Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Mayor's latest budget proposal

 Tune in tonight to see how the full council will debate the Mayor's budget. IMO, it doesn't go far enough in police and fire departments.. Not a word about reducing 2.5 million in OT. Replacing cruisers can wait another year or two IMO as well as the fire truck, whose only justification is that it's one of two that are not the same as the others in the fleet. The Mayor will advocate for the diversity officer and while need, it's not the time to bring on another 6 figure employee in the Mayor's office, IMO.

In light of the changing fiscal environment, the administration went back to review the budget and reduce the bottom line by $2.8 million, primarily in salaries in municipal budgets, which were cut by $1.2 million or 2.4% of personnel costs.  The General fund budget is increasing $3.84 million or 1.3%.  The actions were not done lightly.

The City has built an excellent workforce that provides outstanding service.  Reduction in force will not allow the same level of service, but employees will strive to do the best they can with limited colleagues and resources.  The City must make it through this crisis with core services intact. Public safety departments must be staffed to respond to emergency calls from residents and businesses; trash and recycling must be picked up and removed to contracted landfills and recycling centers, and public health must be maintained.  In that light, budget cuts were made across almost all departments, except the Public Health Department, both in staffing and operating costs. 

Strategic Reductions

Additional budget reductions (budget cuts were made based on a two-year view of the budget period)  from the April 30 budget submission are listed below:

·       Eliminate the $400,000 salary reserve (built for FY21 collective bargaining negotiations)

·       Further reduce $500,000 from School budget  (Summer school will be remote, which reduces costs for transportation and hiring many paraprofessionals to conduct summer school in person)

·       $45,000 from the Traffic Commission (without eliminating funding for traffic studies)

·       $40,000 from the property/liability insurance self-insurance pool based on current year claims levels

·       $100,000 from health insurance based on reductions in force

·       $50,000 in Medicare tax due to reductions in force

·       Reduced General Fund Elections’ operating budget by $50,000; use $50,000 of state elections funding reserved from prior years.

·       Cut $1.56 million from municipal department budgets.  Combined municipal budgets are $131,770 LESS than the budgeted amount for FY20.

o   Eliminated 10 funded but currently vacant positions in Library, Park and Recreation, DPW Highway and the Mayor’s Office (Diversity & Inclusion Officer)**.

** Given the current situation, I will advocate for reinstating this position

o   Deferred the hiring of two firefighter positions for four months.

o   Delayed the hiring of Assistant Fire Chief for two months.

o   Eliminated two part- time seasonal positions in DPW.

o   There are still three vacant, funded positions in the Library, two in Planning and Community Development, two in the Public Health Department and three in the Fire Department, and two in the Police Department. Savings from delayed hiring and not funding vacancies is $699,000.

o   Deferred the hiring of two police officer positions for 11 months.

o   Lay off 13 employees across multiple departments, saving $420,000 plus $79,000 in benefit costs.  Those departments include DPW: Highway, Fleet Services, Capital, Water and Sewer, Accounting, Purchasing, Treasurer/Collector, Police (civilian), and Facilities Management. (Why some layoffs were required versus furloughs. A furlough is a short term temporary fix. Most expect a furlough of a couple of weeks to a couple of months with an expectation of a  return to work. Looking forward to FY22, we could not make that assurance for employees; therefore, the decision to lay off employees was made.)

o   Furlough an additional five employees for four months in FY21. Furloughed employees work in DPW Capital Unit

o   Further reduced operating expense budgets by $226,168 from the original recommended budget.

·       Eliminated the deposit to the Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund), leaving $305,000 in the balance of free cash instead.

The City is resilient and will withstand this crisis, and our employees will continue the tradition of excellent public service that they provide to the community every day. I need your support for the revised May 18, 2020 Budget that was submitted to the city council. Please attend the City Council meetings on Tuesday, June 2, and 16 via ZOOM and support the Mayor's budget as proposed. If you can't attend the meeting send an email to all the city councilors.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Another inocent black man is killed by a white cop

In an almost too familiar video, a black man (George Floyd) was murdered on the streets of this country by a white police officer, while 3 other officers watched and did nothing to stop it as Mr Floyd begged to breath. It's hard to watch this video, but without it, it would have been the cops word that investigators would have believed.

This killing reminds me of the others we have witnessed thanks to social media and IPhones. It was just six years ago, in 2014, another black man, Eric Garner, pleaded with police officers in New York City who held him in a chokehold, saying "I can't breathe." His alleged crime? Selling "loosies" -- individual cigarettes -- to passersby.
What happened in 2014 and 2020 do share a common root. It is a catastrophic failure of training and an unconscionable failure of culture. Both are dereliction's of leadership. 

And in our little Town of Framingham, in 2011, Officer Paul Duncan murdered Eurie Stamps as he was laying down with his hands over his head in his home and not a threat. And the saddest part is that none of the cops involved, including Paul Duncan, Craig Davis and the others were never held accountable for this gross negligence and illegal actions.

The Schools step up, the Finance Sub Committee tries

I am impressed with the Superintendents bold actions in cutting the school budget without hurting the students. Not renewing the Perini lease and having the staff work from home for 2020 and 2021 is a great idea. Not hiring the other two assistants made a serious reduction in the school budget.

The FSC did make cuts that made sense to me like the senior advisor to the Mayor, the accountant, membership in the MMA ( Mass Municipal Association) travel for meetings and stipends for the City Council. 
What the left alone was the one sacred cow... the Police Department. None of them have the courage to ask the Chief to justify anything.