By: Staff Reports On: 11:35PM / Monday June 20, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Voters will decide on Tuesday whether the city's budget will be cut by $1 million or they'll shoulder the burden to keep school programs and services in place.
The Proposition 2 1/2 override has split the city, with opponents saying they can't afford any more taxes. Proponents say the city's been undertaxed for years and is due for an increase, albeit harsh, to keep functioning.
The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voters to decide on giving the city the authority to assess an addition $1.2 million. Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 will vote at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center; Ward 4 will vote at Greylock Elementary School.
Over the past few years, North Adams has lost more than $3 million in state aid and burned through its reserves. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been slashed from the 2012 budget, including full and part-time posts in both the city and school system. The proposed $35.5 million spending plan approved by the City Council last week is short $957,762, even though it's $300,000 less than this year's budget.
If the override passes, it will permanently raise the levy limit to a higher benchmark from which future tax levies will be calculated. Since each year municipalities can raise another 2.5 percent from its assessed real estate and personal property, North Adams will have about another $340,000. Added to the override, the city would have the ability to raise up to $1.5 million.
Should the override be defeated, it will mean severe cuts, mostly on the already stressed city side. Because the school system is so close to state-mandated foundation level, it can only be cut by about $300,000.
Between the $15.4 million school budget and assessments to McCann Technical School ($890,000), nearly half the budget will be locked up in educational spending. A large part of the city budget is also locked into fixed costs, including $3.75 million in medical insurance, $1 million in wastewater services, a $1.3 million in debt payments and more than $2 million in pensions.
If the override goes down, the mayor will have to present the City Council with a spending plan in July.
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So hard to decide what to do. On one hand, voting yes is the right thing to do, and the yes side has made a much more substantive argument. On the other hand, I've been out of work for a long time, and living off my savings while I try to find something. I honestly can't afford this. I know that there's a lot of homeowners in North Adams in my same situation. On the other hand, what will we do if we don't get our streets plowed in the winter? This is really, really tough.
Editor: You do realize we only have two reporters and occasionally need a day off? I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Local government needs to be regionalized. Police forces can be consolidated as can highway crews under one management structure. There is also no longer any reason to maintain independent city and town administrative offices unless it is actually mandated. In the age of telecommunication and database records management, why are we still paying salaries to high priced administators managing 3-20k population centers when one administative body can take care of so much more. It is no longer fiscally responsible to maintain city and town government as we do today. Would also regionalize competition instead of local cities and towns perpetually competing against each other for limited funds. Wake up people. Change is NOW!
Dear out of work, your reason for voting no is what the pro-side doesn't get. You're not alone, in fact, you're in the majority here. This is not about responsibility, it's about affordability. You're out of work, and this override will pay for pay raises for city workers who will keep their jobs. Your streets will be plowed just as they have been in the past. Don't let the scare tactics used by the other side persuade you to vote for something you and many others in this city cannot afford. You pay enough in taxes. You've already had your taxes jumped to the max allowed by state law without this override, it's enough. The city has to live within its means, just like you do.
To Editor: First....Reply does not work. Second, no...not county government as it was. Country government was never designed to provide for municipal services and became a running county joke. This would be an entirely new kind of regional charter (or not if precedent already set elsewhere) that would allow smaller towns and cities to combine resources under regional administrative umbrellas. The towns and cities can decide whether to keep their elected officials as \"spokespeople or representatives\" within the regionalized framework (or they take on new tasks like community advocacy in Boston - that would be a change for some) but the tasks of managing day to day activities operationally would fall to these regional admin groups...how many determined by the municipalities interested in participating. That way participating communities can actually hire the talent needed to manage in todays environment. Let\'s face it folks, we\'re in the position we\'re in simply because the needs of communities simply out-weight the talent communities can afford. NIMBYism will ultimately prevail as no one wants to give up \"what we\'ve always done\" but hopefully the fiscal pain we\'re having to endure now will be a wake up call to citizens that \"the way we\'ve always done it\" simply isn\'t affordable or sustainable any longer.
Editor: Interesting concept but do you think people in North Adams would be willing to become part of Williamstown and vice versa? It would seem a hard sell but ... tax woes could be the prompt. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Just remember, if you vote yes and this override passes, the next cash grab is coming soon from the Alcombright administration. Debt exclusion that will be "needed" to keep our schools open, they'll say. That will be followed by a tax reclassification that will shift part of the commercial tax rate to homeowners, which means your taxes go up even more. Time for the voters to tell the city to do what the state has had to do since 2008... live within its means. No more scare tactics - vote NO.
"NextCashGrab" says, "Just remember, if you vote yes and this override passes, the next cash grab is coming soon from the Alcombright administration. Debt exclusion that will be "needed" to keep our schools open, they'll say."
Sounds like your trying to scare people into voting "No". But, wait. Isn't that what your side is accusing the "Vote Yes" side of doing?
Doing what is prudent and right is never easy. Politically selling this to the local cities and towns will take years but it's amazing what fiscal pain will do to peoples political tolerance levels. It would take someone with a combination of tenacity, solid-interpersonal skills and intelligence combined with a strong stomach for the absence of civility in public service these days. No town would "become part of" another. Geographical boundaries and ingrained civic/town pride and independence would be part of the environment. We'd simply consolidate administration of services for the benefit and affordability of all. Bear in mind, administrative costs are typically well in excess of actual costs of providing the resource. Ideally, politicians locally would appoint a legitimate think-tank with represenation from all communities to study opportunties. Right now, nothing is taking place beyond robbing Peter to pay Paul over the short run tapping a well that has run dry. It's the people's money....it's about time politicians put in the hours needed to spend it more efficiently for greater return. Just roll the snowball down the hill and see what it picks up along the way.
Sorry, Bob, but I do have precedent on my side. As a city councilor, Dick Alcombright recommended the city "raise taxes to the levy limit right now," two years before he became Mayor. As soon as he got into office, he did that. As a councilor he also talked about the need to institute a sewer user fee. Look what happened. He has openly discussed "the need to reduce commercial property taxes," and the only way to do that is through reclassification. He has also discussed, openly, the "need" for a debt exclusion should the state okay the school building plan. Everything Alcombright says eventually ends up being part of his fiscal plan. So, no this is not a scare tactic. It's based on his record. Name one time in a year and a half that he's said no to anything that would cost taxpayers more. Please, just one.
@NoNoNo--just for the record, I haven't found that the Yes side has really been using any scare tactics, at least not people I know or in the town hall meetings. I thought the yes side was incredibly rational and gave good arguments. On the other hand, I didn't hear a single person from the no side make a rational argument about what should be cut and how money should be saved. In fact, Townee's posts in this thread were the first constructive suggestions I've seen made from the no side--I wish they had been a part of the discussion all along. And I still haven't made up my mind.
Voting Yes will not fix anything. The schools will still be horrible, people can't pay their bills, and the population will still be dropping. Get wise and take control of your city and your money. The roads will be nice and new though.
from whay I have heard the override failed!! I'm glad all the scare tactics were not effective! Perhaps if the Mayor had done a budget and had only asked for what we needed not the max I might have supported him. Bring back Barrett!!
You folks have NO IDEA how nice your plowing is there. I've lived out of state for 8 years in the midwest and would GLADLY pay more in taxes for decently plowed streets.
You also have to realize that as years go by, prices for items go up. Gas to get kids to school, school supplies, gas to get the school supplies to the schools, oil and electricity for the school, paper to take tests on. Money is needed. While you "cry" that you can't afford it, believe me, when you look at what NA looks like to an out-sider, you NEED to pony it up, NA is hurting.
Voting No is and was the right thing to do!. John Barrett always found a way to keep the budget balanced in his 26 years. I know some of you will say he short changed the teachers, firefighters, police and other city employees, which by the way totals to about 250-275 city employees. Most of these employees, sided with Alcombright to get him elected. Yep, that's right, because they knew that if Alcombright was in, that meant pay raises. While the rest of North Adams has to pony up and pay for the raises! Sorry employess of NA, i respect what you do, but there are plenty of unemployed people in NA and plenty of residents who make minimum wage! Why should they have to suffer tax increases for the 250 of you. Live within your means people, that includes the City itself. Bring back John Barrett to the corner office!
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.