serious cuts to come July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

In Boston, for example, the $457.2 million in local aid promised from the state has been slashed to $434.2 million, forcing Mayor Thomas M. Menino to pare $23 million from the city's budget over the final five months of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The figures take another hit next year, with a reduction of $67 million.

The size of next year's cut in Boston could be reduced to about $40 million, however, if lawmakers approve Patrick's proposal to increase meals and restaurant taxes.

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"Municipal officials worry about how cities, towns will get by with less state aid"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, January 31, 2009

The bad news is in.

With Governor Deval Patrick's release this week of town-by-town local aid cuts for the current fiscal year and the next - amounting to millions of dollars for many individual communities - officials across Massachusetts have begun the grim tasks of freezing pay, leaving staff vacancies unfilled, and preparing for layoffs expected to number in the thousands.

Take New Bedford, which lost $2.8 million immediately and could lose another $8.2 million next year. Mayor Scott W. Lang is asking the city's nearly 4,000 employees to accept an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut this year, the elimination of some holidays, and a pay freeze next year.

If unions do not agree, Lang said, he will have to lay off hundreds of people.

"Crime's not taking layoffs, fires won't be subject to attrition, and the day-to-day necessary services certainly aren't going to diminish as a result of these constrictions to the budget," said Lang, whose city covers roughly half its $285 million budget with aid from the state. "What we need to do is find a way to keep people in jobs, which is the most important task we can accomplish right now in this economy."

Lang and other municipal officials are trying to minimize harm to services - such as classroom size, pothole repair, and City Hall wait times - that would accompany mass layoffs.

But pay and benefit adjustments must be negotiated with unions. In New Bedford, Lang can expect resistance.

"That's quite a hurt," Lieutenant James Allen, president of New Bedford's firefighters union, IAFF Local 841, said of the proposed 10 percent pay cut. "I don't think that the public employees are ignorant of the situation and the facts that are going on in the world, but we also need to make sure that government officials have taken every consideration before they wield the ax and just start slicing and dicing."

The financial picture varies from town to town, but everybody is losing. Some may impose layoffs almost immediately. Those with deeper rainy-day accounts, more robust tax bases, and a lower reliance on state aid will make it through June with minor changes, but service and staffing reductions next year will be widespread. Patrick cut aid $128 million immediately and proposed reducing it up to $375 million for fiscal 2010.

Patrick hopes to relieve some of the pain by pushing tax increases to funnel money back to communities, but that requires separate law changes by the Legislature, an uncertain prospect. He has been employing a tactic he has tried in the past: using the bully pulpit that comes with his office to urge lawmakers to follow his plan.

"Endless debate is not acceptable," Patrick said at a news conference as he announced his budget cuts. "We need action . . . and we need that action urgently."

Patrick has proposed not cutting any one community's local aid by more than 10 percent over the next year and a half, but that seems possible only if lawmakers approve his 1 percentage point statewide hike in restaurant and hotel taxes. If the Legislature does not increase those taxes, the cuts could be drastic.

About 70 communities, mostly small towns such as Hardwick and Stow, would have to grapple with a 28 percent cut. Larger communities would also be hit.

Cambridge, which this year was supposed to get $36.1 million from the state, would face a 21 percent cut to $28.4 million. But if lawmakers approve the meals and hotel hikes, the city would get $32.4 million - a 10 percent cut. Cambridge could get another $5.7 million if lawmakers approve a local option allowing cities and towns to collect an additional 1 percentage point meals and hotel tax for themselves, according to Patrick administration estimates.

Without new taxes and fees, Boston's annual aid would be sheered from a budgeted $457 million this year to $390 million next year - a $67 million drop that swells to $78 million when you factor other state aid on top of the main local aid accounts, such as police career-incentive pay and school lunch subsidies, said Lisa C. Signori, Boston's director of administration and finance.

Communities spend the vast majority of their budgets on personnel, including pay and benefits, but they are looking for savings everywhere, delaying purchases and making other cuts to cope with the local aid losses.

In Medford, the mayor's plans include delaying the opening of the city pool and swimming pond, pulling back budgeted-but-unspent dollars for library books, and stalling on any new small-claims lawsuits against the city. In Chicopee, the list includes a hybrid sport utility vehicle that had been budgeted for the mayor, who drives a seven-year-old vehicle handed down from another department.

Local officials worry about cutting too much or too little, too early or not soon enough. They fear that state aid could be reduced again if the economy worsens, even as they hope it is restored in part or in full by new taxes or relief from a federal economic stimulus package.

"We're in a predicament," said Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes of Worcester, whose city stands to lose $5 million immediately and as much as $10 million more next year under Patrick's plans. Major cuts, though inevitable, "are on hold right now."

But for those less able to absorb immediate losses, waiting as June 30 approaches makes it harder to finish with a balanced budget. Beleaguered officials said they have little time to waste.

"The salt is still in the wound," said Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. of Lynn, who asked the City Council to hold an emergency meeting next week to review $2.7 million in cuts he proposed immediately after Patrick's announcement. "But we're grappling with it."
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Matt Viser of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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Because of budget cuts, Robert Ferrari is the only school resource officer remaining in Lynn. Hamstrung by the loss of local aid, the city has had to make a number of layoffs and cut its library budget. (Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe Staff)
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"Cuts in local aid slice deeper in poorer cities: Lynn, Brookline highlight contrasts"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, February 24, 2009

Lynn has removed half a dozen police officers from its schools, leaving the 13,000-student district with just one security official. It has mothballed a firetruck and laid off 30 municipal workers. Teachers agreed to work a day without pay to avoid mass layoffs.

City government is reeling from a financial crisis caused by a potential $11 million reduction in state aid over 18 months, what Mayor Edward J. Clancy calls a "below the belt" hit that affects the working-class city's poor and immigrant populations.

"We're trying to keep the ship of state afloat," said Clancy.

Fifteen miles away in Brookline, a far more affluent community, town officials are coping better, with minimal damage to local budgets from a $3 million reduction in local aid. There may be a smattering of layoffs next year, but average class sizes in the public schools will remain below 20 students.

Brookline's three libraries are expected to continue normal operations, while Lynn's single library is struggling to maintain minimum service.

The contrasting stories in the two communities - one wealthy, one relatively poor - are an example of how Governor Deval Patrick's emergency spending reductions are delivering far more pain in the state's neediest cities, onetime manufacturing hubs such as Lynn, New Bedford, and Lawrence.

Affluent towns such as Brookline, Wellesley, and Duxbury rely far less heavily on assistance from the state and are able to navigate the recession much more easily.

The disparities have prompted elected officials who represent harder-hit communities to demand more assistance, an additional safety net for communities with larger crime problems, more immigrant children in the schools, and greater poverty and social needs.

"If you want a just and fair society, you have to care about all 351 communities," said state Senator Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat whose home city has laid off more than 180 workers, including 38 police officers and 38 firefighters.

"We can't afford as a commonwealth to say, 'Well there's 50 of those we'll just let slip to the bottom anytime there's a downturn in revenues."'

The fundamental reasons for the disparities are obvious. Communities with higher-priced homes and robust downtowns lean more heavily on local taxpayers. Poor towns with weaker local tax collections rely more heavily on state aid.

Contrast Lynn, where state aid covers about 60 percent of the local budget, with Brookline, where state aid accounts for only about 9 percent of the budget.

The number of students who receive free or discounted lunches in the public schools, a common indicator of a population's relative wealth, is 76.5 percent in Lynn compared with 11.8 percent in Brookline.

Cities and towns have been here before. During the last recession, governor Mitt Romney cut state aid by a combined $500 million between 2002 and 2004. Patrick has cut it again, stripping promised aid by $128 million this fiscal year and planning to deepen the cut to as much as $375 million for fiscal 2010.

Towns less reliant on that aid can get by, especially this year, by spending reserves, avoiding budgeted purchases, even turning down the thermostat. Brookline is considering ways to squeeze more money out of its parking system.

That doesn't work in Lynn, where residents are accustomed to watching their city government cut staff and services in hard times.

"There's not a [heck] of a lot you can do," said John O'Neil, a 56-year-old retiree from the local GE plant, after scratching lottery tickets at a newsstand a few blocks from Lynn's City Hall. "What are you going to do, raise the real estate tax? They'd be moving out in droves."

The plight at the Lynn library provides a good example of the stress on the city.

On a recent visit, every personal computer terminal at the library was being used by residents. Job seekers without home computers come to prepare resumes and check e-mail, said Nadine M. Mitchell, the city's chief librarian. Across-the-board reductions forced Mitchell to give back more than $26,000 from her local library budget of roughly $1 million, with the year already more than half gone. She avoided layoffs and hour reductions through personnel savings from a midyear retirement and unpaid maternity absences. That means those left are doing more.

Next year's budget is still being fashioned, but the mayor expects the library to have less money for materials and operating hours. That could jeopardize its certification with the state Board of Library Commissioners, which enables Lynn to receive state grants and allows local residents to access materials from other communities.

Lynn's lone library - branches were closed and sold in past budget-balancing measures - is now open just 64 hours a week, one more than the state board's minimum.

Raising the real estate tax is an option for officials, in some places. In Boston's most rarefied suburbs, voters routinely grant permission to raise taxes beyond the constraints of the Proposition 2 1/2 tax cap, by passing overrides. Brookline officials waited 14 years between override votes, and when they asked last year, voters approved a $6.2 million override - not just to preserve staff and service levels but also to expand foreign-language instruction to the elementary grades.

In Lynn, where the median household income is about $40,000, officials say an override request would be a waste of time.

"I can't tell you the last time I even heard of an override being proposed in an urban center," said Daniel F. Cahill, a Lynn City Council member.

Long term, municipal officials hope for relief from Beacon Hill, in the form of new revenues and measures to control fast-growing costs, such as the power to redesign healthcare plans without union approval. Patrick has submitted many of the measures in a plan he has called the "Municipal Partnership, Act II."

Some of the proposals include local options taxes, opportunities for communities to levy their own increases in meals and rooms taxes and keep the money. That option would be less useful for Lynn, where the restaurant roster amounts mostly to a smattering of takeout shops, ethnic eateries, and bars in town, plus a collection of fast-food chains on the Lynnway.

"Not even peanuts," Clancy said, estimating the money local options taxes would generate to help the city's budget. "Shells."

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Photo by Mark Garfinkel
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"Seniors take a swipe at Deval Patrick’s drug cuts"
By Edward Mason, Thursday, March 5, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

A phalanx of more than four dozen angry seniors from across the state marched on the State House yesterday demanding Gov. Deval Patrick reverse budget cuts depriving elders of a critical drug benefit.

Massachusetts Senior Council president John Bennett, 78, said low- and moderate-income seniors are opting to go without medicine rather than pay the higher cost.

“This is one of the most vulnerable populations in the state,” Bennett said. “They’re frail elders who need their medicine.”

Battling a ballooning budget gap, Patrick in October slashed $650 million from the budget; $7 million was cut from the popular Prescription Advantage program. The cut forces seniors to pick up the full cost of certain meds, according to the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.

Hazel Gaudet, 82, of Lynn saw the cost of her monthly cholesterol meds skyrocket from $19 to $89 - tough to swallow, she said, on an income of little more than $900 a month.

“If we can’t afford it, we’re going to go without,“ Gaudet said.

Disabled people furious at Patrick’s cuts also protested at the State House yesterday to press the governor to restore $85 million in cuts to disability services. The cuts have affected thousands of adults and children, according to the ARC of Massachusetts.

Jennifer Kritz, a Patrick spokeswoman, said the dismal economy forced the governor to make the cuts. “These are difficult times for all us,“ Kritz said.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1156303
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"State deficit may hit $1b again: Senate budget leader, fiscal group sound alarm"
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, March 12, 2009

As tax revenue continues to dwindle, Beacon Hill leaders are confronting an additional budget gap of as much as $1 billion this year, forcing lawmakers to choose between deep spending cuts and broad-based tax increases.

The new estimate by a Senate budget leader, which was confirmed by a state fiscal watchdog group, is the latest in a cascading series of grim revenue forecasts, which has already compelled Governor Deval Patrick to close a $1.4 billion shortfall in the state's $28 billion budget in October and an additional $1.1 billion little more than a month ago.

Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said that tax revenues have fallen well below expectations for the first few months of the year and that the fall-off could be a harbinger of a major slump between now and June 30, the end of the state's fiscal year

"We have a potential $700 million to $800 million deficit facing us," said the Lowell Democrat. "It's a real possibility. It has the potential to come close to $1 billion."

His estimate is nearly twice as high as the current figure circulating around the State House. It also augurs for an almost unmanageable deficit in the next three years that can only be closed with a combination of painful spending reductions and new sources of revenue, primarily from broad-based taxes such as income and sales levies, said legislative leaders and budget specialists. The local aid account, which Patrick has already trimmed, could face even deeper cuts next year than proposed as part of his budget.

Panagiotakos said he was prompted to revise his estimate of the deficit because he was alarmed over the February slump in revenue, which came in $86 million lower than predicted. He said he feared it could foreshadow an equally poor showing for March and April, when the state depends on a large influx of tax revenue.

Outside budget analysts agreed.

"It's a free fall," said Michael Widmer, the president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "The world economy is tanking faster than we can comprehend."

Both he and Panagiotakos said that the Legislature's only option at this point is to pull more money out of the stabilization fund to deal with the deficit in the current budget because most state accounts are close to depletion as the fiscal year draws to a close.

That fund, which held $2.62 billion eight months ago, will probably be less than $1 billion by the end of June if the decline in state tax revenue continues. In addition, Massachusetts is expected to get another $247 million in federal stimulus money that can be used to help cover the gap. Already $533 million in stimulus funds has been factored into the budget plans.

Panagiotakos and other legislative leaders are also predicting that the gap between expenses and revenues in the next fiscal year could exceed $4 billion, a level that can only be dealt with by finding new revenues sources and use of the state's dwindling rainy day fund if Draconian cutbacks in state service are to be avoided.

"The Legislature faces a huge dilemma," Widmer said. "With no new taxes, they would have to decimate state programs. Even with a major tax increase, there will be major cuts."

Patrick's fiscal aides, while acknowledging that the fiscal outlook is becoming increasingly dire, said they are undertaking a mid-year budget review and will not come to any firm conclusions until the end of this month..

"We know already that we have some deficiencies that will likely require additional budget solutions this year, thanks in part to faster-than-expected deterioration of the economy," said Cyndi Roy, a spokeswoman for Patrick's budget office.

Representative Charles A. Murphy, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, cautioned that the predictions coming out of the Senate are just projections and said he is waiting for March and April revenue figures before revising budget estimates.

"It is all about trying to predict the future, and no one can at this point," said Murphy, a Burlington Democrat. "I can't say if it is understated or overstated. We just at this point differ on projections."

Following a caucus where House lawmakers listened to economists and other fiscal specialists outline a bleak fiscal future for the state, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who this week pegged the current budget deficit at $50 million to $500 million would not rule out a major tax hike to help balance next year's fiscal plan. He said lawmakers must first cut as much as they can from state programs.

"In light of the situation, I don't think you can consider anything off the table," DeLeo said when asked whether a broad-based tax increase will be necessary.

But it would be extremely difficult to persuade lawmakers to back a tax package, particularly one that includes an income tax hike, he added. "We're caught between a rock and a hard place."

DeLeo said there is little support among House members for an income tax hike, particularly after voters had called for cutting the rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent in a 2000 referendum. Despite continued pressure from activists, the Legislature has not dropped the rate below 5.3 percent. Some legislators have suggested raising it to 5.4 percent, a hike that could raise $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually.

Panagiotakos said that winning political support for an income tax increase would be nearly impossible. He said cutting spending is the first alternative, but was not sure it would be enough to solve the problem without devastating state programs.

He suggested that a one percentage point hike in the 5 percent state sales tax could be preferable to an income tax hike. That would produce about an extra $750 million in state revenue.

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"House budget cuts local aid, avoids tax hike"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, April 15, 2009

House lawmakers are releasing a budget this afternoon that includes steep cuts in nearly every area -- from police grants and anti-gang programs to local aid and education grants – that are bound to be met with protests and calls for new taxes.

Local aid would be slashed 25 percent beyond cuts outlined this year by Governor Deval Patrick. And while education funding will be the same as it was this year, a category that is used to benefit many urban communities – the so-called additional assistance fund – is being eliminated.

“We’re not playing any games,” Representative Charles Murphy, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a briefing with Globe reporters and editors. “We’re trying to illustrate the fiscal reality.”

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo called the budget "a portrait of the economy."

Funding for Shannon grants and the Quinn Bill will both be eliminated. Commonwealth Corps, a program created by Patrick that encourages volunteers to dedicate a year of service to local communities will also face the budget axe.

State employee health care contributions will also be increased substantially, saving the state $135 million. Health insurance contributions for state employees would be increased to 30 percent; employees now pay between 15 percent and 20 percent.

The $27.4 billion House budget is $532 million less than the budget proposal the governor submitted three months ago. It is also $700 million less than the budget that lawmakers agreed to last year, the largest year-to-year drop in recent memory.

The House version includes no new revenues and avoids using any state reserves to balance the budget.

The Legislature has still not acted on Patrick's requests for a range of new revenue, including sales taxes on alcohol and candy and higher fees at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Some lawmakers outside of leadership say tax increases need to be seriously considered, including a sales tax increase, but there does not appear to be any momentum.

Increasing the sales tax by 1 percentage point could raise about $750 million, according to some estimates.
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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"Mayors blast budget cuts, push for broad-based tax increases"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, April 16, 2009

Mayors from across Massachusetts blasted state lawmakers today for proposing to cut their funding, not providing any new tools for them to raise revenue, and so far failing to push for broad-based tax increases.

“It is a pass-the-buck budget riddled in hypocrisy,” Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan said at a press conference attended by nearly 40 local officials at the Parker House in downtown Boston. “They have called for no new taxes, but tell that to the families in our working cities that are going to be paying increased bus fees, increased kindergarten fees, sports fees for their children, trash fees, business permit fees.”

Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville said, “You’re going to see decimation.” William Scanlon of Beverly added that the cuts would “destroy the fabric of our entire civilization in this state.”

“Enough is enough,” said Jeff Nutting, town administrator in Franklin. “It’s time that the Legislature finally comes to the plate and helps us. We need a broad-based tax.”

House lawmakers yesterday released a $27.4 billion budget proposal that includes steep cuts in nearly every area touched by state government and would impose the greatest reduction in year-to-year spending in recent memory.

Cities and towns, which are still reeling from emergency cuts Governor Deval Patrick made earlier this year, would see their funds decline even further. While education aid would remain at this year's level, the portion of state aid dedicated to public safety, road maintenance, and other local services would be slashed an additional 25 percent.

Local officials said today that the cuts would cause them to close libraries, lay off police officers and firefighters, and impose new local fees.

“Communities are facing a firestorm, the deepest fiscal recession of our lifetime,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “It cannot stand. It is imperative that the Legislature not pass this budget.”

The cuts would bring local aid to levels it hasn’t seen since 1987, Beckwith said.

“In 26 years as mayor, I have never seen such a lack of leadership on Beacon Hill,” said Mayor John Barrett of North Adams. “When times are tough, we need leadership. Any fool can cut budgets.”
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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"House's sobering budget"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Friday, April 17, 2009

The House budget proposal that Mayor John Barrett III described Wednesday as "absolutely devastating" for North Adams, would be just as devastating for constituencies like seniors and the poor. The budget, however, establishes the choices Beacon Hill must make in the weeks ahead. If there are no revenue streams unleashed, this budget or something close to it will become reality in fiscal 2010.

The proposed $27.4 billion budget slashes local aid to cities and towns by 25 percent, the largest cut in local aid in state history, according to Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. This would affect everything from fire and police department staffing to snow plowing. The community policing and gang prevention programs so important to Pittsfield and North Adams as they confront crime would be eliminated. A rental voucher program for low-income families would be cut nearly in half, and more than 4,000 seniors would be dropped from home care programs.

The budget reflects the grim reality of a national economic crisis that has caused business to retrench, unemployment to skyrocket and state revenues to plummet. The House admirably stayed away from the rainy day fund, which has already been reduced, and more controversially, proposed no new taxes or tax hikes. There will be an outcry from the constituencies hurt by this unforgiving budget proposal, but those constituencies are obligated to support one revenue-increasing option or another in defense of their programs.

Governor Patrick's proposal to raise the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon, at a cost to drivers of about $8 a month, appears to have no support on Beacon Hill, nor does a smaller gas tax hike. Raising the state's 5 percent sales tax, one of the lowest among states with a sales tax, by 1 cent has been discussed, but the Legislature has shown no enthusiasm for the governor's more modest proposal of extending the sales tax to candy, soda and alcohol. This budget may put the focus on potential tax hikes, which cynics may believe was the House's intent, but tax hikes in this economic climate are a tough sell.

Predictably, the budget proposal ramped up discussion of introducing casinos to the state, with Senate President Therese Murray now joining the governor and House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Suffolk Downs, Wonderland) in endorsing gambling. This won't address the immediate crisis, of course, and with casino revenues dropping elsewhere in New England, it may never help significantly.

Casinos should not be a part of any serious discussion of our economic problems. If nothing else, the House budget has set the ground rules for that serious discussion.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/TUJ059UHJDJKLHND1
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"Local leaders share budget concerns"
By Jennifer Huberdeau - North Adams Transcript - 4/17/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- With budgets already cut to the bone, local officials are wondering how they will cut another 10 to 15 percent from their budgets after House leaders unveiled a budget that slashes local aid by 25 percent and eliminates community policing grants altogether.

"We’ve already made cuts to the police, fire, library, administrative and Town Hall budgets," Clarksburg Town Administrator Michael Canales said Thursday. "We’re losing another $90,000 with this budget proposal, which is 10 percent of our operational budget. At this point, everything is on the table for consideration."

The town is losing $10,000 for its police department through the elimination of the community policing grant.

"That’s a third of patrols, outside of our salaries," Canales. "Whether or not we can shift that over to the tax rate at this time is still questionable. Our mutual aid agreements are also contingent upon our maintaining a full-time department."

Clarksburg Selectmen’s Chairwoman Debra LeFave said the town would have to start looking at the elimination of all non-essential employees and the reduction of hours for others.

"You can’t get blood out of a stone," she said. "What really gets to me is that the town has really pulled together to make things work. All of our departments made cuts to their budgets. We’ve eliminated our beautification and historical commissions and cut expense accounts for all of our boards. The next thing we’re going to have to do is raise taxes."

Mayor John Barrett III said House leaders faced an angry group of mayors and municipal leaders in Boston Thursday morning.

"It was a very angry meeting and the first time in decades that local leaders lashed out at the House leadership," he said. "I’m looking at having to cut $250,000 to $400,000 from the city budget, and the Senate president is saying their version could cut another $500 million. All we want is the tools to solve the problems on the local level -- Why should the state have the ability to arbitrarily change the health insurance coverage and payment split for state workers and we can’t?"

He said the state Legislature has also failed to address issues such as funding formulas for charter schools and has failed to live up to promises of creating a revenue package for municipalities.

"Some of the communities are facing deficits of $1 million for snow and ice removal," Barrett said. "Why can’t something be done to allow the cities and towns to repay that amount over the next few years. We have towns that are going to face substantial increases to their pension board assessments. If they don’t want to make tough decisions, let us make the tough decisions in our communities, which we’ve done for years. They’re willing to let us do their dirty work by forcing further property tax increases to protect basic services."

Williamstown Town Administrator Peter Fohlin said although his town faces another $180,000 loss, it has been obvious for years that a time would come when the Legislature would no longer be able to sustain the state budget.

"We have taken a very conservative and fiscally responsible approach to spending, collective bargaining, and budgeting in anticipation of these cuts," he said in an e-mail. "While perhaps no one could foresee the enormity of this recession, it has been obvious to us for years that the legislature’s appetite for spending has been unsustainable while their approach to tax increases has been delusional, and that eventually local communities would be the victims. In tough times, the state always turns to the cities and towns for a bailout."

He said the town hasn’t hired any new positions over the last nine years and has carefully trimmed unnecessary positions when it could.

"Our budgeting process this year prioritized maintaining services and preserving jobs," he said. "I do not expect any layoffs and do not plan to reduce services, provided that local aid is passed according to either the Governor’s proposal or the House’s proposal, or something in between.

Ultimately I would recommend an increase to the state income tax with the addition of a graduated tax rate to make the tax progressive. However, I have no expectation that the legislature will summon the political will to do the right thing. It is much easier and better job security for them to continue to reduce local aid while chasing the holy grail of casinos. If any taxes, such as hotel/motel and meals, are increased, it needs to be statewide."

State Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said the much of the backlash from the cuts stems from the Legislature’s tendency to replace budget items with the release of the House budget each April.

"This is probably the first time in 15 to 20 years that the House has come out with a budget that has less in it than the governor’s budget, but at the same time, we’ve had a precipitous drop in state revenue over the last four months," Guyer said. "We have not hit the bottom of this recession. This is a budget that reflects the dire fiscal situation that Massachusetts and about 40 other states are in. This is not a problem we created, but one that was dropped at our door."

He said one of the things that makes this budget harder to handle than the cuts made in the fiscal 2003 budget -- following the recession caused in part by the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 -- is that funding for many programs had yet to be restored to the 2003 levels.

"The problem is that in 2003, we had a deficit of $1.7 billion, while this time our deficit is $4.5 billion to $5 billion -- it’s three times the size of the deficit caused by the last recession," Guyer said. "I think when it comes to revenue, nothing is off the table. We’ll be talking about revenue as well as the cuts. There is a lot of support in the House to have a conversation about revenue. However, if by revenue you mean taxes, there will always be those who oppose raising taxes."
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To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail jhuberdeau@thetranscript.com
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www.topix.net/forum/source/north-adams-transcript/TTC1TMVP3CLJFG0QV
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Massachusetts
"Sales tax debate continues: Gov. Deval L. Patrick threatens a veto on a proposed state hike from 5 percent to 6.25 percent."
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick threatened to veto a proposed hike in the state sales tax Monday unless lawmakers approve a series of reform measures first.

Patrick's veto threat came in the form of a letter sent to lawmakers just before the Massachusetts House began debating a proposal to increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said the increase would bring in an extra $900 million a year and would help avoid deeper cuts to state services. About a third of the increase, $275 million, would help the state's deteriorating transportation system. Another $200 million would be returned to cities and towns in local aid.

Patrick faulted lawmakers for failing to put either an ethics, pension or transportation reform measure on his desk before debating a major tax increase.

"Without final and satisfactory action on several reform measures before you, I cannot support a sales tax increase and will veto it if it comes to my desk," Patrick wrote.

Patrick has proposed his own series of tax increases, including hiking the state gas tax by 19 cents per gallon, expanding the sales tax to include alcohol, candy and soda, and allowing local communities to increase taxes on restaurant meals and hotel rooms.

He described those as targeted tax increases designed to meet specific needs. The House plan rejects all of those proposals.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Murphy, D-Burlington, defended the sales tax plan, and criticized Patrick's budget, saying it draws too deeply from the state's rainy day savings fund.

The House's $27.4 billion budget plan draws no more money from the rapidly dwindling fund.

"The plan we are going forward with is a responsible plan," Murphy said. "He's the governor so if he's going to veto it, he can veto it."

A report by the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation found a 1 percent increase in the state sales tax would cost the average taxpayer an extra $122 a year.

House leaders say the state is looking at an estimated $3.6 billion deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and that even with the added sales tax revenues and one-time federal stimulus funds, they still will need to make $1.2 billion in cuts.

The proposed tax hike also is being criticized by House Republicans and local retailers who say it will drive more consumers to the Internet and to New Hampshire, which has no sales tax.

House GOP leader Brad Jones said he and other Republican lawmakers have floated their own cost savings plan, including a hiring freeze and mandatory furloughs for state workers, that he said could save up to $350 million a year. Finding savings and areas to cut should come before raising money through taxes, he said.

"I don't accept the false choice that we have to have revenues," Jones said. "We have to have reforms. We have to have efficiencies. We have to have belt tightening."

Others who support higher taxes to avoid service cuts also rallied on Beacon Hill.

City and town officials struggling to keep libraries open and pay the salaries of teachers, firefighters and police officer say they would welcome any help.

"I support a balanced way to add new revenues whether it's the sales tax, the gas tax, a local meal options tax," said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. "If we don't take an approach to developing solutions, our local economy and the state economy is going to collapse."

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Municipal officials across the state, scrounging for revenue, are proposing hundreds of thousands of dollars in hikes on fees, fines and permits. (Staff illustration by Kathleen M.G. Howlett)
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"Fee hikes in works for cash-strapped towns"
By Laura Crimaldi, Sunday, May 17, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - Local Coverage

Municipal officials across the state, scrounging local coffers for revenue, are proposing hundreds of thousands of dollars in hikes on fees, fines and permits for everything from marriage licenses to penalties for false home alarms.

The fee hikes are coming on top of layoffs, furloughs, wage freezes and service cuts intended to cope with falling property-tax revenues and drastic cuts to local aid.

“Communities will be forced to turn to other areas like trash and bus fees,” said Geoffrey C. Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “Even with these fees and other actions, the local-aid cuts are so deep that the real way to deal with this is massive layoffs and reductions in services.”

Local aid and property-tax revenue are the main sources of revenue for cities and towns. Both have been in freefall since the global economic crisis has set in.

Last July, state aid to localities was funded at $1.3 billion, but Gov. Deval L. Patrick cut $128 million from the account in January. The final House budget approved earlier this month funded local aid at about $1.1 billion. The Senate proposal outlined last week funds local aid at about $830 million.

An informal survey of Bay State communities found the following fee hikes on the way or under consideration by local officials:

Brookline estimates it could generate $130,000 in revenue by hiking a marriage license from $35 to $40, a business certificate from $50 to $75, and a Zoning Board of Appeals application from $225 to $350, said Town Administrator Richard Kelliher.

Newton will bring in an extra $115,200 beginning June 1 when it starts issuing parking permits to 120 local business employees who want to park all day at meters in municipal lots. The permit will cost $960 a year, said Board of Alderman Clerk David Olson.

Somerville will collect an additional $250,000 by hiking fees on 37 licenses, including dog licenses, vital records and taxicab medallions. Fees tacked onto late tax, water and sewer bills also will go up, city records show. Later this month, alderman will consider a measure to increase parking fines.

Worcester estimates $500,000 in new revenue by increasing fees for licenses, certain types of building permits and a $5 hike in parking fines on all tickets currently less than $50, city records show.

Swampscott expects to bring in $5,000 with a new false-alarm bylaw for burglar alarms. A fine of $60 is to be assessed on the third offense and every false alarm after that in a calendar year, said town accountant Dave Castellarin.

Medfield will raise $80,000 by hiking the fee on unpaid property taxes from $5 to $25, said Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan.

Sunderland estimates $25,000 will be raised if all demand fees go up. The town is planning to enforce bylaws through civil means that will generate revenue from fines, Town Administrator Margaret Z. Nartowicz said by e-mail.

Chelsea is considering fees related to fire services to pay for improvements on its aging fleet, but nothing has been decided, City Manager Jay Ash said by e-mail.

Municipal officials complain the fee hikes are coming before major reforms to health care costs, which are obliterating local budgets.

“When cities and towns are pushed so much, it’s hard to accept that at the state level no factor dealing with employee health insurance is negotiated,” said Samuel R. Tyler, head of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. “At the local level every factor is negotiated.” Tyler cited a report by the Financial Advisory Committee in Somerville. It found that if no changes are made to employee and retiree health benefits in time for next year’s budget, higher health insurance costs will consume the entire amount of tax revenue growth allowed under Proposition 2 - some $2.3 million.

“Only 17 communities have enrolled in the Group Insurance Commission (the state’s employee health insurance plan). That does not do much in terms of providing property tax relief,” Tyler said.

In Randolph, where the town saved $775,000 by joining the state employee health insurance plan, officials are still looking under rocks for revenue, but they’re not proposing fee hikes, said Executive Secretary David C. Murphy. Instead, the community is considering selling surplus town property and offering advertising opportunities such as billboards on town land overlooking the highway.

“I think people are open to the ideas like they’ve never been before,” Murphy said. “It’s time to turn the autopilot off when it comes to running cities and towns. You really have to look for every efficiency and revenue driver.”

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"Locals facing ‘fiscal reality': Berkshire lawmakers finally get firm budget numbers from the state -- now comes the hard part."
By Dick Lindsay and Scott Stafford, The Berkshire Eagle, 6/20/2009

After weeks of delay, the state House and Senate on Friday finally gave Berkshire budget makers what they had been waiting for: firm numbers.

The recession has drained billions from state coffers, and the House and Senate had been wrangling over cuts to the $27.4 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. To balance the books, lawmakers slashed up to 15 percent from aid to cities and towns.

For weeks, municipal leaders have been basing their budget projections on the Senate version, ever aware that the conference of House and Senate members could change the numbers.

‘Tough decisions'

That revised version emerged from the conference committee on Thursday night, was approved by the House and Senate on Friday, and is now awaiting Gov. Deval L. Patrick's signature.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, acknowledged that the budget reflects a host of "tough decisions," including increasing the sales tax to 6.25 percent while cutting spending on valuable programs.

"These budget times are unprecedented in recent history," he said. "No part of the budget was spared, including local aid. We are bound by the state constitution to create a balanced budget, and we tried to find the proper balance between cuts, taxes and reforms."

‘A little bit better'

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said the numbers are "a little bit better" than what Berkshire cities and towns were expecting.

For example, Pittsfield is receiving $500,000 more in general aid than city officials had planned for, but the amount of federal stimulus money to help balance the school budget was lowered from $2.5 million to $2.3 million, yielding a net increase of $300,000, he said.

Despite some funding improvements, Downing said he expects that communities will avail themselves of a new law that allows them to increase the local meals tax by 0.75 percentage points to offset the overall drop in state aid.

While the budget is a compromise of the House and Senate versions, Downing said, "it's a compromise forced upon us by fiscal reality."

On Friday, community leaders in the Berkshires were eagerly awaiting the final numbers. Mayor James M. Ruberto said he had seen an early version but wasn't sure how it would align with the Senate numbers he used for the city's $122.7 million budget proposal, currently being debated by the City Council.

"I'm still holding my breath," Ruberto said.

In North Adams, Mayor John Barrett III said the final budget held no solace, and he called it a "worst-case scenario. We weren't really planning on it being this bad, but it's bad. It's looking like about $2.3 million out of the city's budget from last year."

"I thought the Legislature would have addressed more critical things," he said. "I thought they would have addressed charter school funding, I thought they would address the health insurance issues -- like plan design, which would allow communities to be able to present their own types of insurance plans to employees -- they didn't do that."

For some towns, it's good to be small. While cities like Pittsfield and North Adams rely on millions in state aid, the smaller towns have never received such large sums and don't miss what they never had.

Officials in Stockbridge said they are not expecting massive cuts from the town budget compared to what will likely be lost for bigger cities and towns, according to town Treasurer Karen Williams.

"From what I understand, smaller towns such as Stockbridge will not be affected as seriously as larger towns and cities," she said. "We receive a fair amount [of state funds], but not nearly as much as Springfield or Pittsfield, so the effect will be lessened for us."

She noted that the town, for the most part, is funded at last year's levels, with a few minor departmental budget reductions. Voters at the recent town meeting approved an overall budget of $9.6 million, an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous year. That includes an operating budget of $4.8 million, a 0.55 percent increase.

In Williamstown, Town Administrator Peter J. Fohlin said that, as long as the final state budget resembles the Senate version, the town's plan will remain viable.

"That was about a $500,000 hit to us on local aid, and we handled that by freezing wages and salaries for all municipal employees and level funding all of our expense accounts," he said.

Now the question is whether the state has accurately predicted revenues for the coming fiscal year. If lawmakers' estimates are off, it will mean the return of mid-year cuts that can be particularly painful for municipalities.

"By being stark in our assessment of the new budget," Downing said, "we hope to avoid mid-year cuts."
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The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, DAVID LUBEROFF
"Small change for cities and towns"
By David Luberoff, June 28, 2009

THE HOTLY debated tax increases in the budget that the Legislature sent to Governor Deval Patrick are small change, which is both good and bad.

On the plus side, the per-dollar provisions - which raise the meals and sales taxes from 5 cents to 6.25 and allow the state’s cities and towns to add another 75 cents to the meals tax and to raise hotel taxes by 2 cents as well - will add only small change to the cost of goods, meals, and rooms.

Yet the new taxes also represent only a small change for the state’s cities and towns, because the money will mitigate - but not eliminate - painful cuts to basic public services. And because the budget lacks other needed reforms, the taxes are only small change for local governments that need much larger and more systematic changes, not only in funding but in governance as well.

To begin with, the Legislature hasn’t fixed the growing and expensive problems associated with the health insurance localities provide for their workers and retirees. The problem is that unlike both state officials and managers in the private and nonprofit sectors, local officials must negotiate all aspect of health insurance plans - from co-payments to cost-sharing for premiums - with local unions that generally like the status quo.

As a result, localities’ health insurance costs have risen almost twice as fast as the state’s, and health insurance is claiming an increasingly large share of most local budgets. In Boston, for example, the share of the budget devoted to health insurance has almost doubled in less than a decade.

A 2007 law, crafted after intense negotiations, gave localities permission to join the state system but only if 70 percent of their unions agreed to that change.

Largely because of this provision, only 16 communities have joined. Many local officials say the small impact shows that they need the power to unilaterally design their communities’ health plans.

Not surprisingly, public-sector unions have strongly opposed this effort. And thus far, neither side has supported compromise measures, such as using binding arbitration to reduce the health insurance costs in communities where those costs exceeded the state averages.

Even worse, health insurance is just the tip of the iceberg. The high cost of fully funding pensions and other postretirement benefits will continue to stress local budgets.

Local officials’ ability to make needed changes are greatly limited by an outdated civil service system that bases promotions on test-taking and collective bargaining agreements that make it easy to challenge any changes to existing routines. Why, for example, does every town need its own emergency dispatch system? Why do many localities have separate systems for police, fire, and emergency services? Yet any effort to change these practices runs into a host of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Local officials are not blameless. State law, for example, gives them the power to greatly lower health insurance costs by requiring retirees to enroll in Medicare, a federally funded program. But many localities have not yet taken advantage of this option, not least because of resistance from retirees.

Such changes are hard to achieve because relatively small groups of individuals strongly oppose them. But the status quo may not be an option.

Costs are going to keep rising, revenues will remain flat, and the demand for services will not decline. Local policy makers, therefore, will have no choice but to reexamine longstanding practices and assumptions.

State policy makers can aid this effort by giving local officials the power they need to manage their affairs and by requiring that cities and towns adopt effective practices.

As important, the state should use its already extensive databases to identify localities that have unusually high costs or poor results, and then require that localities, with state help, fix those problems.

Such big changes are a tall order, but these difficult times require more than small incremental changes.
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David Luberoff is executive director of Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.
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"Berkshire County Tax hikes weighed on meals, rooms n Hotel, restaurant owners fear the move to offset cuts in state aid could further hurt their struggling businesses."
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, 8/4/2009

LENOX -- To offset reductions in state aid to local budgets, officials in several Berkshire County communities are considering increasing room and meal taxes, a move some fear would hurt hoteliers and restaurateurs.

At least seven municipalities are considering the local tax option, with officials in Lenox, Great Barrington, North Adams and Pittsfield debating whether to put increases in place this fiscal year.

In June, legislation was passed allowing Massachusetts cities and towns to increase the local meals tax by three-quarters of a percent and the room tax by as much as 2 percent, an avenue seen as helping reduce the effects of cuts to state aid to local communities.

Town Manager Gregory Federspiel said Lenox lost $250,000 in state aid between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year, and will likely need a special town meeting to make up for a $100,000 budget shortfall. If the town implements a 1 percent increase to the rooms tax, it could bring in more than $200,000 annually.

"For Lenox, the room tax has been a good source of revenue," said Federspiel. "We’re cognizant that every segment of the economy is struggling, so we don’t want to do anything to negatively impact any one sector. But the general belief is that a 1 percent increase is not going to drive [visitors] away from Lenox."

Stockbridge’s Board of Selectmen has chosen not impliment either of the local tax options, according to Town Administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden, because of the impact it could have on local businesses already struggling.

"We have a very small population of bed and breakfasts and a large hotel in town that would take the brunt of it and they’re already hurting at this time, so [the Selectmen] opted to leave it the way it is," said Marsden.

Some towns are holding off on any decision until next year, but the local option taxes can go into effect in October if approved by municipalities by the end of August.

"I think what towns have been clamoring for since I entered the legislation is local control, local options, home rule," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox.

Pignatelli said state aid could be level, or decrease, in the coming years, and towns need to look at ways to make up the difference.

"Let the city and towns make some tough decisions when it comes to generating the revenue because the state is no longer the option," said Pignatelli.

Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes decisions made about the taxes are uniform throughout the county so as to avoid pricing disparities between one town and another.

"We just hope unfair competition doesn’t creep into the picture because one town implements [the tax] and the other town doesn’t," said Supranowicz.

North Adams has lost $2.5 million in state aid between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year, according to Mayor John Barrett III. He said an increase to the city’s room tax, from 4 to 6 percent, could be passed soon to bring an estimated $50,000 in added revenue annually.

"I don’t see how the towns can’t [use the local option]," said Barrett. "They’re going to have to eventually all go for it."

But the city’s meal tax, which would bring an estimated $100,000 each year, won’t be considered until next year. Barrett pointed to the 1.25 percent increase in the state sales tax, which began this week, and said he doesn’t want to add to the psychological impact of those costs for consumers and businesses.

"It’s not that we don’t need the revenue, because we do," said Barrett. "But we also have to be cognizant of the difficulties businesses are having out there, especially small businesses."

With Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto unavailable for comment, it’s unclear what increases he could present to the city council.

But City Council President Gerald M. Lee said he would be in favor of a room tax, since it wouldn’t impact Pittsfield residents, but said he is wary of any increase on the cost of going out to eat.

"We have a lot of new restaurants and we have a lot of old restaurants that are impacted because of the number of people that go out to eat," said Lee. "I don’t know if that is enough revenue to make it worth the while to inconvenience the restaurants and patrons."
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To reach Trevor Jones: tjones@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 528-3660.
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FINANCE SECRETARY LESLIE KIRWAN
She cited an increasing strain on social safety net programs, predictions of weak revenue growth, and dwindling reserves.
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"State budget chief warns more spending cuts may be necessary"
By Michael Norton, State House News Service, via The Boston Globe (Online), September 9, 2009

State government leaders face the “perfect storm’’ of cost pressures tied to an increasing strain on social safety net programs, predictions of weak revenue growth, and dwindling reserves and federal funds to balance future budgets, the state budget chief told local officials yesterday afternoon.

With unemployment still on the rise, federal stimulus funds flying out the door, and a once $2.3 billion state rainy day fund nose-diving toward $500 million, administration and finance secretary Leslie Kirwan also cautioned local government leaders of potential mid-fiscal 2010 budget cuts.

Administration officials are monitoring tax collections this month and readying plans to reduce spending.

“September is going to be key, and I can’t emphasize this enough,’’ Kirwan said. “It’s a big month, and it’s going to be very indicative.’’

Kirwan has instructed state department heads to prepare budget cuts that could be triggered next month if the administration, based on September collections, decides spending reductions are necessary.

“We are not going to make that call until Oct. 15,’’ Kirwan said.

Whether the governor asks the Legislature for expanded powers to cut spending beyond the executive branch, as he did last fiscal year, depends on the magnitude of revenue losses, Kirwan said.

During a meeting of the Local Government Advisory Council, local government leaders said they are getting crushed by pension system costs, investment losses, and contract-related fallout from a slashing of a state fund for police reimbursements under the Quinn bill. And local officials said they are fearful about the impact on traditional public schools of a push on Beacon Hill to expand access to charter schools.

Kirwan said state government was still dealing with “remnants’’ of fiscal 2009, which ended June 30. He said the state reduced its workforce by 1,000 positions last fiscal year but still faces a $180 million gap as the state comptroller moves to close the books. Budget reversions “may cure that shortfall,’’ she said, but additional draws from the state’s rainy day fund, which is closing in on $500 million after hitting a $2.3 billion peak, are possible.

A 25 percent increase in the state sales tax, rainy day funds, and “generous’’ use of hundreds of millions of one-time federal stimulus package funds are helping to balance the current fiscal 2010 budget, along with spending cuts. Kirwan said this year’s budget eliminates 750 state positions.

“Most of the 750 could be layoffs,’’ she told two reporters after her remarks before the council.

The fiscal 2010 budget uses about $1.6 billion in federal stimulus funds, leaving about $720 million available for use in fiscal 2011, administration officials said.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/09/09/state_budget_chief_warns_more_spending_cuts_may_be_necessary/?comments=all
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"Budget cuts are in store"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, November 11, 2009

While Gov. Deval L. Patrick has avoided cutting local aid to balance the current state budget, Berkshire County is still bracing for the reductions.

Local municipal officials, along with area legislators, began anticipating the cuts after state officials last month revised the projected revenue shortfall for fiscal 2010 from $400 million to $600 million.

Nevertheless, Patrick has yet to ask the Legislature for the power to make midyear cuts to budget, which he did twice last fiscal year as revenues plummeted.

"If we don’t go beyond the $600 million estimate," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, "we could do without cuts to local aid."

However, Downing fears the state’s deficit could worsen.

"We’re starting to hold steady on revenue collections," he added. "But we’re still seeing more job losses for [early next year] and that will mean less personal income tax revenue coming back to the state."

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said the Patrick administration has waited long enough to address the declining tax collections.

"It’s easier for cities and towns to accept a modest local aid cut in October," Pignatelli noted, "as a cut in March or April is deeper and harder to recover from."

In February, Patrick reduced local aid by $128 million forcing municipalities to cut their spending more than halfway through fiscal 2009.

Pittsfield had to trim $1 million from its budget after already slashing $1 million due to a shortfall in local revenue.

The city already took a $4.6 million cut when fiscal 2010 began on July 1.

Lee began the new budget year with a $230,000 local aid cut, but town officials are prepared for another mid-year reduction.

"We have enough flexibility in our budget to absorb another similar cut in 2010," said Town Administrator Robert Nason, referring to the $75,000 cut in February.

However, Nason fears the 2010 reduction could go as high as $125,000 based on his review of the state’s projected revenue shortfall.

Lenox officials are unsure their budget can handle a local aid cut now, as the town already began fiscal 2010 with a $260,000 reduction.

"I’ve already asked department heads to be conscious about spending," said Town Manager Gregory Federspiel. "But their budgets are as lean as they can go."

If the trend of local aid cuts continues into fiscal 2011, local officials fear municipal layoffs are inevitable.

"We will have to significantly reduce our work force -- our major expense," Nason said.

Lenox is hoping to avoid town employee layoffs with their cooperation.

"If we can hold on and get concessions from the unions, we might be OK," said Federspiel.

In addition to budget cuts, several communities have taken advantage of raising the local rooms tax to help offset the loss of state funds. Pittsfield, Lenox and North Adams have increased the lodging fee from 4 percent to 6 percent. Lee and Great Barrington are also considering a boost in the hotel/motel tax.

However, Berkshire municipalities have ignored the newly created 0.75 percent local meals tax.

"I’m encouraging my communities to consider it," said Pignatelli. "It will help lessen the blow next year."

For example, the state Department of Revenue estimates Lee could collect $147,000 annually if it adopted the local meals fee.
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To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.
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"Candidates for governor spar over local aid cuts"
By John R. Ellement, Boston Globe Staff, November 19, 2009

WESTBOROUGH -- A fight over local aid sparked the most intense debate today at the first joint appearance of the three candidates trying to defeat Governor Deval Patrick in next year's election.

State Treasurer Timothy Cahill urged lawmakers to explore cuts to the money sent to cities and town as a way to narrow the gaping budget gap on Beacon Hill.

"Everything has to be on the table," said Cahill, who left the Democratic Party to run as an independent. "Any one of us, given the fiscal crisis in the billions, that says anything is off the table … I don't think is actually being truthful."

The two candidates vying for the Republican nomination rejected Cahill's view. Christy Mihos and Charles Baker vowed never to cut local aid to balance the state budget.

"Never,’" said Mihos.

"No," Baker said, adding, "If you say local aid is on the table, it won't be the last choice -- because it's an easier choice than the tough stuff of restructuring state government.’’

The meet-the-candidates forum hosted by the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce provided a preview of what is sure to be a heated governor's race. None of the three candidates mentioned the incumbent Democrat by name, railing instead against Beacon Hill in broad, sweeping terms.

Baker's pledge not to touch local aid drew spontaneous applause from the audience of 200. That prompted Cahill to point at the audience with his right hand as he defended himself.

"It might not be the most politically popular decision to make," said Cahill, who added that local government has searched for ways to adapt to current fiscal realities. "But you don't have control over big parts of the budget ... Sometimes it's leverage to get the local governments to toe the line."

Mihos renewed his push to send 40 percent of all state revenue back to cities and towns. He said local aid is now at 2002-2003 levels, "which is an absolute disgrace." Beacon Hill has been paying for the Big Dig, education reform, and other measures "on the backs of cities and towns," he said.
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State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, an independent candidate for governor, spars with Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Charles Baker and Christy Mihos, over cutting local aid. The three made the first joint appearance of the 2010 campaign at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Westborough today. (with video). Boston Globe video by John R. Ellement.
www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/11/cahill_says_loc.html
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"Officials: Be wary of gov.'s speech"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 22, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- While local officials are "thrilled" Gov. Deval L. Patrick is recommending against cutting state aid in his budget proposal, they are being urged to avoid taking his proposal as "gospel truth."

Patrick told mayors in a conference call Thursday he'll recommend level funding local aid to cities and towns in fiscal 2011 starting July 1. Furthermore, so called Chapter 70 money for school districts would be unchanged.

Most Berkshire County municipalities saw local aid reductions for the current fiscal 2010, with Pittsfield taking the biggest hit at more than $4 million followed by a more than $2 million cut for North Adams.

Nevertheless, Patrick sounding a positive note for the new fiscal year is resonating with the county's two mayors.

"This is huge. I couldn't be more thrilled," said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto.

"This governor appreciates the importance of cities and towns in Massachusetts," added Ruberto. "He continues to show his support for public education."

"The news couldn't be better for the city or our entire region," said North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. "Obviously, every little bit helps, but we've been preparing for cuts to both the municipal and Chapter 70 funds."

And State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, is urging local officials to remain conservative in crafting their new spending plans.

"What cities and towns need to realize is the governor's budget is a political document, his vision for the state," said Pignatelli. "It shouldn't be treated as gospel truth."

While Patrick's state aid plan shows he's committed to local governments, Pignatelli added, "Level funding, in a way, is a cut due to rising costs for cities and towns."
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New England Newspapers reporter Jennifer Huberdeau contributed to this report.
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A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Local aid goes beyond dollars"
January 22, 2010

HUNDREDS OF city and town officials will converge today for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association with one major question in mind: Is the financial outlook for their communities disastrous, or just plain bleak? The state should take steps now to make sure that the answer is the latter.

A recent rise in tax collections suggests that towns won’t be hurt as badly as this fiscal year, when state aid fell by $724 million. But the mayors and selectmen aren’t rejoicing. Balancing the next state budget is almost certain to require additional cuts to libraries, highway departments, and public safety.

Local officials aren’t as helpless as in years past, when they had nowhere to turn other than raising local property taxes. Last year, the Legislature granted towns the power to levy local option taxes on meals and lodging. But the new revenues offset just 20 percent of the losses in local aid. Reliable police and fire service, decent schools, and passable roads hang in the balance.

Help doesn’t need to come in the form of cash from the state. Cities and towns are swamped by rising health insurance costs for municipal employees. The locals need what the state already enjoys - the ability to make modest cost-saving changes in employee health plans, including co-pays and deductibles, without resorting to collective bargaining.

Local communities also need a way to escape escalating costs of the Quinn Bill, which gives salary bumps to police officers who earn college degrees in criminal justice. The cost is supposed to be split by the local community and the state. But the state has backed away from its commitment.. At a minimum, Governor Patrick and the Legislature should change the Quinn Bill statute to make clear that cities and towns aren’t required to absorb the state’s share.

It’s one thing for the state to send a smaller check. It’s quite another to tell cities and towns to dig themselves out of a fiscal mess while hoarding the picks and shovels.

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Governor Deval Patrick (right) spoke with Mayor Nancy Stevens of Marlborough and Mayor Michael McGlynn of Medford at a Massachusetts Municipal Association meeting. (Photos By Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
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"Patrick to oppose cuts in municipal aid"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, January 23, 2010

A day after pledging no new cuts to schools, Governor Deval Patrick told municipal leaders he would fight to stave off any reductions in aid to the state’s cash-strapped cities and towns, a welcome relief to local officials who had braced for another round of steep cuts and layoffs.

Speaking before several hundred municipal leaders in downtown Boston, Patrick said that signs of economic growth, along with budget cuts in other areas, will allow local aid to remain intact at $5.2 billion, which includes about $4 billion for public schools and another $1 billion for other services.

“There is some stability now coming back into the revenue picture,’’ Patrick said at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “The state is rebounding slowly but surely.’’

Patrick had made his school funding pledge before a joint session of the Legislature Thursday, and yesterday he called the promise a sign of his administration’s commitment to schools and handling of the budget through the economic downturn.

“It’s no small lift to fund schools at historic levels,’’ given the severity of the state’s financial straits, he said. “In these times, with the enormously tough choices we face, this is pretty good news.’’

Patrick’s forthcoming budget, which he plans to file next week, will kick off months of budget debate in the State House. The budget determines spending for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Patrick said his budget relies on “modest cuts in a host of areas,’’ few spending hikes, and projections that forecast gradual increases in tax collections.

“There are early signs of a turnaround,’’ he said.

Last year, Patrick also pledged to maintain local aid, but lawmakers ultimately reduced it by $377 million, forcing many communities to lay off teachers, police officers, and other public workers.

In the summer, Patrick approved $1 billion in tax increases after a lengthy standoff with legislators, including boosting the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.

Still, local government officials said they were delighted by Patrick’s proposal, which they said would keep property taxes in check and shore up town budgets. Many said they had anticipated aid would be slashed by at least 5 percent, particularly with the state having allocated the bulk of last year’s federal stimulus funds.

When Patrick told the audience that “no school district will receive less this year than last year,’’ the room burst into applause.

“There isn’t a single municipal leader who didn’t think local aid would be cut and cut severely,’’ said Jeff Nutting, town administrator for Franklin and president of the municipal association. “This is tremendous news.’’

Pointing to last year’s cuts, critics predicted that lawmakers would ultimately reduce assistance to towns to ease the state’s budget crunch, thereby passing the problems along.

“Local aid has always been the first victim in the budgetary process,’’ said Robert L. Hedlund, a Republican state senator from Weymouth. “It drives me insane.’’

Hedlund said Republicans identified massive spending cuts last year that would have allowed the state to maintain its local aid budget, but Democrats rejected them.

“It’s a bit dishonest to claim you support our cities and towns while cutting most local aid accounts,’’ Hedlund said.

While reiterating his calls for stable local funding, Patrick unveiled other proposed changes he said would help communities balance their budgets. His proposals included new incentives to encourage workers to take early retirement and giving communities more time to bolster pension funds whose value has plummeted. “Pension assets have been hammered,’’ Patrick said. “They’ve sustained unprecedented asset losses.’’

The plan would let communities rebuild their pension funds more slowly than usual but force them to use future investment gains to make up the difference. The change would save communities as much as $200 million next year, administration officials said. Patrick said he will soon file a pension reform bill, following up on changes approved last year.

Patrick also said he will ask lawmakers to freeze rates at private schools for students with special needs, saving $3.2 million.

But special education advocates decried the plan. “It’s really unfortunate,’’ said Jim Major, who directs a coalition of the private schools. “There seems to be an imbalance in how funding for general education and special education is being treated, and these are the kids who have the most challenges.’’

Many of the students who attend the affected schools have profound disabilities, Major said. The schools already raise millions privately to supplement government funding.

Patrick also praised an education reform bill, signed into law this week, that will make it easier for school administrators to overhaul poor schools. He called the legislation a watershed moment for students, especially those from low-income homes, and said it would help “kids stuck in the achievement gap who have been there, frankly, for too long.’’

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston ranked the bill among “his proudest moments as mayor.’’ But he urged Patrick and other leaders to let communities make cuts to employee health plans outside contract negotiations.

“Taxpayers pay too much of the cost, not only compared to the private sector, but to state workers,’’ he said.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/01/23/patrick_to_oppose_any_cuts_in_municipal_aid/?comments=all#addComm
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January 23, 2010

Re: Deval Patrick will cut state aid to cities and towns again this year!

Re: "Patrick opposes cuts in municipal aid" (The Boston Globe, By Peter Schworm, January 23, 2010): "Governor Deval Patrick said that signs of economic growth, along with budget cuts in other areas, will allow local aid to remain intact at $5.2 billion, which includes about $4 billion for public schools and another $1 billion for other services. ... [However,] last year, Governor Deval Patrick also pledged to maintain local aid, but lawmakers ultimately reduced it by $377 million, forcing many communities to lay off teachers, police officers, and other public workers."

Governor Deval Patrick has been promising to protect state aid to cities and towns every year since his campaign for Governor of Massachusetts in 2006 and has not kept his promise to the commonwealth's cities and towns. The state government is facing a $3 billion budget deficit, and the diminished local aid total for last year was $5.2 billion, which Patrick promised to level fund. Yet, Patrick never answered the obvious question, which is, "How is he going to bridge the FY2011 Massachusetts State Budget deficit?"

When my dad was a Berkshire County Commissioner, I found out that most Berkshire County cities and towns relied heavily on state aid from Beacon Hill in order to fund municipal and public school services. When the state cut state aid to Berkshire County cities and towns, regressive taxes and fees at the local level increased, which both devastated many household finances and diminished municipal services. Since the state cut school funding and state aid to cities and towns from FY2002 - FY2004 and again the past several years, Berkshire County's cities and towns had to raise taxes and cut services.

The Berkshire delegation (State Senator "Luciforo", State Senator Downing; State Representatives Peter J. "Lobbyist" Larkin, Christopher N. Speranzo; State Representatives Christopher J. Hodgkins, William "Shitty" PIGnatelli; State Representatives Shaun P. Kelly, "P"enis E. "Golddigger" Guyer, Jr.; and State Representative Daniel E. "bureaucRAT" Bosley, have all increased their own personal fortunes in state politics, while diminishing the quality of life for their constituents back home! This past decade is the "Hall of Shame" for the Berkshire Legislative Delegation on Beacon Hill, among a myriad of other local, state and federal politicians who have given the average or common person the proverbial shaft!

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"Beacon Hill: Local Aid Cuts Coming - Murray: We Don't Have The Money"
WCVB-TV BOSTON Channel 5 - thebostonchannel.com - March 12, 2010

BOSTON -- The Massachusetts House and Senate leaders want cities and towns to know there's a local aid cut coming.

Senate President Therese Murray said she and House Speaker Robert DeLeo were planning to issue a statement outlining a proposed cut. A Murray aide said the statement wouldn't be issued Thursday.

Gov. Deval Patrick drafted a budget that avoided cuts to state funding for schools and municipal services such as police and fire.

But legislative leaders said his plan counts too heavily on federal stimulus money, and draws too deeply on the state's rainy day account.

So they have decided the budget plans they will adopt will cut aid this year to avoid an even larger wallop next year.

Murray says "we don't have the money, we don't have the resources and we don't have a lot of the federal funds" built into Patrick's proposal.

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"Legislative leaders warn of 4 percent cut in local aid"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, March 12, 2010

Legislative leaders today told cities and towns to brace for a cut of up to 4 percent per community in the aid provided by the state, a combined hit of up to $200 million to the money communities rely on to balance their budgets and keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters employed.

The announcement by House and Senate leaders comes weeks before lawmakers will release their versions of the state budget for fiscal 2011, but Beacon Hill leaders wanted to give advance notice to cities and towns as they prepare their own local budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Governor Deval Patrick sought to avoid those cuts in the budget he proposed in January, but his package relies on new taxes opposed by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray and draws too heavily from federal stimulus dollars and rainy-day savings to be practical, legislative leaders contend. The final plan will be worked out later this spring.

"While it's not the best news, given the fact that communities are looking at a maximum 4 percent cut, obviously under the fiscal circumstances it's not as bad as it probably could have been," said Representative Charles Murphy, the Burlington Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. "There are going to be a lot of different parts of the budget that are cut at the same level or deeper."

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"We're mindful of the other responsibilities we have as lawmakers." -- Representative Charles A. Murphy
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"State may cut $200m from local aid: Could result in more layoffs"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, March 13, 2010

Legislative leaders told cities and towns yesterday to brace for a cut of up to 4 percent in local aid next year, a combined hit of up to $200 million to the money communities rely on to balance budgets and keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters employed.

The announcement by House and Senate leaders could mean further layoffs and service cuts across the state starting this summer, and it sets up a political fight with Governor Deval Patrick, who sought to avoid those cuts in the budget plan he released in January.

Lawmakers say Patrick’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2011 draws too heavily on federal stimulus money and rainy-day savings. Patrick also proposed raising taxes on candy, soft drinks, and tobacco, a plan House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have said they oppose.

The announcement comes weeks before lawmakers will release their versions of the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Beacon Hill leaders said they wanted to give early notice to cities and towns as they form their own spending plans. Lawmakers and Patrick will probably finalize the state budget in June.

Legislative leaders framed yesterday’s warning as a courtesy in a difficult year, calling the proposed cut modest amid painful circumstances. But municipal leaders called it a devastating blow, saying it could bring widespread layoffs.

The statement from Beacon Hill said each community “will receive no more than’’ a 4 percent cut to the education aid known as Chapter 70 funding and to unrestricted general government aid, the categories that make up the bulk of the money the state distributes to cities and towns. In other words, local officials should prepare for a 4 percent cut, said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“I would plan for the worst-case scenario,’’ said Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat who made the announcement with the House Ways and Means chairman, Representative Charles A. Murphy, in consultation with DeLeo and Murray.

From prerecession promises two years ago to current budget levels, state lawmakers have reduced local aid by $724 million, or about 12 percent, said Geoffrey C. Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. That has forced cities and towns to lay off thousands and to become more reliant on the property tax than at any point in the 30 years since the Proposition 2 1/2 tax cap passed, Beckwith said.

“Cities and towns and local aid have taken more than their fair share of cuts, and communities are struggling out there to provide services that are important to our economic recovery,’’ Beckwith said.

Local officials are urging lawmakers to uphold the funding levels Patrick proposed and to give communities more power to balance their budgets, such as the authority to redesign employee health insurance plans without union approval, a power the state has with its own contracts, and which Beckwith estimated would save $100 million.

Panagiotakos and Murphy, a Burlington Democrat, said communities are not suffering disproportionately.

“We understand the significance of it and the outcomes across the Commonwealth,’’ said Murphy. “But at the same time, we’re mindful of the other responsibilities we have as lawmakers to balance the budget and to address the other thousands of line items.’’

Patrick said he would work with lawmakers to preserve local aid, which he called “the right thing to do.’’

“It supports local services and keeps the pressure off the property tax,’’ he said yesterday.

Mayor Lisa A. Wong of Fitchburg said the cut could swell a projected $2.5 million shortfall for the coming year in her city to $4 million. Balancing this year’s budget has already meant cutting personnel and services, including reducing the library’s schedule from seven to three days a week.

Communities that are most reliant on state aid, working-class cities that lack property wealth and a large commercial tax base, would be hit hardest by this cut, Wong said.

“If the state is going to impose limits on how municipalities can generate revenue, and make cities and towns reliant on the state for funding, then the state needs to be equitable in the actual impact of their decisions,’’ Wong said. “Cutting everybody equally based on the same percentage is actually one of the most inequitable things the state could do.’’
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Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/13/lawmakers_warn_of_200m_cut_in_local_aid/?comments=all#readerComm
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"Politicians may cut local aid by $200M"
By Hillary Chabot and Marie Szaniszlo, Local Politics, bostonherald.com - March 13, 2010

After an election-year vow to protect local aid, Gov. Deval Patrick could end up with egg on his face as lawmakers move to slash up to $200 million in funding for local schools and services, further crippling cash-starved cities and towns.

The cuts come on the heels of a brutal $725 million gash to local aid passed last year.

“Another cut would be devastating,” said Bernard Lynch, city manager of Lowell, which axed 250 jobs last year. “Services are already impacted. Fire stations have been closed and there are fewer police. We’re running out of places to cut.”

Fall River Mayor William Flanagan said the local aid reduction could paralyze a city where 56 percent of the general fund, or $116 million, relies on state aid.

“It would mean not just cuts in services, it would mean ending programs,” Flanagan said.

But state lawmakers insist they have no choice because of sluggish revenues. They also want to hold the line on more tax hikes, including the $140 million in new levies on candy, soda and bottled water that Patrick was counting when he drafted his budget.

“The speaker has been clear that we’re not going to increase revenue,” said House Ways and Means chairman Charles A. Murphy (D-Burlington). “It leaves us making some difficult choices.”

Patrick also used $2.1 million in one-time revenues, which economic watchdogs tagged as risky.

“We don’t feel comfortable using the rainy-day account,” said Senate Ways and Means chairman Steven C. Panagiotakos (D-Lowell). “I’m hoping we don’t use any of it. We’re going to need that money in the future.”

Massachusetts Municipal Association Director Geoffrey C. Beckwith called the 4 percent local aid cut the “worst-case scenario.” He said it would prompt more than 1,000 layoffs of teachers, police, firefighters, public works employees and other municipal workers statewide.

Several cities, including Boston and Somerville, are already grappling with steep budget deficits.

“The city’s facing a $42 million budget gap,” said Boston’s chief financial officer Lisa Signori.

“The additional cut in state aid, combined with all the other trends the city faces, pose significant challenges. This is after multiple years of financial constraint.”

Signori and other municipal officials said lawmakers could help them get their own money by ending local union veto power over health insurance changes, which Beckwith estimated could save $100 million statewide.

Making matters worse, municipal officials could see more cuts in 2012, said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

“We’re running out of the rainy-day budget,” Widmer said. “Even with more revenues, there will be another round of cuts to local aid next year.”

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"Staggering cuts"
By Boston Herald Staff, Local Politics, bostonherald.com - March 13, 2010

Bay State cities and towns - already scrambling to close gaping budget deficits - will be slammed with as much as a 4 percent cut to both local aid and state education funding, according to revenue figures released by the Legislature yesterday.

The total $200 million cutback comes on top of the $725 million slashed last year.

Among the municipalities hardest hit:

Boston: $6.7 million less in local aid and $8.7 million less in state education dough, also known as Chapter 70 funding;

Worcester: $1.46 million less in local aid; $1.27 million less for schools;

Springfield: $1.3 million hit in local aid, $4.6 million for schools;

Lowell: $887,700 less in local aid, $4.44 million for schools;

Fall River: $839,000 cut in local aid, $3.23 million less for schools;

Somerville: $887,981 less for local aid; $807,000 less for schools.

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"Advocates: Don't cut state aid to Massachusetts towns"
AP via Boston.com - March 20, 2010

BOSTON --Education advocates are pushing back against proposed cuts in local aid and education spending as the state struggles with the recession's lingering effects.

Legislative budget leaders have warned Massachusetts cities and towns to brace for a local aid cut of up to 4 percent in the coming budget year.

The statewide education advocacy group Stand for Children plans to rally Tuesday at the Statehouse to press lawmakers to protect the funding. The group says the cuts are the wrong decision, especially during tight economic times.

Gov. Deval Patrick said he's also opposed to the cuts, but legislative leaders fault Patrick for wanting to dig too deeply into the state's rainy day fund instead.

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"Robert DeLeo cuts local aid by $234M"
By Hillary Chabot, Local Politics, www.bostonherald.com - April 14, 2010

Cities and towns will be gored by $234 million in state aid cuts as Speaker Robert A. DeLeo files a budget that slashes $1.4 billion overall, according to a House source with intimate knowledge of budget details.

The budget steers clear of raising taxes and doesn’t use the state’s rainy day fund, which has dwindled to $658 million. The cuts come as state revenues continue to stagnate.

Gov. Deval Patrick released a $28.2 billion budget in January that lawmakers criticized as too optimistic.

Patrick also depended on a tax hike on candy, soda and sweetened drinks to close some of his budget gap - a measure rejected in the House budget filed today.

However, the budget spares the $21 million workforce training grant fund, which gives employers grants to help them retrain their employees as they seek to expand their businesses.

The bare-bones budget comes as DeLeo is in the middle of a struggle to legalize casinos and slots at the state’s four racetracks, which he argues would bring jobs and revenue during the economic slump.

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"House tenders a $27.8b budget: Plan cuts local aid and state jobs but avoids tax hikes"
By Noah Bierman, Boston Globe Staff, April 15, 2010

Massachusetts House leaders proposed a spending plan yesterday for the next fiscal year that would probably leave fewer teachers in local classrooms and cut social services, but would avoid raising taxes or dipping into the state’s dwindling rainy-day fund.

The $27.8 billion House budget proposal is an attempt to address tough economic times for state government in an election year that has many legislators fearful for their jobs. It also differs on several key points from the spending plan of Governor Deval Patrick, who himself faces a tough reelection fight.

The anticipated $159 million cut to local aid and school spending would amount to a 4 percent clip for most cities and towns, though some, depending on a state formula, would take a smaller hit. Patrick submitted a budget in January that would protect local aid and school spending.

Patrick’s plan would get rid of sales tax exemptions on candy and sodas, and increase taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars, something House leaders rejected in their proposal. The House was also more conservative than Patrick in protecting the state’s rainy day fund, which has been shrinking during the recession and may need to be tapped next year, according to legislators.

To keep the budget balanced without using reserves, the House cut $132 million from the higher education budget, a tactic also at odds with Patrick’s position.

House leaders expect to begin de bate on the budget April 26. Leaders in the Senate, who plan to begin their debate in May, have said they will take an approach similar to that of the House in setting their budget priorities. The differences with Patrick’s budget will have to be resolved by political leaders by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Representative Charles A. Murphy, the top budget writer in the House, took pride in balancing the budget without raising taxes or tapping reserves, but he conceded that the impact on residents, state workers, and local governments would be considerable, and in some cases drastic. He expects to eliminate 1,500 jobs from the state payroll alone, in addition to an unknown number of municipal workers and teachers who could lose their positions when cuts trickle down.

“You’re going to be talking to a lot of people who aren’t going to be very happy with me,’’ he told reporters during a State House news conference.

Murphy and his counterpart in the Senate, Steven C. Panagiotakos, warned local officials of the cuts last month. While that allowed for better preparation by local officials, it did not reduce the pain. Municipalities are already struggling with a loss of $724 million in local aid in the current budget, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which predicts larger class sizes and layoffs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn said he has been eliminating positions in almost every department over the last three years as he and other mayors have faced smaller budgets combined with higher costs for pensions and health care for workers and retirees. The House budget would reduce revenue for next year in Medford by $900,000, while health care costs are projected to rise by $2 million, he said.

“The only places left to cut are schools and public safety,’’ McGlynn said.

He and other mayors are hoping for legislative changes that would allow them to restructure health plans without negotiating with unions and to offer incentives for early retirements.

“The current system is unsustainable,’’ said Mayor Rob Dolan, of Melrose, the president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association. “This is going to be a permanent state of affairs unless health insurance is dealt with and pensions are dealt with.’’

While many social service advocates worry about proposed cuts to programs such as immigrant health care and mental health facilities, some fiscal watchdogs argued that at least some of the steps are necessary, in part to protect the state’s rainy day fund as the effects of the recession wear on.

Michael J. Widmer, the president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed nonprofit, said of the House budget, “This is an honest reflection of the fiscal straits that the Commonwealth is in.’’

Widmer predicts the budget questions will get even tougher the following fiscal year, because both the House and the governor are relying on $1.4 billion in one-time federal stimulus money to avoid further cuts next year. Though there is increasing support for legalized gambling, the budget does not account for new revenues from casinos or slot machines, because the legislation is still under debate.

Lawmakers, who were all aware of the antigovernment tea party movement activists filling Boston Common yesterday, said tax and fee increases are off the table. “We just raised almost $900 million in taxes last year,’’ said Panagiotakos, who is retiring next year.

Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, who proposed raising $67 million from taxing soda, candy, and tobacco while using $167 million from the state’s reserves, said the moves were modest and designed primarily to preserve vital programs and lower unemployment. “The governor decided to do those things in order to fund those things like local aid and higher education,’’ Gonzalez said. “There’s still a lot of process left, and I think we’re hopeful that some of these priorities will get addressed.’’
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Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/15/house_tenders_a_278b_budget/?comments=all#readerComm
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"Local aid cuts hit staffing, services: Union concessions help avert even more layoffs"
By Matt Carroll and Kathy McCabe, Boston Globe Staff, July 5, 2010

Hundreds of city and town employees are being laid off across Massachusetts as the recently signed state budget forces communities to cut back on librarians, police, teachers, and other workers to balance the books.

As tough as the cuts are to individuals losing their jobs, more drastic layoffs were averted largely by union concessions that included pay cuts, deferred raises, unpaid furlough days, and changes in health care plans, officials said.

An informal survey of town governments and school departments in about 25 Greater Boston communities found that because of the leaner state budget signed last week, communities are reducing the time libraries are open, cutting hours for some employees, leaving staff positions unfilled, taking advantage of new tax options such as the meals tax, and even switching to more energy-efficient bulbs in street lights.

“This was one of the toughest years for many, many communities,’’ said Beverly Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr., president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. He said communities that adopted the local option meals tax were able to offset some of the cuts.

He said more cuts will likely come next year, unless communities change how they operate. He pointed out that the Legislature’s decision not to give communities the chance to design municipal health plans without bargaining has strained many budgets.

“I do think government needs to shrink going forward,’’ he said. “State revenues are going to be down. School revenues are going to be down. . . . I’m not pessimistic, but it’s certainly a sobering time.’’

Massachusetts communities received $160 million less from the state in local aid than last year. Most municipal officials had expected the 4 percent drop in local aid for the new fiscal year, so they were not surprised when Governor Deval Patrick signed the leaner state budget on Wednesday.

Many communities — Danvers, Milton, Braintree, Lexington, and Norwell, for example — found ways to avoid losing employees. The communities that laid off workers ranged from large urban centers to small rural towns.

Somerville laid off 24 people in recreation, planning, public works, and custodial positions, but saved three jobs in the library with a one-week wage cut for nonunionized employees.

The tiny town of Hanson south of Boston cut two clerical workers, a highway worker, and one custodian. A 3 percent increase for union workers was deferred.

Beverly schools laid off about 30 positions, including 16 teaching positions. Crossing guards in Arlington received 31 pink slips, saving the district more than $200,000. Dozens of teacher positions and maintenance workers also face the ax.

“Keeping the school children safe was and should be a [number one] priority,’’ said Roseann Casazza, president of the Arlington Traffic Supervisors union. “It is not now.’’

Quincy laid off about 35 people on the city’s payroll, and about 118 in the School Department. Brockton schools are laying off about 200 employees, which is roughly half the original projection. The teachers union agreed to postpone raises, which helped keep the number down.

Actual layoffs often turn out to be less harsh than original predictions by local politicians and union officials. Because of union contracts, officials are often required to tell employees in the spring that they might be laid off, so notices for teachers might go out in May, for instance.

As such notices went out this year, unions in a number of communities agreed to defer raises or have expired contracts and have not received raises.

Rockland has avoided layoffs through belt-tightening and the unions’ agreement to take three straight years without raises, said Town Administrator Allan R. Chiocca.

“We have managed because of those zeroes and the cooperation of personnel from top to bottom,’’ said Chiocca. “We have not had layoffs, not shut down programs, and not closed buildings.’’

Union and nonunion employees in Westwood are entering the second year without a raise, and the union workers are working without a contract. That’s hard on employees, but has helped keep costs down, said Town Administrator Michael Jaillet.

Westwood has worked to squeeze costs on other fronts, too. New software in the financial department is more cost-effective and street lights have been retrofitted to be more energy-efficient.

Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said school budgets appear to be harder hit this year than the overall city and town budgets because school funding was cut for the first time in three fiscal years.

“The municipal side did more layoffs and squeezing in fiscal ’09 and ’10, and now the schools are going through it for ’11,’’ he said. “In one sense, the cuts to the schools have been delayed.’’

But Widmer predicted major cuts to both municipal and school spending loom for fiscal 2012, after one-time revenue sources, such as federal stimulus dollars, run out.

Other communities are still negotiating with unions in an effort to minimize layoffs. Malden, for example, wants the police unions to accept a proposed health insurance plan that calls for increased premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. The patrolmen’s union will vote on Friday while the superior officers union has not scheduled a vote.

In Lawrence, the Fire Department lost 31 positions. The Police Department went down 41 positions, said Chief John Romero, 25 of those through layoffs.

Romero said that forced him to shut down all special units, including gangs, drugs, auto theft, and insurance fraud, and return police officers to the street.

“We had no choice. We need the coverage out in the street,’’ he said.

The loss of special units, which addressed key crime areas, will change the way policing is done. Said Romero: “We’re going from preventing crimes to reacting to it.’’
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Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com; McCabe at kmccabe@globe.com. Globe correspondents Molly A.K. Connors, Danielle Dreilinger, Megan McKee, Sara Brown, Brock Parker, Michele Morgan Bolton, Caitlin Rung, Bella Travaglini, and Johanna Seltz contributed to this report.
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www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/07/05/local_aid_cuts_hit_staff_pay_services_in_cities_and_towns/?comments=all#readerComm
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"Handling cuts to local aid will require 'imagination'"
By Dick Lindsay and Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 28, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- With a "lot of imagination," according to one Berkshire County mayor, cities and towns are already planning how they will weather state funding cuts proposed in Gov. Deval Patrick's $30.5 billion budget for fiscal 2012.

To close a $1.5 billion spending gap, Patrick's plan calls for a $65 million reduction in state aid to the state's cities and towns.

Were the Legislature to approve the budget as is, Pittsfield will lose $1.5 million in combined city and school funding starting July 1, according to Mayor James M. Ruberto.

"This means we have to establish our priorities and live within our means," Ruberto said. "I am pleased the governor's budget establishes priorities that focus on education, which I as the mayor appreciate."

In North Adams, city officials are bracing for a $330,000 state aid cut, part of a $1.3 million to $1.6 million expected deficit in the new fiscal year.

"We'll need a lot of imagination and tweaking of the budget to close the gap to avoid layoffs," Alcombright said. "We are already bare bones in some of our departments."

While Patrick's proposed state aid cuts was less than what Lenox Town Manager Gregory T. Federspiel planned for in his preliminary town budget, he's sticking with his projection of an 8 percent cut in state funding.

"I'm not plugging in the governor's numbers just yet," Federspiel said. "I'm playing it conservative."

The state House and Senate have yet to offer their budget scenarios, which usually result in the Legislature and governor hammering out a compromise budget.

Even with a recommended $3.9 billion increase in state education aid for public grade schools, school administrators will proceed in working on their budgets with caution.

Michael Singleton, superintendent of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, was encouraged by Patrick's proposal to increase aid to schools.

The governor's state budget also includes a level-funded regional transportation aid budget of about $40.5 million for fiscal 2012.

Singleton emphasized the need for transportation aid, which is critical to a regional school district. In Southern Berkshire, he said some students spend as much as an hour commuting on buses to schools.

He remained wary, however, of the overall impact of cuts in local aid.

"We're concerned about our towns, just as our towns are concerned about us, because we're in this together," said Singleton.

Though the increase in what is known as Chapter 70 education aid is up almost $140 million, a deficit remains because the state faces a $200 million loss in federal aid to the program.

"That's what complicates things," said Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, referring to the absence of federal stimulus funds previously furnished by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The stimulus funds filled gaps left by previous state budget cuts. School officials say that even though education aid is projected to be raised for the next fiscal year, the funding available still won't be at the level it was three years ago, prior to the stimulus bill.

Eberwein said to make any other determinations on how the governor's proposed budget will affect the planning of operations and staffing for next year.

Things like state and federal grants, private funding and overall revenues will also have to be taken into consideration.

"There are a lot of little pieces to fit together," Eberwein said.

To help make determinations, Eberwein said his budget committee members will consult with other organizations like the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees which prepare their own analyses each year on the state budget.

"We do get some guidance but we've all been through this. I feel every year we get more confident in our ability to manage the moving parts," Eberwein said.

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About Me

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Amherst, NH, United States
I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). - http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090318/pl_politico/30833

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
Photo Gallery: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/15/St_Patricks_Day_Boston/

The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...
www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/14/economic_collapse_puts_graduates_on_unforeseen_paths/

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - www.hookersforjesus.net/home.cfm - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.

Dolphin

Dolphin
The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps
www.boston.com/business/gallery/2009pircechangestamps/ -&- www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/02/27/new_stamps_set_for_rate_increase_in_may/

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles. www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/gallery/tom_gisele/

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse
www.manuse.com

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Supreme_Court

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!

THE CORPORATE ELITE...

THE CORPORATE ELITE...
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
The 44th US President!

Vote

Vote
Elections

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check
A political cartoon by Dan Wasserman

A rainbow over Boston

A rainbow over Boston
"Rainbows galore" 10/2/2008

Our nation's leaders!

Our nation's leaders!
President Bush with both John McCain & Barack Obama - 9/25/2008.

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).
$5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere.

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My FAVORITE Journalist EVER!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together at ground zero in New York City - September 11, 2008.

John McCain...

John McCain...
...has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration. (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman. September 2008).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks. September 2008.

Sarah Palin's phobia

Sarah Palin's phobia
A scripted candidate! (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
Family FInances - September, 2008.

Mark E. Roy

Mark E. Roy
Ward 1 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas
Ward 2 Alderman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Peter M. Sullivan

Peter M. Sullivan
Ward 3 (downtown) Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Jim Roy

Jim Roy
Ward 4 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Ed Osborne

Ed Osborne
Ward 5 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Real R. Pinard

Real R. Pinard
Ward 6 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

William P. Shea

William P. Shea
Ward 7 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Betsi DeVries

Betsi DeVries
Ward 8 Alder-woman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Michael Garrity

Michael Garrity
Ward 9 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

George Smith

George Smith
Ward 10 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Russ Ouellette

Russ Ouellette
Ward 11 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy
Ward 12 Alder-woman for Manchester, NH (2008).

“Mike” Lopez

“Mike” Lopez
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH. (2008).

Daniel P. O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Sarah Palin for Vice President.
Republican John McCain made the surprise pick of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate today, August 29, 2008.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.
Congressman Olver said the country has spent well over a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. 8/25/08.

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!
John Kerry's 9/2008 challenger in the Democratic Primary.

Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion
In a tax revolt, Massachusetts farmers fought back during Shays' Rebellion in the mid-1780s after The American Revolutionary War.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore
Actress. "The Big Lebowski" is one of my favorite movies. I also like "The Fugitive", too.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"
Go to: http://www.berkshirefatherhood.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=699&cntnt01returnid=69

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
The gap between rich and poor has widened substantially in Massachusetts over the past two decades. (8/15/2008).

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley
"The Bosley Amendment": To create tax loopholes for the wealthiest corporate interests in Massachusetts!

John Edwards and...

John Edwards and...
...Rielle Hunter. WHO CARES?!

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Edward J. Markey
He wants online-privacy legislation. Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
She gained fame with her antiwar vigil outside the Bush ranch.

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Olympics kick off in Beijing
Go USA!

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall
In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) 7/31/2008.

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'
Some kind of monster on Onota Lake. Five-year-old Tyler Smith rides a 'sea serpent' on Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Mass. The 'monster,' fashioned by Smith's grandfather, first appeared over July 4 weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Smith). 7/30/2008.

Al Gore, Jr.

Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore issues challenge on energy

The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's financially wasteful pork barrel project!

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's pork barrel public works project cost 50 times more than the original price!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer
Note: Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood
Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine.

Google

Google
Chagall

Jimmy Ruberto

Jimmy Ruberto
Faces multiple persecutions under the Massachusetts "Ethics" conflict of interest laws.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid.

John McCain

John McCain
He is with his wife, Cindy, who were both met by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (right) upon arriving in Cartagena.

Daniel Duquette

Daniel Duquette
Sold Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value.

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008
Clinton tells Obama, crowd in Unity, N.H.: 'We are one party'

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Wanna-be Prez?

WALL-E

WALL-E
"out of this World"

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/popup?id=5057139&contentIndex=1&page=1&start=false - http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5234555&page=1

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
NH's Democratic returning candidate for U.S. Senate

"Wall-E"

"Wall-E"
a cool robot

Ed O'Reilly

Ed O'Reilly
www.edoreilly.com

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
World Champions - 2008

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs
www.2joes.org

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions!
www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_18_08_front_pages/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_finals_game_6/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_celebration/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_15_08_celtics_championships/

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.

TV - PBS: NOW

TV - PBS: NOW
http://www.pbs.org/now

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Twilight_Zone_episodes

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire
http://doj.nh.gov/

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts
downtown

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren & http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/WarrenAuthor.html

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.

Teamwork

Teamwork
Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.

K.G.!

K.G.!
Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Gazettenet.com

Gazettenet.com
www.gazettenet.com/beta/

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/when_the_celtics_were_cool/

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On

Elmo

Elmo
cool!

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison
http://unionleader.com/channel.aspx/News?channel=2af17ff4-f73b-4c44-9f51-092e828e1131

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/scott_mcclellan/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York
Magnet

Massachusetts

Massachusetts
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Button

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/174

Luciforo

Luciforo
Andrea F Nuciforo II

B-Eagle

B-Eagle
Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox
www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/05_22_08_sox_royals/

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein
www.openmass.org/members/show/175

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search
http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=jonathan+melle+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&ie=UTF-8

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
Luciforo!

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House - www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/nhinsider/vpost?id=2967773

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
mock-voting

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: http://www.wgir.com/cc-common/cc_photopop20.html?eventID=28541&pagecontent=&pagenum=4 - Go to: http://current.com/items/88807921_veterans_should_come_first_not_last# - http://www.mcam23.com/cgi-bin/cutter.cgi?c_function=STREAM?c_feature=EDIT?dir_catagory=10MorningRadio?dir_folder=2JoesClips?dir_file=JonathanMelle-090308? -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: http://aboutamherst.blogspot.com/search?q=melle -/- Go to: http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/search?q=melle

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

www.truthdig.com

www.truthdig.com
www.truthdig.com

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&newest=1&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol

Paramount

Paramount
What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.

Abe

Abe
Lincoln

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/cleanupagreement.html

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/thesite/opca-reports.html

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/contactinfo.html

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/index.html

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

www.network-health.org

www.network-health.org
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

BMC HealthNet Plan

BMC HealthNet Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform
Eligibility Chart: 2007

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Reform

Business Peaks

Business Peaks
Voodoo Economics

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite
Reagonomics: Supply Side

Corporate Elite Propaganda

Corporate Elite Propaganda
Mock Liberal Democratic Socialism Thinking

Real Estate Blues

Real Estate Blues
www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/2008/0316/

PEACE

PEACE
End ALL Wars!

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's World War II artwork depicting America's values

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
A young Abe Lincoln

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
www.openmass.org/members/show/218 - www.rachelkaprielian.com

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/164 - www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/04/legislator_describes_threat_as_unnerving/

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
My #1 Political Belief!

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

A young woman Hillary supporter

A young woman Hillary supporter
This excellent picture captures a youth's excitement

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman
My favorite Actress!

Alan Chartock

Alan Chartock
WAMC public radio in Albany, NY; Political columnist who writes about Berkshire County area politics; Strong supporter for Human Rights for ALL Peoples

OpenCongress.Org

OpenCongress.Org
This web-site uses some of my Blog postings

OpenMass.org

OpenMass.org
This web-site uses some of my blog postings!

Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien
One of my favorite politicians! She stands for the People first!

The Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House
"The Almighty Golden Dome" - www.masslegislature.tv -

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Former Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
A corrupt Pol who tried to put me in Jail

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Another view of Pittsfield's inbred, multigenerational political prince. Luciforo!

Luciforo

Luciforo
Nuciforo's nickname

"Andy" Nuciforo

"Andy" Nuciforo
Luciforo!

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)
Nuciforo's henchman! Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail

Andrea Nuciforo Jr

Andrea Nuciforo Jr
Shhh! Luciforo's other job is working as a private attorney defending wealthy Boston-area corporate insurance companies

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail! Carmen sits with the Congressman, John Olver

Congressman John Olver

Congressman John Olver
Nuciforo's envy

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol
Our Beacon of American Democracy

Nuciforo's architect

Nuciforo's architect
Mary O'Brien in red with scarf

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)
Former-Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Nuciforo intimidated her, along with another woman, from running in a democratic state election in the Spring of 2006!

Andrea F. Nuciforo II

Andrea F. Nuciforo II
Pittsfield Politics

Berkshire County Republican Association

Berkshire County Republican Association
Go to: www.fcgop.blogspot.com

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer
U.S. Senator & State Representative

John Kerry

John Kerry
Endorses Barack Obama for Prez then visits Berkshire County

Dan Bosley

Dan Bosley
A Bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

Ben Downing

Ben Downing
Berkshire State Senator

Christopher N Speranzo

Christopher N Speranzo
Pittsfield's ANOINTED State Representative

Peter J. Larkin

Peter J. Larkin
Corrupt Lobbyist

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!
GE's FRAUDULENT Consent Decree with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will end up KILLING many innocent school children & other local residents!

GE's CEO Jack Welch

GE's CEO Jack Welch
The Corporate System's Corporate Elite's King

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand
Equilibrium

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts
In 2007, GE sold its Plastics Division to a Saudi company. Now all that is left over by GE are its toxic PCB pollutants that cause cancer in many Pittsfield residents.

Mayor James M Ruberto

Mayor James M Ruberto
A small-time pol chooses to serve the corporate elite & other elites over the people.

Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick
Deval shakes hands with Mayors in Berkshire County

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Governor of Massachusetts

Pittsfield High School

Pittsfield High School
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Pittsfield's former Mayor

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield Attorney focusing on Father's Rights Probate Court Legal Issues, & Local Politician and Political Observer

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Very Intelligent Political Activists in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq. is the spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He has been practicing family law and has been a member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996.

Mayor Ed Reilly

Mayor Ed Reilly
He supports Mayor Ruberto & works as a municipal Attorney. As Mayor, he backed Bill Weld for Governor in 1994, despite being a Democrat. He was joined by Carmen Massimiano & John Barrett III, the long-standing Mayor of North Adams.

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta
Cuts Dental Care for Public School Children-in-Need

Manchester, NH City Hall

Manchester, NH City Hall
My new hometown - view from Hanover St. intersection with Elm St.

Manchester NH City Democrats

Manchester NH City Democrats
Go Dems!

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards

NH State House Dome

NH State House Dome
Concord, NH

Donna Walto

Donna Walto
Pittsfield Politician -- She strongly opposes Mayor Jim Ruberto's elitist tenure.

Elmo

Elmo
Who doesn't LOVE Elmo?

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!
Hillary is for Children. She is my choice in 2008.

The White House in 1800

The White House in 1800
Home of our Presidents of the United States

John Adams

John Adams
2nd President of the USA

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden
Hillary is my choice for U.S. President!

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Radisson in Manchester NH 11/16/2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
U.S. Senator & Candidate for President

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004
Linda Tyer, Pam Malumphy, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
My friend Brian Merzbach reviews baseball parks around the nation.

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy
The Elites double their $ every 6 to 8 years, while the "have-nots" double their $ every generation (or 24 years). Good bye Middle Class!

George Will

George Will
The human satellite voice for the Corporate Elite

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
The Anti-George Will; Harvard Law School Professor; The Corporate Elite's Worst Nightmare

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

State Senator Stan Rosenberg

State Senator Stan Rosenberg
Democratic State Senator from Amherst, Massachusetts -/- Anti-Stan Rosenberg Blog: rosenbergwatch.blogspot.com

Ellen Story

Ellen Story
Amherst Massachusetts' State Representative

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.
Books are being written on Pittsfield's high teen pregancy rates! What some intellectuals do NOT understand about the issue is that TEEN PREGNANCIES in Pittsfield double the statewide average by design - Perverse Incentives!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Supports $30 Scratch Tickets and other forms of regressive taxation. Another Pol that only serves his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People!

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter
The first woman whom the People of New Hampshire have voted in to serve in U.S. Congress

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes
A good man who wants to bring progressive changes to Capitol Hill!

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress
New Hampshire's finest!

Darth Vader

Darth Vader
Star Wars

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush
The Gruesome Two-some! Stop the Neo-Cons' fascism! End the Iraq War NOW!

WAROPOLY

WAROPOLY
The Inequity of Globalism

Bushopoly!

Bushopoly!
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor & middle-class families

George W. Bush with Karl Rove

George W. Bush with Karl Rove
Rove was a political strategist with extraordinary influence within the Bush II White House

2008's Republican Prez-field

2008's Republican Prez-field
John McCain, Alan Keyes, Rudy Guiliani, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, WILLARD Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul

Fall in New England

Fall in New England
Autumn is my favorite season

Picturing America

Picturing America
picturingamerica.neh.gov

Winter Weather Map

Winter Weather Map
3:45PM EST 3-Dec-07

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Depiction of American Values in mid-20th Century America

Larry Bird #33

Larry Bird #33
My favorite basketball player of my childhood

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008
Kevin Garnett hugs James Posey

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
All heart! Awesome basketball star for The Boston Celtics.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Go Patriots!

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Owner of Fox News - CORPORATE ELITE!

George Stephanopolous

George Stephanopolous
A Corporate Elite Political News Analyst

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Starred in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Plays a jaded journalist with integrity in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays the Neo-Con D.C. Pol purely indoctrinated by the Corporate Elite's political agenda in the Middle East

CHARLIZE THERON

CHARLIZE THERON
"I want to say I've never been surrounded by so many fake breasts, but I went to the Academy Awards."

Amherst Town Library

Amherst Town Library
Amherst, NH - www.amherstlibrary.org

Manchester NH Library

Manchester NH Library
I use the library's automated timed 1-hour-per-day Internet computers to post on my Blog - www.manchester.lib.nh.us

Manchester NH's Palace Theater

Manchester NH's Palace Theater
Manchester NH decided to restore its Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater
Pittsfield tore down this landmark on North Street in favor of a parking lot

Pleasant Street Theater

Pleasant Street Theater
Amherst, Massachusetts

William "Shitty" Pignatelli

William "Shitty" Pignatelli
A top down & banal State House Pol from Lenox Massachusetts -- A GOOD MAN!

The CIA & Mind Control

The CIA & Mind Control
Did the CIA murder people by proxy assassins?

Skull & Bones

Skull & Bones
Yale's Elite

ImpeachBush.org

ImpeachBush.org
I believe President Bush should be IMPEACHED because he is waging an illegal and immoral war against Iraq!

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008
www.blog.bobfeuer.us

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln
The 16th President of the USA

Power

Power
Peace

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer
A member of Green Peace activist sets up a giant thermometer as a symbol of global warming during their campaign in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. World leaders launch marathon negotiations Monday on how to fight global warming, which left unchecked could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of plants and animals.

combat global warming...

combat global warming...
...or risk economic and environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org
P.O. Box 125, South Lee, MA 01260, (413) 243-5665, tstokes@kyotoandbeyond.org, www.kyotoandbeyond.org

3 Democratic presidentional candidates

3 Democratic presidentional candidates
Democratic presidential candidates former senator John Edwards (from right) and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd before the National Public Radio debate yesterday (12/4/2007).

The UN Seal

The UN Seal
An archaic & bureaucratic post WW2 top-down, non-democratic institution that also stands for some good governance values

Superman

Superman
One of my favorite childhood heroes and movies

Web-Site on toxic toys

Web-Site on toxic toys
www.healthytoys.org

Batman

Batman
One of my favorite super-heroes

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer
Massachusetts' Governor stands with Dalton's State Rep. Denis E. Guyer.

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer
TV Star Bill Cosby stands with Denis E. Guyer

Denis Guyer with his supporters

Denis Guyer with his supporters
Dalton State Representative

Denis Guyer goes to college

Denis Guyer goes to college
Dalton State Representative

Peter Marchetti

Peter Marchetti
He is my second cousin. Pete Marchetti favors MONEY, not fairness!

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple
Matt Barron plays DIRTY politics against his opponents!

Nat Karns

Nat Karns
Top-Down Executive Director of the ELITIST Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Human Rights for All Peoples & people

Human Rights for All Peoples & people
Stop Anti-Semitism

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill
State House, Room 227, Boston, MA 02133, 617-367-6900, www.mass.gov/treasury/

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley
1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, 413-784-1240 / McCormick Building, One Asburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-4765 / marthacoakley.com / www.ago.state.ma.us

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...
www.takebackthecourt.org - A political billboard near my downtown apartment in Manchester, NH

Marc Murgo

Marc Murgo
An old friend of mine from Pittsfield

Downtown Manchester, NH

Downtown Manchester, NH
www.newhampshire.com/nh-towns/manchester.aspx

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei
Movie Actress

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)
www.masschc.org/issue.php

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler
Mike Firestone works in Manchester NH for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

James Pindell

James Pindell
Covers NH Primary Politcs for The Boston Globe

U.S. History - Declaration

U.S. History - Declaration
A 19th century engraving shows Benjamin Franklin, left, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman at work on the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/
Sybregje Palenstijn (left), who plays Sarah Godbertson at Plimouth Plantation, taught visitors how to roast a turkey on a spit. The plantation often sees a large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

Chris Hodgkins

Chris Hodgkins
Another special interest Berkshire Pol who could not hold his "WATER" on Beacon Hill's State House!

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.
Most of Boston's Big Dig highway remains closed, after a woman was crushed when 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto her car. (ABC News)

Jane Swift

Jane Swift
Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts & Berkshire State Senator

Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci
Former Massachusetts Governor

William Floyd Weld

William Floyd Weld
$80 Million Trust Fund Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mike Dukakis

Mike Dukakis
Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, Journalist and Blogger

Caveman

Caveman
www.ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com

Peter G. Arlos

Peter G. Arlos
"The biggest challenge Pittsfield faces is putting its fiscal house in order. The problem is that doing so requires structural changes in local government, many of which I have advocated for years, but which officials do not have the will to implement. Fiscal responsibility requires more than shifting funds from one department to another. Raising taxes and fees and cutting services are not the answer. Structural changes in the way services are delivered and greater productivity are the answer, and without these changes the city's fiscal crisis will not be solved."

James M. Ruberto

James M. Ruberto
"Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

Matt Kerwood

Matt Kerwood
Pittsfield's Councilor-At-Large. Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/12.htm

Gerald M. Lee

Gerald M. Lee
Pittsfield's City Council Prez. Top-down governance of the first order!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
Mary with student

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon celebrates with Jason Varitek

Free Bernard Baran!

Free Bernard Baran!
www.freebaran.org

Political Intelligence

Political Intelligence
Capitol Hill

Sherwood Guernsey II

Sherwood Guernsey II
Wealthy Williamstown Political Activist & Pittsfield Attorney

Mary Carey 2

Mary Carey 2
California Pol & porn star

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!
Andy "Luciforo" swears in Jimmy Ruberto for the returning Mayor's 3rd term

Berkshire Grown

Berkshire Grown
www.berkshiregrown.org

Rambo

Rambo

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.
The Mount, the historic home in Lenox of famed American novelist Edith Wharton, is facing foreclosure.