Studies, reports, plans and protocols all go the
way of the summer leaves without intentional and committed implementation;
that is, progressive leadership.
Since 1980, the fiscal environment generated by Proposition 2.5 for Marblehead
has continued to produce inexorable inflationary forces but
has held the Town budget to growth
to 30% (or more) behind those forces.
revenue increases available to your local governemnt are Proposition
1/2, new growth (increases in assessed value and new construction), increased
fines (a small resource), budget flexibility through abandoning some Town services
or through enterprise funding or by the
debt exclusion overrides. General overrides are also available, although after
ten tries only two have been passed in Marblehead: one small one designated
for the drain construction requirments, and another one for around $1 million
for the general fund.
has been and continues to be very undependable.
Local receipts have vacillated
cash" has declined.
Capital plans and debt-exclusion-driven plans have been interrupted by year-to-year
changes in voter support, voter turnout at the polls, and changing political
Minor pay raises have been helpful, but Marblehead continues to fall behind
our comparable town list, and we are at the low average or at the low end,
in any and every case.
The Finance Committee's role of balancing the budget with existing and projected
revenues is being increasingly challenged every year. With declines in state
aid, this has gone beyond the breaking point into the real decline of services
The issues of prioritization, improving the day-to-day management of
the Town, the increasing enrollments in the schools, Recreation, Park
and Forestry programs, Council on Aging programs, School Department
facility requirements, and the continuing combinations
of Town departments and services are all under increasing scrutiny and pressure.
areas of Town management, accountability and coordination (because
of the Selectman's Town Administrator) much
progress has been made.
New school construction in recent years is certainly a high point in recognition
the Town's responsibilities, progressive
leadership and in the Town's coming together for the good of all.
But, the world is still with us. Increasing pressures on the traditional family,
social exigencies pressing themselves upon us on all sides (safety, schools,
an exponentially growing elderly population, skyrocketing health care costs
and demands on the system, to mention a few) continue to drive
require funding, flexibility, and the enduring of planning setbacks for the
Town's infrastructures, rolling stock and other capital issues.
The demands for
from the public schools continue to have far-reaching social, educational and
financial effects, many unforeseen and unpredictable. It needs to be said that
these "effects" are not all good or beneficial.
The Charter School now removes approximately $1 million from the revenue stream.
But, ironically, the community
government remains one of
not the most, important ally all of us have in improving and defending
day-to-day quality of life.
With all of the changes, there is a growing need for what has been
called in the past a "currency of knowledge." Let the legal
tender of our Town be accurate information, not self-referential
anecdotes and personal opinions.
Remember, in a Town that issues almost 1,000 paychecks per pay period,
there will be many employees who are wonderful and some employees who are
not. There will be programs that work and programs that do not. But
of Town issues be swayed by "old saws" that are spoken
with force and bluster, but are not true, and couldn't possibly be true. "Government
students and government workers are lazy," "All they want is money,
money, money," and many more generalities like
them, are just the last refuge of people who simply don't know what is going
on or won't put in the time to find out. And sad to say, they are also refuge
for politicians who know better, but, simply put, pander to their personal
Beware of people who always say
old thing year after year; they've probably fallen far behind Marblehead's
true reality, which waits around for no one.
Always remember, there are no easy answers. The easiest, least
intellectual of all solutions, is to be negative. It's a lot easier,
in some ways, to cut
services than to improve or expand them. But the latter is clearly the challenge
that lies ahead. Incentives, new services, new combinations, additional
funding and the resurgent saliency
of government are clearly on the agenda if the Town is to succeed in these
times. Think of government as Marbleheaders working together, rather
them against us, and you will find yourself to be part of the solution.
Marblehead has many people who are looking ahead progressively. Those
poor souls who can't, or who won't visualize solutions that move us
all ahead together,
should at least
allow those who are willing to try to build the future to have that opportunity.