Chatham Schools: 2009 Archives
Last week there was bad news for Massachustts. While the national GDP for the third quarter was reported to have surged 3.5%, the Massachusetts GDP dived 1.1 %. The governor announced new state employee layoffs would be in the thousands.
At the same time in the Massachusetts enclave of Chatham, free of the worries of the national and state economies, the selectmen are discussing where they will get the money for fiscal 2011 (beginning next July 1) to pay for union pay raises such as the 8% built into the school union contract. And whether or not they should offer a cost-of-living increase when price increases have been non-existent for the past year, with the consumer indexes falling below zero! Social Security recipients aren't getting a cost-of-living increase, but Chatham public employees might.
The fat schools union contract is just a touch richer than the fire union contract negotiated by town officials and approved by the selectmen last October - December as the economy was in free fall. Under that contract fire department employees are enjoying 7% increases during the current fiscal year.
Already, almost all Chatham full time employees receive more in compensation than the incomes that half the households in Chatham have to live on.
For fiscal 2010, the selectmen asked the unions to consider reopening their contracts to negotiate reduced increases. As soon as one union said no (the fire union), that cost-saving idea was discarded and the spending plan went through granting all public employees an average increase of 6% - as well as increases in pension and health care benefits.
A similar request has been made to the unions about fiscal 2011. Based on past experience, one cannot be optimisitic that the public unions will take the economic condition of taxpayers into consideration.
Massachusetts downturn deepens
U.S. economy heads up as state’s falls further
By Jay Fitzgerald | Friday, October 30, 2009
Massachusetts may be mired in a recession through the end of the year, even as the nation’s economy tentatively pulls out of the worst downturn in decades, according to reports released yesterday.
On the same day Gov. Deval Patrick announced major layoffs in state government, the University of Massachusetts reported that the state’s economy shrank by about 1.1 percent in the third quarter - as indicated by increasing corporate layoffs and plunging tax revenues.
“We’re at the bottom and we might bounce around there for a while,” said Michael Goodman, co-editor of the report and chairman of UMass-Dartmouth’s department of public policy.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence in Massachusetts has dipped for the first time in two quarters amid fears of economic hardships ahead, Mass Insight reported yesterday in a separate report.
“Some people are concerned that next year is a big black hole,” said William Guenther, president of the Boston research organization.
The gloomy Massachusetts news was in stark contrast to a national report yesterday that the U.S. economy grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter, unofficially ending the nation’s longest downturn since the Great Depression.
Economists warned that the federal government’s stimulus spending may mask the true picture of the nation’s economy. The government’s “cash for clunkers” auto program and the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers helped the economy earlier this year, they said.
But the “cash for clunkers” program is now over, while the fate of the tax credit is up in the air.
Goodman said the U.S. economy, as a result, may not be much better off than the Massachusetts economy.
The UMass study estimated that the state’s economy will be “flat” through the end of this year - and probably won’t start growing until early next year.
Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University economist and co-editor of yesterday’s economic report, said the state’s technology sector is slowly expanding in reaction to the tentative national growth, so it could boost Massachusetts in coming months.
But he said he’s still concerned about the national economy - and the risk of a “double dip recession” in the near future.
Some observers, including Patrick, have touted the possibility that the state’s economy might emerge as a leader in any recovery. But those hopes seemed to be dashed by yesterday’s economic data.
An interesting discussion took place in Orleans recently that focuses on a situation that affects all Cape towns, including Chatham.
Can the aging of the Cape be reversed?
Can the migration of families off-Cape be stopped? The downward trend in the number of Chatham studends is least a decade-old --30% in ten years.
Chatham is among the forefront of Cape towns that now have more homes than people, due to the rise of second home owners, many of whom are looking to retirement in Chatham, thus adding to the aging population.
Also, Chatham is expensive. Market prices of Chatham homes tend to be higher and Chatham town spending is high, leading to a steady increase in property taxes.
Employment opportunities have to be available for working families. It is not evidence of a productive economy when government is one of the biggest employers in a town.Continue reading "CAN CHATHAM ATTRACT YOUNG PEOPLE?"
There is a spirited contest for school committee in Sandwich. The Chairman of the Board of the School Committee, running for re-election had this to say:
The economy and its impact on the budget is the district's No. 1 priority, Guerin said. "We have to tackle our labor costs," he said. "Clearly all of our town contracts, including the teachers, are set at a rate that is not sustainable and not affordable. That's an issue we have to tackle."
Sandwich unions have agreed to pay freezes to help with the FY10 budget and the schools have been cutting sharply on FY09 expenses, including laying off personnel.
Chatham prides itself on its schools.
Chatham receives a strong flow of School Choice students from other communities, many if not most from neighboring Harwich. Chatham must be doing something right.
Chatham doesn't stint on pay. Its superintendent is one of the highest paid. Indeed, the Chatham superintendent is reported to be paid more than the superintendent of the Nauset school system, which is four times larger. Chatham teachers are well-paid, too.
So it’s somewhat surprising to see the results of the 2008 Massachusetts MCAS rankings for the 10th Grade:
---------------------------English Math Science---------------Great Schools rating for High School
Nauset--------------- ----7----------22--------17-------------------------------------------- 10
Harwich---------------- 27---------15--------36-------------------------------------------- 10
For the difficult FY10 that begins July 1, both Nauset and Harwich schools have cut budgets and trimmed some staff to ease the burden on stressed taxpayers. Chatham schools stand firm, demanding more money in the FY10 budget.
Chatham school personnel are scheduled to receive pay raises for fiscal 2010 ranging as high as 6 percent and in, at least one case, 8%.
The School Department and the School Committee would not make any significant reductions in their overall departmental 8% spending increase request.
The school union declined to agree to the Selectmen’s request for a voluntary price freeze. In fact, the union asked the Selectmen to withdraw its request for a voluntary freeze, which the Selectmen refused to do.
Members of the Chatham Finance Committee have expressed concern that worsening financial conditions in fiscal year 2010 (beginning July 1) might lead to layoffs if monies aren’t saved from pay raises or other items to deal with revenue shortfalls. A significant part of Chatham town revenues supporting the town budget comes from such economically sensitive sources as hotel/motel taxes, motor vehicle taxes and such charges as mooring fees.
Meanwhile, the Sandwich schools are showing their seriousness about living within their means. The special needs department has overspent its budget by $113,500 with three months to go in fiscal 2009, so School Superintendent Johnson laid off two part-time tutors and told a special needs teacher her job was in jeopardy. The Cape Cod Times reports:
"The special-needs department overspent their budget, and they are suffering the consequences," school board member Trish Lubold said.
Laura Calyle, president of the teachers' union, said she is still investigating the cuts and may file a grievance on behalf of the teacher. The two tutors are hourly employees and are not part of the union, she said.
Lubold said teachers knew the contract they negotiated could result in budget shortfalls.
"We told them if they wanted a 3 percent raise, it would result in teachers losing their jobs. [Superintendent Johnson] is doing her job, making people accountable," Lubold said. "If you don't want to get on the change train, then get off and get a job somewhere else."
It beginning to look as if taxpayers at Chatham’s Town Meeting on May 11th will be left to make the hard choices necessary to deal with the FY10 budget that to many seems too rich. The Selectmen's recommended budget was rejected by a majority of the Finance Committee, but the Selectmen did not make any reductions in the spending increases of $1 million over FY09.
The bulk of the Chatham spending increases are in pay raises. Across all departments pay raises built into the Chatham FY2010 budget total at least $730,000, $351,000 in the schools (many as high as 6%) and $380,000 in the other departments (some increases up to 7%). Money being spent on raises might be better diverted to reserve funds to guard against a deteriorating financial condition in FY10 that could trigger layoffs.
For a good picture of where things stand, do read CCT’s report of the Finance Committee deliberations on the operating budget.
At a special Selectmen’s meeting Monday, March 23rd, members of the Finance Committee will tell the Selectmen the Fiscal 2010 budget they have proposed is too rich.
Though the Selectmen and Town Manager have done a commendable job thus far in reducing the hit on the property tax from $1.268 million to $625,000 or so, that $650,000 reduction did not come from a reduction in increases in spending but principally from raiding reserve accounts that may well be needed as conditions worsen during the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. As one Finance Committee member put it, that’s “dangerous.”
That’s why the Finance Committee voted to reject the budget.
At its meeting last Thursday members discussed at length where cuts could be made and numbers added up to well over one million dollars.
The biggest obstacle is the iron stance of the unions insisting on their big pay raises despite the economic storm battering the taxpayers. These pay raises add more than $780,000 to the budget and run as high as 6 and 7% in some cases. (It is estimated that the great majority of full-time town employees have compensation packages yielding more than the incomes of half of the households of Chatham.) If one were looking just at a cost of living adjustment in today’s environment, there would be none, since inflation is at zero and projected to continue declining. Even if pay raises were cut in half they would be still be in excess of the 1.7% declining inflation number of November used as a base for increases. As anyone reading the Boston or Cape papers knows, union and non-union employees elsewhere, from Boston to Provincetown, are voluntarily agreeing to smaller increases, in some cases, zero. They have accepted the fact that “we are all in this together.”
“Free cash,” described by the Town Manager as “the first hedge against economic decline,” is being tapped for over $1 million for capital spending that presumably can’t be delayed. (About $930,000 is being spent on the transfer station, most from free cash but $280,000 from the Stabilization Fund, another major reserve for bad times.)
In addition to the reduction or elimination of pay raises and delay in capital projects, Finance Committee members are ready to identify cuts that can be made totaling well over $250,000. In total, there is more than enough to refill the reserves to where they should be to be “hedges against economic decline” and to avoid any increase in property taxes altogether for the ordinary taxpayer.
The Finance Committee wrestled with the interests of the stressed and strapped taxpayers, the interests of public employees and of students in the schools and the desire for the continuation of services as close to normal as possible. What they took into account:
First, the desire to avoid placing additional financial burdens on the property taxpayer, with concern focusing mostly on those who live in Chatham, the many retired and seniors experiencing drops in assets and incomes and the modest working families among which unemployment is said to be already 11%, reportedly worse than the usual off-season situation.
Second, the wish to avoid layoffs if the economy continues to worsen coupled with the sense that compensation increases in all departments, including the schools, are far out of step with the times and would be using up revenues that might be needed later to avoid layoffs.
Third, the need to be cautious about expected non- property tax revenues which support the budget, such as motor vehicle excise taxes and hotel/motel tax revenues and even water. Generally, revenues for fiscal 2010 are projected to be at fiscal 2009 levels. Only about $25 million of the $32 million budget comes from property taxes, so those other revenues are critical.
Fourth, the need to preserve funds that might be needed should the downturn deepen, such as free cash and monies in the Stabilization Fund and other funds.
Rather than go into fiscal 2010 with depleted reserves, actual reductions in proposed INCREASES IN SPENDING need to be made. Replenished reserves then will be available to help avoid personnel layoffs should economic decline continue and non-property tax revenues come in below forecast.
In extraordinary times like these, prudence and caution should be the watchwords.
The school department, responsible for the largest single dollar and percentage increase of any department, should not remain so aloof from the financial challenge facing the town, but should work with the Selectmen, the Town Manager, the Finance Committee and the unions to achieve a result that will be best for the town, its taxpayers, employees and the residents and students who are served. All should step up to the responsibilities of leadership and not leave the solution to the Annual Town Meeting in May.
The Finance Committee continues its review of the budget and the articles to be included in the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting and Election (May 11 and 14). The Committee meets in the downstairs meeting room at Town Hall and the meeting will be broadcast on Channel 18 live and be available for on demand viewing on the town website tomorrow.
In the FY2010 budget reviewed by the Finance Committee, Chatham school personnel are scheduled to receive pay raises ranging as high as 6 percent and in one case, 8%. The School Department and the School Committee would not make any significant reductions in their overall departmental 8% spending increase request. The school union declined to agree to the Selectmen’s request for a voluntary price freeze; the union’s request that the Selectmen withdraw its request for a voluntary freeze was refused by the Selectmen at its regular Tuesday meeting.
Members of the Chatham Finance Committee have expressed concern that overspending in worsening financial conditions in fiscal year 2010 (beginning July 1) might lead to layoffs if monies aren’t saved from pay raises or other items to deal with revenue shortfalls. A significant part of Chatham town revenues to support the town budget depends on hotel/motel taxes, motor vehicle taxes and such charges as mooring fees. That led them to reject the proposed budget.
As for tonight's meeting, here is the agenda prepared by Chairman Coleman Yeaw:
Chatham Finance Committee
Date: March 19, 2009
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Selectmen’s Meeting Room, Town Hall
1. Call to Order
2. Approve Minutes of 3/5 & 3/12 Meetings
3. Review Article 11 – Transfer Station Trailers
4. Review Article 12 – Beach Rake (if voted 3/17)
5. Review Article 13 – Water 5 Year Capital
6. Review Article 14 - Waste Water Bonding
7. Review Article 15 - CP - Preservation of J. Nick. papers
8. Review Article 16 – CP – Library stairs
9. Review Article 17 – CP – Open Space Reserve
10. Review Article 18 – CP – Administrative Costs
11. Review Article 19 – CP – Budget Reserve
12. Review Article 20 – CP – Affordable Housing
13. Review Article 21 – MCI Lease
14. Review Article 22 – to be heard by BOS 3/24
15. Review Article 23 – Public Ceremonies
16. Review Article 24 – Drainage Easements
17. Review Article 25 – Road Takings – BOS 3/17
18. Review Article 26 – Grange gift – BOS 3/17
19. Review Article 27 – Eliphalet’s Lane – BOS 3/17
20. Review Article 28 – PD/Annex Petition – BOS 3/17
21. Discuss Selectmen’s Meeting Monday, March 23 @ 5:30
22. Discuss Warrant Report
The Chatham High School "We the People" team of 20 won the Massachusetts state title for the 12th time in 14 years, making this year the eighth in a row. By any measure, this is an astonishing accomplishment, a tribute to the excellence of Chatham education, the inspired leadership of teacher Tom Flaherty and the dedication and hard work of all on the team. For our earlier report, click here.
The team competes in the national finals the weekend beginning Saturday, April 25th. For those who are able to contribute to help cover the costs of the trip (about $10,000), tax deductible contributions can be made to "We the People" and mailed to Chatham HIgh School, 425 Crowell Road, Chatham, MA 02633. Any amount is welcome.
Provincetown's Town Manager Sharon Lynn worked cooperatively with Provincetown's School Committee to forge an agreement for all school employees to forego wage increases for Fiscal Year 2010. Town Manager Lynn has also now contacted the police and fire unions about wage freezes and is waiting for replies. Taxpayers stressed by the economy's collapse were protesting wage increases and school costs.
Provincetown school workers OK pay freeze
By Mary Ann Bragg
Cape Cod Times
March 06, 2009 6:00 AM
PROVINCETOWN — All employees of the town's school district have agreed to forgo pay raises for the next fiscal year.
School committee member Peter Grosso announced the agreement yesterday to the town's finance committee.
Grosso, Town Manager Sharon Lynn, school union officials and others held talks over the weekend.
The agreement includes all union and nonunion employees including teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, office administrators and secretaries.
Union members received a 3 percent raise for the current fiscal year, based on a three-year contract, said school Supt. Jessica Waugh. They will receive no raise for the next fiscal year. They will then receive a 3 percent raise in the following fiscal year, Waugh said.
The nonunion members will forego this year's 3 percent raise. Waugh's annual salary of $106,000 is frozen as well.
The wage increases would have amounted to about $79,000, Grosso said.
The Provincetown school district is the smallest K-12 public school district in the state. It has come under fire from townspeople in recent years because of high per-pupil costs and declining enrollment.
The school district employs about 85 people, with salaries ranging from $15,000 to $69,000 for full-time positions. Its annual budget for the next fiscal year is $3.6 million, which excludes any wage increases.
The finance committee voted yesterday to recommend the school district's budget to town meeting members in April.
Lynn said that she has now contacted the police and municipal union leaders to find out if they would agree to forego pay raises for the next fiscal year. She had not heard back officially from the unions yesterday.
As of now, police union members will receive a 5 percent raise for the next fiscal year, Lynn said. Municipal union members will receive a 4.5 percent raise.
Stimulus money from Washington for the schools is poised to hit Cape Cod. The Superintendent of Schools of Barnstable immediately analyzed the requirements and told Radio WXTK that she couldn't use the $2.6 million for which Barnstable is eligilble.
All towns were looking for money to cover shortfalls in their budget. But the money can't be used for that. It must be used for NEW SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS that have not been offered before. The money is for FY10 and FY11. After that, Barnstable would have to find money to continue the new programs or end them -- if they can! In other words, expand your spending and in two years find yourself in a bigger budget hole.
The Chatham schools are already into what appears to be a future of chronic budget overspending. To use the federal money Chatham schools would have to add new special programs, thus increasing their overspending. When the federal money runs out in two years, the schools would be looking to the town for even more money.
While Barnstable is scheduled for some $2.6 million, Chatham is earmarked for $191,000, about $95,000 in each of FY10 and FY11. Unless things change, Barnstable will be rejecting the federal money.
Hopefully, the other stimulus money the town is hoping for will not have strings that will render it unusable. The federal stimulus plan was supposed to be for saving as well as creating jobs. Not so for this school aid program.
Our excitement about what the Selectmen might do in their special Friday's meeting for fiscal discipline quickly fizzled as Town Manager Hinchey took control of the proceedings. Nothing would change.
Having guided the Selectmen skillfully through weeks of close scrutiny of the operating budget, the Town Manager finally got them to do exactly what he wanted them to do. The budget he had advanced did not suffer even one reduction in increased spending. The only "cuts" in his $32.757 million budget were downward adjustments due to final costs from third party providers coming in a couple of hundred thousand lower than estimates.
It was a masterful performance. He is really good at what he does.
In the blink of an eye Mr. Hinchey proposed free cash for off-budget capital spending ($1.2 million?) and then allocated Stabilization Fund monies amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars for off-budget operations spending for the town side and the schools, thereby reducing property tax levy increases this year for the operating budget to $710,000, more or less. An override approval vote for about $190,000 will still be required at the election on May 14th following the Town Meeting on May 11th. (An override is sought when spending would drive the increase in the property tax levy up beyond the 2 1/2% allowed (but not required) by state law.)
The bad news is that that free cash and stabilization money won't be available as a cushion for hard times in fiscal 2010 and 2011. (Free cash and stabilization money were mostly raised by the property tax in prior years in excess of what was actually needed.)
Cost of living increases were approved (the nation is at zero inflation) to the approval of the large complement of town employees attending the meeting.
Ironically, the $700,000 or so increase in the property tax levy for fiscal 2010 for the operating budget is almost exactly the amount of pay increases in the budget. The unionized town and school employees declined to go along with the Selectmen's request for a voluntary compensation freeze. Chatham taxpayers have rewarded their public employees very well over the years and it was hoped the employees would appreciate the stress ordinary citizens were experiencing at this time. If they had, there would be no increase in the property tax for operations. And there would be a strong constituency to resist layoffs if economic conditions deteriorate.
The result is that resident taxpayers will be asked to accept increases in their property taxes to pay for raises -- ranging as high as 7% for fire personnel and 6% for school personnel -- for full-time public employees, most if not almost all of whom already have compensation packages adding up to more than the incomes of roughly half the households in Chatham.
And that's before considering the cost proposals for various capital projects being prepared for articles in the warrant. For example, if the Town were to go forward with the Police Department/Annex project, the first year debt service cost would be about $1.3 million on top of everything else. We're still paying about $1 million a year for the costly and under-utilized Community Center.
The numbers are not yet clear on what the Selectmen will recommend that will drive up property taxes. Nonetheless, the FY10 operating budget is now going over to the Finance Committee for its "official" examination. Because of the financial crisis, the members of the Finance Committee have been informally -- but diligently -- studying the spending plan for some time and now will dive into it in earnest. In a $32 million plus budget, it's hard to believe there's nothing to cut
It is clear that the schools are on a collision course with reality. That they sought increases in spending of the magnitude they did (8% or 10%, depending on how you count) in these awful times indicates they are living in an alternate universe. Town Manager Hinchey predicts that they will become a chronic cause of overspending requests every year in the future unless they mend their ways. While the schools complain the town doesn't give them enough money, the town provides the schools with substantially more dollars than the state requires, about 50% more for fiscal 2009.
Another attitude that must change is the assumption that the town has a right, a duty, even an obligation, to raise the property tax 2 1/2% every year. Town spending has grown 44% in the last eight years, twice as fast as the CPI. Don't be misled: Chatham's low tax rate doesn't mean a thing. What's important is the increase year by year in property taxes. The town is indeed well-run, but is it run as efficiently and as cost-effectively as it should be?
Whatever the Selectmen and the Finance Committee recommend, it is up to Town Meeting to decide whether or not to put up the money, regardless of what the Selectmen have approved or recommend. All public contracts are subject to appropriation and that's what voters do at Town Meeting -- appropriate or don't.
Surely, voters do not want to have a financial crisis develop during fiscal year 2010 or fiscal 2011 because of spending decisions made now that are out of synch with fiscal realities. Chatham is not an island; it is not immune from real world developments. Chatham spending relies in substantial part on revenues from other sources, such as hotel/motel revenues and motor vehicle excise taxes. Will they be as high as projected for fiscal 2010?
In 2008's last quarter, the American economy contracted by 6.8%, the sharpest drop since 1982. The Dow Jones average in February had its worst February since 1933. Chase has cut its dividends 87%, GE, 67%. The Dow, as a predictor of the future, is now at a 12-year low, closing today down about 300. Retired people are suffering and it's no wonder they're scared.
It's a time to be cautious and prudent. Or is there more in the magic hat?
Thus far the Selectmen have made no reductions in the Town Manager's Operating Budget spending increase proposal (including schools) of $1 million or so that will drive up property taxes for Chatham's taxpayers. Indeed, they have increased spending over the Town Manager's initial recommendations. They plan to button up the Operating Budget and send it to the Finance Committee for its formal review.
How much more spending will impact property taxes will be known until the capital spending proposals are identified and quantified.
The agenda for Friday's Selectmen's meeting at 5:
Meeting will be broadcast on Channel 18 and video posted within 24 hours on the Chatham town webiste.
Taking up the spending plan for Fiscal 2010 beginning July 1:
Article 6 – Operating Budget W. Hinchey
(CCT comment: No cuts made yet; spending still $1 million over fiscal 2009 despite
• Union Response (Apparently, there will be responses from all)
• Additional School Cuts (CCT: No cuts yet; spending still sky high; property tax
• Additional Town Cuts (No cuts yet; property tax increases coming)
• Article 10 – Lighthouse Beach
• Other Action (CCT comment: Taxpayers must rally for fight at Town Meeting to
oppose property tax increase)
• Ballot Question (CCT: Taxpayers must be heard at May 11th Town Meeting and May 14th Election.)
A number of people have indicated they are uncertain about who makes the final decisions on spending in Chatham.
The answer is “You do.”
CCT’s position is there should be no property tax increase for fiscal 2010, except for those who have added new value to their property (new building, a deck or whatever), for the operating budget or for capital project that aren’t demonstrably urgent and can’t be delayed until better economic times.
Chatham voters at the Annual Town Meeting and Town Election in May make the decisions. The ATM this year begins May 11th (it can go beyond one day) and the Town Election is May 14th. It is important for voters concerned about town spending growth to attend town meeting AND STAY TO THE END. Strange things can happen if voters aren't vigilant.
Simply put, the process is this:
The Town Manager William Hinchey prepares a spending plan and presents it to the five-person elected Board of Selectmen. The Town Manager has reviewed all the spending requests of all town departments EXCEPT for the School Department. The School Department spending plan is in the hands of the elected School Committee. The Town Manager includes the spending plan approved by the School Committee in the overall town spending plan without any change.
Despite the world financial crisis, the town’s spending plan calls for an increase in spending of $1.268 million, of which approximately $1.1 million is attributable to a 10.52% increase in spending approved by the School Committee.
The Selectmen are giving what is perhaps unprecedented attention to the spending plan. They have identified the largest single item of increase in the budget is about $713,000 for salary increases of one sort or another. According to our calculations, these increases are roughly equal between the School Department and all other town departments.
Since the town has been very generous to all town employees in terms of compensation and other benefits, the Selectmen proposed to all town employees they accept a voluntary freeze for fiscal year 2010, thus saving $700,000 or so. The answers of the employees (most of which are represented by unions) are due this week. If the employees consent, then the spending increases that have to be peeled back are in a manageable area of about $300,000, less than one percent of the $32.757 million budget, to freeze the property tax level for the operating budget at the fiscal 2009 level for those who didn’t add improvements to their properties.
In just a week of so, the Selectmen will hand over the spending plan with their changes and recommendations to the Finance Committee for its review. The Finance Committee has been informally reviewing the budget already for weeks. The Selectmen and the Finance Committee have suggested to the School Committee they subject their spending plan to further review, but no changes have as yet been forthcoming.
On or about April 1, after all the back and forth, the Warrant goes to print with all the recommendations. The Warrant is what the voters who attend the Annual Town Meeting and vote in the election a few days later act on. The voters have the final say. They can change the spending plan or reject it in total. For example, voters can reject a compensation freeze the employees have agreed to or refuse to fund any compensation increases if the employees have insisted on their increases. The same is true for capital spending. (The town, in effect, has two budgets, an operating budget and a capital budget.) Whatever the recommendations of the Selectmen, the School Committee or the Finance Committee, the voters decide.
So it’s important for all concerned taxpayer voters to be informed and show up at the Annual Town Meeting and Election on May 11th and 14th. There is a certain intimidation factor in speaking out at a town meeting of several hundred, but one should not worry about that this year because the stakes are too important to stay silent.
Chatham Concerned Taxpayers will be offering suggestions and guidance all the way up to Town Meeting and helping to organize speaking on the floor as well. While we hope we can give full support to the recommendations put before Town Meeting, as of this writing it is impossible to know if that will be the case. We will be prepared to advocate in support of the taxpayers.
We welcome the input and suggestions of all who believe this is a time for fiscal prudence. For taxpayer voices to be heard it’s important that we reach as many as possible. Please send the emails of like-minded taxpayers who don’t want to see property tax increases to firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay in touch not only by these email alerts but by regularly checking our website www.chathamct.org.
These are extraordinary times and the voices of the taxpayers must be heard. In the last analysis, it is the votes of the taxpayers which will decide the outcome in May. The future of Chatham's spending is in your hands.
The towns that support the Nauset school system (Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet) told the schools its budget wouldn't fly. So last night the Nauset School Committee cut its proposed budget $500,000 for fiscal 2010.
"there is no appetite for an override now because people are hurting."
"A lot of retired people on the Cape have seen their nest eggs dwindle "and they are scared," Lewis added. "And it's going to get worse next year."
The Nauset system expects to cut at least 16 staff jobs.
In Chatham, in an attempt to avoid personnel layoffs and increased property taxes, the Selectmen asked the unions and other employees to accept an across-the-board compensation freeze (all town departments including schools) that would save an estimated $700,000. The $700,000 represents salary increases ranging up to 7% in some cases. These raises represent 70% of the $1 million that would be raised by increases in the property tax rate. The Finance Committee and the Selectmen are seeking savings that would eliminate the remaining $300,000 increase in the fiscal 2010 operating budget over fiscal 2009. The School Committee has been asked to join in that effort.
The response from Chatham's unions and other employees is expected to be announced at the Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday, February 24th.
The Chatham draft spending plan for FY10 (begins July 1, ends June 30 2010) assumes everyone's property tax will go up about 5%. The Chatham Concerned Taxpayers position is that that should not happen.
Here are the numbers in brief:
FY09 $31.401 million
FY10 $32.757 million
Increase $ 1.268 million
Now, new property is coming on to the tax rolls for the first time in FY10 (new homes, additions and the like) and it's fair to add new growth like that to the base.
So the increase for all property taxpayers is about $1.02 million.
Though taxpayers get one bill for real property taxes, the spending plan is put together by the Town Manager under the elected Board of Selectmen for all the departments except the School Department. The Superintendent of Schools under the aegis of the elected School Committee constructs her spending plan.
The Finance Committee appointed by the Town Moderator will carefully review the spending plans of the Town Manager and the Superintendant of Schools and will report directly to the Town Meeting in May that has the power to accept or reject the spending plan for FY10. The Selectmen will also provide their recommendations to the Town Meeting in May.
Because of the worst financial situation since the1930s the Selectmen are devoting an unprecedented amount of time to the budget. Is such a huge increase in the budget fair to impose on the taxpayers of the town in these difficult times, who, as can be seen by the chart of spending growth (scroll down), have been quite generous in putting up the money for salaries and facilities for the town? Especially, according to recently released federal government statistics, at a time of zero inflation?
Chatham Selectmen Budget Review Today at 4, Town Hall Channel 18
· Pay Raises
· Debt Drop Off
· FY11 and Beyond
IT'S YOUR MONEY. HOLD THE LINE ON SPENDING!
Cape Codder notes Chatham residents eyeing town spending.
Residents get involved
Chatham selectmen have begun poring over the town’s 2010 budget and it’s clear that asking residents for an additional $558,000 to fund a school shortfall doesn’t sit well with everyone. The fact that the tax rate will not go up, because the town is retiring some debt, is not enough to assuage concerns.
In addition to calling in the school committee to explain why the additional funds are needed, selectmen will also be looking at the town budget.
Selectmen chairman Sean Summers pointed out that pay increases for union and non-union members exceed $380,000, not counting school staff.
At least two residents, Francis Meaney and Phil Dupont, have requested both the town and school budgets (which are more than a foot thick) to see if increases are necessary.
Calling themselves “concerned taxpayers,” the two will be a regular presence at upcoming budget meetings. Meaney said although he has owned a home in town for more than a decade, he only moved to Chatham full time a year ago. He said he isn’t alone in wondering why the school committee is recommending a close to 10 percent increase in this dreadful economic climate.
“You say wait a minute. It doesn’t sound like the year we should continue spending as usual,” he said, adding that cost of living increases are given because of inflation, and right now the country is in a deflationary period.
Meaney said Chatham was “an extremely well-managed town” but there was a “bias” toward spending.
“Maybe right now the bias should be a little different,” he said. “Maybe this is the year we take a pause.”
In the meantime, selectmen will be discussing the budget, two, sometimes three times a week. Among departments on their radar screen are the permit office, harbormaster, park and recreation and information and technology. There were also questions about the fire department, which has added eight new firefighters in recent years, but still has an overtime budget of $330,000.
The following is the revised agenda for the February 4th morning meeting kick-off of Chatham Concerned Taxpayers.
February 4, 2009
Chatham Community Center
8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
1. Welcome and explanation of why we're gathering -- Fran Meaney.
2. Role of Selectmen, School Committee, Finance Committee and voters at the Annual Town Meeting in the FY10 spending program and the outlook for the balance of this fiscal year (five months left), FY 2010 and 2011 -- Chairman of the Board of Selectment Sean Summers.
4. PowerPoint presentation -- Phil Dupont. This will cover the growth of town spending, the names of the key decision makers, the proposed spending plan, cost of living, the schools and other matters at town meeting that can impact the property tax,
5. Discussion by attendees of what actions might be undertaken by concerned taxpayers
5. Volunteers for work assignments
6. Next Steps
7. Other matters
NOTE: It is essential that we get the email of everyone who believes this is a time for fiscal restraint. Email will be our principal mode of communication because it's fast and cheap. The website www.chatamct.org will be frequently updated with pertinent information as well.
Coffee, tea and donuts for all.
Meeting schedules for the Selectmen, School Committee and Finance Committee can be found on town websites. The main town website is http://www.town.chatham.ma.us/Public_Documents/index It contains a great deal of information. It has schedules of meetings and lists the names of people serving on town committees and public officials, except for the School Committee and the Superintendent: Their names and schedule can be found on the separate website http://www.chatham.k12.ma.us/
Also online at the main town website, anyone can sign up to be emailed the agenda for each Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
Here are the usual meeting schedules as they now stand:
Board of Selectmen, weekly, Tuesdays at 4 p.m., Town Hall
The Board will be scheduling special extra meetings on town spending in these tough times. The first is tomorrow, Tuesday, February 4, 1 to 3 p.m., Town Hall, Channel 18
First Wednesday of each month at 7:00 P.M.
Elizabeth Reynard Library
Chatham Middle/High Schools
425 Crowell Road 02633
February 4, 2009
March 4, 2009
April 1, 2009
May 6, 2009
School Committee Policy Meetings
5:00 P.M. Superintendent’s Conference Room
Next on Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Finance Committee, Thursdays, 7 p.m., Town Hall, Channel 18.
Channel 18 broadcasts of the meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee are posted on the town websites promptly after each meeting and can be watched on an "On Demand" basis through the town website.
Because of the changing financial situation and the concern about holding the line on spending, additional special sessions are likely to be scheduled.
Taxpayer participation can make a difference. Show up, listen, ask questions, give views and be heard.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Selectmen meet on town budget, 1-3 p.m., Town Hall
Selectmen's regular meeeting, 4 p.m. Town Hall
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Chatham Concerned Taxpayers, 8 a.m., Chatham Community Center (volunteer group)
School Committee meets, 7 p.m., 425 Crowell Road
Thursday, February 5, Finance Committee, 7 p.m., Town Hall
Chatham's excellence in its schools shone forth once again as the Chatham We the People team of 20 won its EIGHTH straight Massachusetts state championship and qualified for the national competition. The Chatham team will compete against schools from all over the country for the 2008 National Championships the weekend of April 25, 26, 27 across the river from Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Virginia.
Chatham debaters win another state title
February 01, 2009 6:00 AM
BOSTON — Chatham High School's "We the People" debate team won its eighth consecutive state championship at the Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston yesterday.
"They were just super," said team coach and Chatham High social studies teacher Thomas Flaherty, who will retire after this year. "They were just superb."
This astonishing string of victories is the result of the inspiration of Tom Flaherty and the dedication and hard work of Chatham high school students over many years. While this crowning victory is the eighth in a row, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it is the town's 12th state championship. Amazing for one of the smallest school systems in Massachusetts.
The 20 Chatham seniors took the semester-long "We the People" course that Flaherty says "teaches students how to become effective citizens."
They invested another 10 to 12 hours of their own time each week to prepare for the competition, a class requirement.
Through the course, students have learned how to research issues and present opinions that they can defend to teammates, to parents around the dinner table and to critical competition judges.
What they've learned "isn't just about the Constitution any more. It's about life," said senior Ariel Armstrong.
Flaherty is "our biggest critic," she said. "He doesn't sugarcoat anything. It makes us stronger."
Here's a picture of Chatham's 2007 team. Tom Flaherty, the high school teacher who has guided Chatham to this terrific run of state championships, is on the left.