This year, the Melrose Public Schools will be implementing the Common Core Standards. What does this mean? Together with the Melrose Education Coalition and Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore, I am co-sponsoring a public forum titled What’s the Common Core? on Thursday, October 4, from 7-9 p.m. in the Melrose High School Resource Room. Superintendent Taymore, Curriculum Director Margaret Adams, and Melrose school principals will discuss what the standards are and how they will affect teaching, learning, and testing in Melrose. There will be a reception afterwards so the public can meet the Melrose Public Schools leadership team.
(Photo from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.)
Today we begin a series of guest posts by our city department heads, who will provide some insight into how the city works. While some of these posts are a bit technical, I hope they will also give you a deeper understanding of how our city works.
How Assessments and Tax Bills Are Determined
By Chief Assessor Donald Dragt
This article is intended to shed some light on the confusing relationship between a property’s assessment for a given fiscal year and its fair market value at the time when the property owner first sees his new assessment. Despite the Assessor’s annual warning that current assessed values represent a historic value, not the current value of a property, each year when the new assessments are released, taxpayers call to report that their house is not worth what it is now being assessed for. In some cases, particularly when the property was not inspected recently, a review of the property record card will reveal an error. More often, however, the property record card is correct and the difference between the current value and the assessed value is explained by the fact that assessed values are values as of a specific date, January 1 of the year prior to the Fiscal Year and are based on sales that took place as much as a full year even before that date. In other words, when a property owner first sees his FY 2012 assessment, sometime late in 2011 or early 2012, it is based on sales that could be two years old. Even within a single state like Massachusetts, the rate of the value increases and declines is different in virtually every town. Melrose, during this period, had some short-term up and down jerky movements, but in general has held up very well and median single-family sale prices are currently within 9% of the high established in 2005.
In the ten years that I have been mayor, we have done major road projects on upper and lower Main Street and smaller revitalization projects in our neighborhood business areas, West Wyoming Avenue, Cedar Park, and Melrose Highlands—and there’s more to come on the Highlands.
In the immediate future, though, we are going to focus on our downtown Main Street district, with a renovation project that will make the street more attractive more pedestrian-friendly, and more handicap accessible (which means easier for people with strollers to navigate as well). The project will begin on Friday, October 5, and (weather permitting) will run on a very aggressive schedule; by doing the most disruptive work at night and less intensive work during the day, we hope to complete the project in ten days.
Here’s what’s included:
- Main Street will be repaved curb to curb from Upham Street to West Wyoming Avenue; we will also do East Foster Street from Main to Dell.
- All sidewalk safety issues and trip hazards will be repaired or removed.
- ADA compliant handicap ramps and curb cuts will be installed to improve pedestrian, wheelchair, and stroller accessibility.
- Bump-outs will be added at the two mid-block crosswalks (CVS and Petrone’s) to slow traffic and make it easier to cross the street.
- Traffic signal posts will be painted black.
- Dead trees will be replaced, and new trees will be added in some areas.
The night work, which will begin on October 5, will include grinding down the roadway, sealing cracks, and repaving and repainting it. Night work will run from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The day work will start on Monday, October 8, and businesses will be open during normal business hours, and Main Street will remain accessible during the day work.
Updates will be posted on the city website. For more information, or to discuss a specific concern, please call the Engineering Office of Public Works, 781-979-4178. To read DPW personnel after hours, call the Melrose Police Department, 781-665-1212; calls will be returned within 15 minutes.
Below is a copy of the handout that was distributed today at a meeting with local businesses; the handout has more specifics about the project.
Last week, our Veterans Services Director, Ryan McLane, presented a plan to the Board of Aldermen to include Saugus in our regional veterans’ district. This will bring the number of communities to three, as Wakefield is already included.
Here are the basics:
- Each community will have its own Veterans Services Office, which will be open a minimum of four days a week, six hours a day. The goal of each office is to return all phone calls and e-mails within 24 hours.
- Melrose services will continue as normal, providing office hours and oversight to operations in Wakefield and Saugus through District Veterans Services Officer Andrew Biggio.
- Veteran assistants will handle day-to-day tasks such as basic referral, check processing, internal auditing, and synching payments to state reimbursement. This allows more time for the Director and VSO to schedule appointments, make home visits, and conduct outreach and events in the community.
- VSOs will be able to access shared documents, client files, forms, and procedures from the field through secured cloud technologies and virtual access points.
- Veterans will be able to track and contact the VSOs via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and Skype.
- Services will be standardized among the three communities, with each office following the same procedures, leading to greater accuracy and efficiency.
- At the same time, each community will have its own office catering to its own residents.
- Under the current Melrose-Wakefield arrangement, the cost to the City of Melrose is $56,847. If Saugus is added to the district, the cost drops to $52,726.
Our goal is simple: By sharing resources and taking full advantage of technology, the three communities can offer better services to veterans at a lower cost to each community.
This has been a busy summer for the Melrose business community, and I have a number of new businesses and initiatives to announce.
One of our most visible sites, the old Sparks property on Grove Street, across from the Mobil station, will be developed as a dentist’s office for a practice currently in Malden. A two-story building is planned for the site, and we hope it will become a wonderful gateway to our downtown district.
Another new business, the Melrose Meat Market, will be opening soon next to Sexton and Donohue in the former office of Charles Gill.
We are in the initial stages of approval of a new Italian restaurant in downtown Melrose named Comella’s. Comella’s currently has several locations, most notably in Arlington and Natick.
Pizza will soon be available once more at the old Corner Deli site, at West Wyoming Avenue and Hurd Street: A new business, Lisa’s Family Pizza, will be opening its doors there any day now.
And Oak Grove Village has a new coffee shop, The Jitters Café, that will also be opening soon.
Clearly, Melrose has established a reputation as a great place to do business, and I hope you will patronize all our local businesses.
Our green energy initiatives continue with the installation of LED streetlights in our business districts.
Last year, in Phase One, we installed 80 LED lights in the Victorian streetlights on Main Street. In Phase Two, we added 40 more for the remaining Victorian lights at Cedar Park and West Wyoming Avenue. These lights were paid for by Green Community Funding ($15,076) and a National Grid incentive ($5,702).
These new LED lights will result in 60% energy savings over the previous metal halide fixtures, resulting in about $4,000 annual savings. The city will reap additional savings on maintenance and materials because they will last longer (11.9 vs 2.4 years) And the final advantage: Better pedestrian lighting on sidewalks and more uniform light overall.
Our recreation programs are growing here in Melrose, with more people participating and more things to do!
Recreation Director Frank Olivieri set increasing community participation by 10% as one of his goals this year, and I am happy to say that he has exceeded that. We had 5,998 people participating in the Summer Recreation programs this year, which is up 14% from last year. In addition, we increased the number of recreation scholarships from 32 in 2011 to 54 in 2012, a 40% increase. This was part of an initiative to give every student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch a scholarship to participate in Rec programs, and I am very happy that so many more children are participating this year.
We have a lot of new Recreation programs for the fall—sports and classes, for kids and adults. Check out the brochures on the Recreation Department web page and se if there is something there for you!
We embarked on the Our City program during the spring to hear the ideas of a diverse group of Melrosians—young parents, parents of older children, empty nesters, senior citizens, residents and businesspeople—in order to get a better idea of how they perceive our community and how they would like to see it evolve.
Here’s a look at the Power Point presentation that we will be showing to the Board of Aldermen.
I will be hosting a series of neighborhood meetings, together with Police Chief Michael Lyle and members of the Board of Aldermen, over the next two months to share information about police initiatives and hear from residents about issues that affect them.
One of the goals of our Police Department is to increase outreach to the community, and this is a very effective way to do it. Each neighborhood has its own personality, strengths, and challenges, and this will give residents the opportunity to meet face to face with Chief Lyle and member of the detective and traffic bureaus to discuss the issues that affect them the most.
Lt. Mark Decroteau, the head of the Patrol Division, will be at the meetings as will be Traffic Sgt. Jon Goc, Detective Sgt. Paul McNamara, and other department staff.
The first neighborhood meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, at the Hoover School and will be co-hosted by Ward 7 Alderman Bill Forbes. For more information, call Alderman Forbes at 781-603-9123.
Three additional meetings have been tentatively scheduled:
• Tuesday, October 9, at the Roosevelt School
• Tuesday, October 23, at the Lincoln School
• Thursday, November 15, in the Aldermanic Chamber, City Hall
Check the city’s Twitter feed (twitter.com/CityofMelrose) or Mayor Dolan’s blog (mayordolansblog.wordpress.com) for updates and more information.
I announced the Messina Grants in my inaugural address in January, and I am happy to say that the Messina Grant Committee formally launched the program at the Victorian Fair last week. The goal of the Melrose Messina Fund for the Arts (MMFA) is to supplement the budgets of local arts organizations and individual artists in order to encourage diversity in arts presentations in the City of Melrose and to provide broad-based arts experiences to the citizens of Melrose.
Any Melrose artist or organization can apply for funding to support arts activities that will take place in Melrose. Grant criteria include local focus, value to the community, and innovative qualities, and preference will be given to projects that include an opportunity to share the outcome with the Melrose community in the form of a demonstration, art show, or performance.
Named for Joe Messina, who was the Director of Fine Arts for the Melrose Public Schools for many years, the Messina Grants are intended to supplement the Melrose Cultural Council grants; artists are encouraged to apply to all available funding sources.
We are starting off the Messina Grants with funding from the city budget, and the committee will be doing some fund-raising to increase the amount of the grants over time. The committee members are Nancy Kukura, Gina Tempesta, Brendan Carroll, Tom Sutherland, Jennifer Leclerc, Bonnie Cronin, and Jean Dancewicz, and I want to thank them for all their hard work in getting this program off the ground.