By Stephen Quigley
With a solid financial footing well in place that has led to a lower tax rate for the average homeowner, Mayor Carlo DeMaria is determined to continue to bring benefits for a better quality of life to all Everett residents, from children to senior citizens, as he envisions the continued transformation of Everett from an industrial city with roots in the 19th century into a community prepared for the economy of the 21st century.
Mayor DeMaria, speaking recently in an interview, pointed with pride at the AA+ bond rating that Everett has maintained over the last four years.
“We are one of the only Gateway Cities that has achieved this rating,” DeMaria said.
He also noted that Everett has received national awards from the Government Finances Officers Association and the Distinguished Budget Award for the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the last six years.
“Our budgets are very transparent and readily available to anyone who wants to view the revenues and expenditures,” he said. “Most budgets number 60 to 70 pages, while our budget contains more than 170 pages. Every part of the budget is shown and can be examined by every taxpayer in reports that are online, in the libraries, or at City Hall.”
With a near-perfect bond rating, DeMaria said the city can go out to the market and finance projects at a much-lower interest rate, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest charges over the life of the bonds. Some of these new projects will include a renovated senior center, a new police station, more repaved streets, sidewalks and the infrastructure underneath, and the renovation of the remaining parks by 2024.
Funding that was secured for one of the mayor’s early projects was the installation of new water meters in all homes and businesses and the creation of a leak detection program that has resulted in saving the city’s water users millions of dollars in water fees.
“We were paying for millions of gallons of water that were either being lost in the ground or to customers who were not paying their water fees because they had disconnected their meters. It was estimated that the city overall was paying 20 percent more in our yearly water bills,” he said. But fast forward to today, and the average Everett rate-payer has the third lowest water bill in the entire MWRA system.
“My Administration and I meet frequently and go over all of the ongoing projects in the city,” DeMaria explained. “Today, there is consistency from all of the city departments, since many projects have ripple effects with other projects. Just as no city department operates in a silo, so too, no project is built-in a silo.”
There is little doubt that the Encore Casino has started to be the explosive catalyst for many developments, both public and private, that either have been started and completed or are about to be built in Everett. DeMaria points out that the land that Encore sits on was a 40- acre brownfield and his vision to get a casino was a long-shot. The other potential site, Suffolk Downs, had all the political muscle behind it.
However, DeMaria came up with a better plan and the State Gaming Commission awarded the license to Encore. As a result, a property that for years had been netting a mere $300,000 in tax revenue for the city’s coffers has turned into an annual $30 million windfall.
“We continually are applying this process to other old sites that are generating more revenue and not burdening our existing taxpayers,” said DeMaria.
So what now?
“We cannot stand still,” DeMaria said. “We need to have a number of projects shovel-ready for the next wave of public infrastructure projects.”
The mayor listed several projects that he would like to move into the planning stages.
Education was on the top of his list.
DeMaria pointed out proudly that he attended and graduated from the Everett public schools. His oldest daughter is a recent Everett High graduate and his youngest daughter attends the public schools and is in Grade 7.
“I want the schools to be what they were for me,” he added. “I want to expand vocational programming. For too many of our students, college is not an option and they leave Everett High without a marketable skill like being a plumber, electrician, or auto mechanic. Nothing is more positive than having a job and earning a good wage. We cannot let our students leave our schools unprepared for the world.”
DeMaria is talking with Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy and Governor Baker about a partnership with some life-science businesses in Somerville and Cambridge for high school students.
DeMaria led the effort to file a statement of interest with the state to seek funding for a new high school with adjoining facilities that would include ample parking and that can be used by all residents — young and old — at all times. In advocating for new space, the Mayor noted, “We cannot hold a home track and field meet for our students,” he said. “During the graduation that was held at the stadium last year, more than 80 cars were towed.” However, no location has been selected.
New development requires a certain criteria of basic needs such as roadways, water, and city services. The strong fiscal position that has funded many of these repairs by DeMaria has attracted new development in housing and industry, which in turn is generating more revenue streams for city coffers.
However, the possibility of Amazon locating a facility off Air Force Road is a non-starter for DeMaria.
All of these new projects will be vetted through community meetings. “We held more than 60 community meetings on Encore,” DeMaria said, adding “We will do the same for all new projects.
“My team and I are committed to making Everett the best city that it can be,” DeMaria concluded.