The Budget and Frills

The Tribune wrote a story on the budget deliberations underway in Methuen, and I was quoted as saying that it would be a “no frills” budget. The same story also highlighted the possibility of layoffs to balance the budget, and with that combination I have some folks criticizing me for equating potential layoffs in our public safety sector with “frills” . Additionally the legitimate question arises as to whether prior budgets had frills. If I could I would blame the reporter, but unfortunately I did use the phrase “no frills”. That is the advantage to having a blog. I can try to start over and re-phrase something that I said that could have been phrased better. Let me start by outlining the budget situation in Methuen. Methuen will receive approximately $1,200,000 in additional state aid, which is one hundred percent dedicated to education. Additionally to satisfy the educational aid formula Methuen will need to meet the “maintenance of local effort” requirement imposed on us by the State, which will require approximately about one million dollars. That is all of our local growth. Essentially that means that City revenues are flat (without touching the tax levy). With that in mind our increases are: $600,000 increase in our pension fund requirement, $500,000 in bond requirements, and about $800,000 for the last year of the Collective bargaining agreement with our unions. That leaves us about 2 million dollars short as we try to balance our budget. That number does not factor in increases in energy and other standard inflation items. I did not mean to imply that Methuen has had frills and was now getting rid of them, but simply that some items that have been considered standard in past years would now face the possibility of being cut. One mans frills are another mans necessities. We will do the best we can under difficult financial circumstances to maintain services without layoffs. Each Department continues to try to find ways to save without impacting services or laying off personel, but most of our budget consists of personel, so our staffing levels need to be looked at. On the revenue side the City does have unused Prop 2.5 levy capacity, but my prospective budget does not utilize it. It is critical that whatever budget is produced is structurally balanced without additional taxes or one time revenues. As some of my earlier posts have indicated strong budget medicine must be taken, absent additional sources of outside revenue. I hope I clarified my remarks, and I apologize to those who thought the frills remark was flippant.

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4 Responses to The Budget and Frills

  1. Joe Citizen says:

    Mr Mayor when looking to save money for the town you could also consider other line items. Such as town employees with “take home” vehicles. Do those police superior officers need them to drive to and from work. No they don’t. Do the janitors for the school department need them for that same reason. No they don’t. And DPW and water department employees who use them to respond to emergencies, which they still need to go to their buildings before going to an emergency. No they don’t. It is a huge waste and needs to end. Also drive around town at night. Look at all the lights left on in the city buildings what a waste. This city needs to end these wasteful practices.


  2. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Will the effort you and your compadres on the municipal relief group give you back any of the management controls needed to run the town efficiently.

    I would like to know what “maintenance of local effort” means. How many other state regulation burden the town?

    I’m glad you are not closing up to the 2 1/2 limit.

    Just as private enterprises does, you have to freeze wages until the present economic problems come under control.

    I am following the change of state policies you are pushing for.

    I am cynical. I offer a bet. Steak dinner at the Outback (or anyplace of your choice.)

    I say our State legislators will not come through.



  3. Bill Manzi says:

    I am so reluctant to possibly lose a steak dinner based on the actions of Beacon Hill. How about a coffee at starbucks on this one, with the steak dinner “wager” reserved for another topic? Do you agree?


  4. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    A very wise option. I gladly except.



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