A new feature that will allow me to shed the light of day on some comments made over at the Eagle Tribune site. Yes I do read them, and lets get started with our old friend and candidate for political office Jack Burke. Jack did a posting on the Tribune story that detailed the legal issues surrounding a City Council rejection of the School budget. That story was prompted by a memo I had sent to the full City Council on that subject. Here is the Burke post in full.
The saddest part of this story is that the Mayor acts as if it is the City Council fault.
He seems to forget that he is the CHAIRMAN of the SCHOOL COMMITTEE. He has not pushed for the School budget.
When I read the story and all the associated stories about the City budget and school budget, there is one central player, Mayor Manzi.
He is on center stage and acts as if all is happening around him and he is just doing the best he can, poor man, to work with what he is given. He is the Chief Operating Officer of the City, as he is wont to remind one.
Another year with stop gap measures. One time revenue or one time negotiated freezes.
When will we get a comprehensive and affordable plan that will provide the services that the citizens require at a price they can afford?
We don’t even have a Capital Improvement Plan. No long term plan. Just a year to year quick fix approach. Is this what you bargained for?
Lets get started then. I have posted my memo to the Council, in full, below. This memo was sent because of several City Council inquiries relative to the legal issues surrounding a Council rejection of the school budget. So lets see if we can understand Burke’s point here.
1) The City Council asks me a question.
2) I answer the question by doing the research necessary, and relating information given by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
3) Jack Burke says I am blaming the City Council.
That unedited memo is below. You can be the judge. Where in it do I blame the City Council for anything? We should strive to Tell the Truth Jack, not invent things for political gain.
There was some question about the legal effect of the City Council rejection of the Methuen School Department budget. In response please accept the following. My Chief of Staff, Attorney Matthew Kraunelis, discussed this issue with Kathleen Colleary, an attorney for the Department of Revenue. Attorney Colleary informs us that without a City Council approval of the School Department budget, the Methuen School Department will have no legal ability to pay any bills after June 30th. On that basis, the City Auditor will be forced to reject any School Department requisitions for payment, including payroll, after June 30th. Attorney Colleary also informed us that under such conditions Methuen would be in jeopardy of violating the Prompt Payment of Wages law and also subject to court action by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth to compel payment of the net school spending amount. Attorney Colleary also clarified the issue of a so-called one-twelfth budget. She informs us that no such option is available to municipal school systems unless the system is regional. One-twelfth budgets would have to cover the entire budget, not just a certain portion of a budget, such as the school portion. I hope this clarifies some of the questions raised by Council at the Tuesday meeting. Do not hesitate to call with any additional questions.
The Burke posting also refers to one time revenues being used. I hope to post the municipal budget today, but I can tell you that unlike years gone by this budget was not balanced with one time revenues. In fact for the first time in years we have achieved structural balance. We should strive to Tell the Truth Jack, not invent things for political gain.
Finally Jack criticizes the nine collective bargaining agreements reached with our unions because they are for one year.
One time revenue or one time negotiated freezes.
But they are one year labor contracts that do not call for freezes but rather for ten percent cuts in base wage and benefits. Senior staff took major pay cuts, not freezes. And since all city side contracts would have been up on June 30th of this year my Administration has done what has never been done before in Methuen, which is to negotiate nine full extensions for one year before the expiration of the existing collective bargaining agreements. We have produced a balanced budget with no layoffs, and done so while protecting the property taxpayers of Methuen. And yet, despite the criticism, I did not hear Mr. Burke calling for the Council to reject these agreements or vote down the budget, which was passed unanimously. I did not hear any specific changes recommended by Mr. Burke either.
As far as a five year Capital Improvement Plan my Administration submitted the first five year plan the City has seen in eight years last year. We will continue to refine it, and will submit a revised plan when it is appropriate. We have, despite these terrible economic times, acted on our plan, purchasing 7 police cruisers and a new animal control van in the past year. Giving people the idea that a five year plan does not exist is just false. We should strive to Tell the Truth Jack, not invent things for political gain.
There is the first edition of To Tell the Truth. There will be more. Differences of opinion are what our democratic system is all about, and that includes correcting the falsehoods and half truths that are used in that debate far too often.