Guest Op-ed Budgeting for the Future

The City’s recently concluded budget process should serve as symbolic on many fronts.  It should signal the need for a greater understanding – by elected officials and citizens alike – as to the underlying reasons for our exploding City budget.  It should mark a turning point in the way our City Council deliberates over and considers our City budget in the future.  It should raise warning flags in our community about the negative impact that our exploding budget has on our ability to grow and develop in a manner we all envision.

During the June 25th meeting of the Board of Aldermen at which the Fiscal Year 2013 budget was adopted, I commented on the explosion in spending since this Administration’s first budget was submitted in Fiscal Year 2009.  In addition to my remarks that night, as reported by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, in Fiscal Year 2008, the City budget was approximately $118,569,854.

In Fiscal Year 2009, the City budget was increased by approximately $4,576,824 to $123,146,678.  That budget was the first submitted by the current Administration.  Today, our Fiscal Year 2013 budget stands at an eye popping $154,000,000 – which includes the recently implemented water and sewer enterprise fund.  In fact, since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2008, the City’s budget – including all departments – has exploded by $35,430,146.  If one were to consider that increase on a daily basis, it amounts to a staggering spending increase of $19,413.78 per day for each day since the first day of Fiscal Year 2008.

Our city can no longer support this type of spending!

For all the hollow talk in our City about fiscal responsibility and accountability, this level of uncontrolled spending is not only unacceptable it is putting this community on the verge of a financial abyss from which it will be hard to return.

Our crippling City budget – and the unstable and unpredictable tax rates that result – hinders our ability to attract new residents, retain old ones, and spur greater commercial investment in our community.  Without the ability to do any of these things, our City is placed on a precarious financial footing, and – contrary to the words of some – is clearly not moving forward.

Because of our government’s current inability to control spending, I believe we must now adjust our entire approach as to the prudent manner for operating our City government going forward.  We can no longer blame our exploding budget on rising fixed costs such as health insurance and pension while at the same time putting political cronies and allies on the public payroll which has the direct effect of increasing the very fixed costs we publicly state are beyond our control.

We cannot continue spending and borrowing money we cannot afford.  As a member of the Board of Aldermen, I am committed to continuously improving our streets, our sidewalks, our parks, and our playgrounds. Unfortunately, this Administration’s current level of spending in these areas is beyond what the taxpayers can afford, and is actually achieving the opposite of its intended effect where this uncontrolled spending is acting as a hindrance to greater economic investment in our community.

We can fix these budget problems, but it will not be easy.  The simple truth is that we need new growth.  But in order to encourage new growth we must attract new sources of revenue by increasing our commercial and industrial tax base.  In this vein, we have to seriously rethink our approach to attracting and retaining commercial development in our City.

Sitting idly by, studying the problem or working at the problem on a part-time basis will not bring greater development to our City, and it certainly will not result in a much needed expansion of our commercial and industrial tax base.  If this government is incapable of controlling our budget, we must seek out new and creative ways to increase the flow of revenue into our City.

Not that long ago, Everett was highly competitive in attracting businesses and residents because of its stable commercial and industrial tax base, and its low residential tax rate.  Today, our crippling, out of control budget has flipped these attributes on their heads and the opposite is now happening – our commercial and industrial tax base is shrinking because businesses can no longer afford to do business here, and we are no longer attracting involved and active citizens because they are choosing to live in communities whose tax rate is lower.

When looking at our budget in the future – and its direct impact on our ability to grow and develop as a community – we need to stop talking about “moving forward” and actually take steps in that direction.

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