The following is the February report from the state Department of Revenue stating that they had a banner year in state revenues. It should also be noted that lottery receipts are at an all-time high. Yet after state assessments on the City of Melrose, our net state aid in the Governor’s budget is $6,200. That means we have $6,200 more to fund all of our public schools and all of our City. This makes no sense to me…
There either needs to be Proposition 2 1/2 or revenue sharing. When revenue sharing does not exist, the burden is always on the local government and the local homeowner, through increased taxes and fees. That is a regressive policy that the State needs to change.
January Revenue Collections Total $2.430 Billion
(Boston – Wednesday, February 4, 2014) – Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter today announced that preliminary revenue collections for January totaled $2.430 billion, $143 million or 6.2 percent above revenues collected last January. Better than expected performance in withholding and corporate/business tax collections offset relatively weak performance in sales tax collections to end the month $83 million above the monthly benchmark based on the FY2014 revised revenue estimate of $23.2 billion.
Revenue collections seven months into the fiscal year totaled $13.194 billion, $856 million or 6.9 percent more than at this time last year and $83 million above the year-to-date benchmark.
“January collections not only met but also exceeded the newly revised monthly benchmarks. Much of the January surplus is due to time-shifting in withholding collections, income tax refunds and corporate/business refunds,” said Commissioner Pitter. “Withholding collections reflected what DOR noted in December’s revenue report that at least $30 million in anticipated December withholding was actually paid in January.”
Commissioner Pitter also noted that income tax refunds were lower in January most likely because the IRS delayed the opening of the tax filing season and many taxpayers file federal and state returns around the same time. Income tax refunds, as well as corporate/business refunds, are expected to increase in February or March, offsetting a significant portion of January revenue surplus.
Total income tax collections for January were $1.682 billion, up $86 million or 5.4 percent from last January and $59 million above the monthly benchmark. Year-to-date income was $7.718 billion, $431 million or 5.9 percent over last year and $59 million over the year-to-date benchmark.
January withholding collections totaled $985 million, $80 million or 8.9 percent more than last January and $33 million above the monthly benchmark. So far this fiscal year, withholding collections are $6.110 billion, $266 million or 4.5 percent over last year and $33 million above the year-to-date benchmark.
Estimated income tax payments brought in $682 million for the month, $7 million or 1.0 percent less than last January and $10 million over the monthly benchmark. Year-to-date estimated income tax collections totaled $1.464 billion, $92 million or 6.7 percent over last year at this time and $10 million over the year-to-date benchmark.
Income tax payments with returns or bills brought in $28 million for the month, $2 million or 6.5 percent less than last January and $3 million above the January benchmark. Year-to-date income tax payments with returns or bills totaled $370 million, $90 million or 32.1 percent over last year at this time and $3 million over the year-to-date benchmark.
Corporate and business tax collections for January were $55 million, $19 million or 53.2 percent above last January’s collections and $37 million above the monthly benchmark. Year-to-date corporate and business tax collections totaled $1,001 billion, up $91 million or 10.0 percent from the same period last year and $37 million above the year-to-date benchmark.
Sales and use tax collections for January totaled $521 million, up $25 million or 5.0 percent from last January and $8 million below the monthly benchmark. Collections through seven months of the fiscal year totaled $3.267 billion, $192 million or 6.2 percent more than the same period last year and $8 million less than the year-to-date benchmark.
As mayor, it is my job to talk about some of the challenges we face as they come up. Many of these challenges are not of our own making, and today I would like to take a little bit of time to talk about one of them: Snow removal. Regardless of cost, we will and must maintain our City in a proper way to ensure public safety and vehicular and pedestrian travel, but here are some economic realities that are the consequences of an extraordinarily snowy winter.
- If you look out five or six years, the average amount the City spends on snow removal is $700,000. That takes into account high snow years, low snow years, and everything in between.
- This year, the City of Melrose budgeted $700,000 for snow removal: $500,000 in the budget and $200,000 in free cash. This is the highest amount the City has ever budgeted for snow. It has been a multi-year goal to increase the amount budgeted for snow because it is the fiscally prudent thing to do, and it’s great that we have been able to achieve this goal. I believe the average over a five-year period is the prudent number, understanding that it also includes some escalation of material costs and labor.
- It should be noted that snow removal is the only line item in which you are allowed to pay off the debt in the next fiscal year. That obviously should be avoided if possible.
- One of the operational changes we made with an eye on some cost avoidance was the privatization of trash. This allowed us to utilize former trash staff for landscaping operations in summer and snow removal in winter. Why is this helpful? The answer is that in-house employees are cheaper than contracted employees, and I would also argue that in-house employees take more care and have a more personal connection to the community, which I believe equals better service. We have been able to decrease labor costs this year by 6% for the second year in a row.
Now for the bad news:
- Our per-inch cost to remove snow is up to $12,800. This is much higher than in past years, due to the frequency of storms this winter. There have been many average-sized storms this year—not really big ones—but high-accumulation storms are actually cheaper due to the economies of scale. For example, last year most of our snow happened in one storm, which was a 29-inch storm. This year’s storms also have happened on weekends, which means straight overtime.
- The increased regulations on the chemicals, or what some people call “salt,” that are used during ice storms have also skyrocketed. The cost for this chemical is up 6% and we have been using more of it than usual this winter, because of the constant temperature changes that have caused repeated freezing and melting cycles.
- After the storm last night, we will have spent $1 million in snow removal, and it’s not even March 1. We have seen 25 inches more snow this year than the average—and we still have four weeks to go. We usually average about a foot of snow from February 20 to March 20. That could put us potentially at a half-million dollar snow deficit above the budgeted average. Why is that a big problem? We certainly understand that sometimes we are going to go above average, maybe $100,000 or $200,000, but half a million dollars is an extremely large number.
- To put it simply, when we create next year’s operational budget, in which the City of Melrose will bring in about a million dollars in new revenue, the deficit, which we estimate at $300,000 to $500,000, will have to come off the top of that. This is a major blow to our ability to fund programming, be it public schools or anything else.
- Coupled with that, according to the Governor’s budget, Melrose will only see a net increase of $6,200 in state aid. With revenues significantly over last year’s numbers in the state, this lack of revenue sharing with localities, which are dependent on this assistance, due to Proposition 2 1/2, is outrageous.
We will attempt to narrow the deficit in this fiscal year, but with the budget two-thirds done, the options are limited. Nonetheless, we will try. Our hope is that it will stop snowing, but obviously we cannot decrease snow removal services. We will, as we did last night, use mainly in-house staff, which may mean that we take more time to clean up after a storm. These tactics might be utilized, say, on a Sunday morning, or a weekend, when there is less traffic. But what needs to be noted is that the economic structure of Melrose, which is 96-97% residential, coupled with stagnant state aid and decreasing federal aid, leaves us terribly susceptible to these forces of nature at no fault of our own, and raises the risk of real negative impacts on core services that are critical and enrich our community. Unfortunately, that’s where we are today, on February 19, 2014.
Here are some facts about snow removal this winter:
Cost per inch of snow removal:
- 2011-12: $11,950
- 2012-13: $11,200 (big benefit from blizzard 29” all in one storm)
- 2013-14: $12,800
40% of expenditures are chemicals & fuel .. up from 34% in 2012-13 .. again, see reasons above
35% of the budget are contractual expenses. Slightly down from 2012-13 (39%) and 2011-12 (47%)
The snow is very heavy right now, and visibility is low. Our equipment is out but rush hour is going to be treacherous. Please be patient, take your time and use caution, especially on hills. The storm should be out of here by 7:00.
We have not declared a parking ban, but please try to avoid parking on the street if possible.
All questions should be directed to the Snow Operations Center, 781-665-0142.
Yes, it’s snowing again, but we anticipate that the snow will end between 5 and 6 p.m., so at this point we are not declaring a parking ban. However, it would be helpful if anyone who has an alternative could avoid parking on the street.
As always, call the DPW Operations Center at 781-665-0142 with any snow-related problems or questions.
More recognition for our Melrose High School in an article about the MassCore course of study, which is recommended by the state and increases requirements for mathematics, English, science, social studies, plus a foreign language.
The Melrose Public School district just north of Boston was among the first to make the MassCore course of study a requirement. “We’re asking more of students,” said Margaret Adams, the district’s chief academic officer. “If we help and support them and give them the tools to be successful, they rise to the occasion every time.”
A major winter storm is predicted for this evening that will be very harsh and quick.
- A snow emergency has been called for 4 p.m. today. We are asking people to remain in their houses unless necessary tonight. Between 4 p.m. and midnight there could be periods of more than 2 inches of snow per hour and whiteout conditions. If this were to happen, there is the possibility that people will be temporarily stranded or will not be able to see while driving. Please use extreme caution and only drive when necessary during these hours.
- A total on-street parking ban has been called for 9 p.m. this evening. That will allow DPW staff to clear the roads. The parking ban and the snow emergency will end at 8 a.m. tomorrow. This is due to the fact that the snow and the storm should move out by 2 a.m. We will have crews and all pieces of equipment out all night. The total accumulation will only be up to 8 inches, but it will all come during a 4-8 hour period.
- All Recreation programs scheduled for after 5 p.m. on Saturday are canceled. Kindergarten basketball is canceled on Sunday.
- If you have any snow-related problems or questions, please call the DPW’s Snow Operations Center at 781-665-0142. It will be staffed overnight and through Sunday morning.
Tired of the snow? Get out of the house for Melrose Kids Club, tomorrow from 10-11 a.m. That’s right: Kids Club is on tomorrow, so bring your preschool-age children to Memorial Hall for an hour of music and fun with children’s entertainer Marcus Gale.
We are expecting high winds and ice this evening, which means there is a risk that power lines may go down.
For power outages, please contact the Storm Operations Center at 781-665-0142.
Verizon’s critical number is 800-446-8946.
Comcast’s critical number is 800-556-9979 (select option 3).
All plows are out. Please use extreme caution. The forecast at this time predicts that this storm will turn to rain, but we are right on the snow/rain line and that may not happen.
We will have a city-wide on-street parking ban beginning at 8 p.m.
There will be no school or recreation activities this evening, and the library will not be open this evening.
Would you like to win an iPad? Shop in Melrose during February and be eligible to win the hot Apple product, the iPad. Sponsored by the Melrose Chamber of Commerce Merchants’ Group, this event encourages people to shop locally from February 1st –February 28th. Every time you make a purchase of $25 or more at a participating Chamber of Commerce retailer, you can enter. The more you shop in Melrose from February 1st –February 28th, the better your chances of winning an iPad!
Some of our participating retailers include: Hourglass, Miter Biter, Sweet Thoughts, Melrose Oriental Rug, Morgan Jewelers, Sit n Knit, Tradewinds, Marathon Sports, RADA Boutique, Lilah-Rose, Hunt Photo and Video, Montvale Tire, Dorothy’s Lane, The Cellar Fine Wine, Pepperberry Florist and Gifts and Madison Ave of Melrose. For a complete list of participants, visit www.melrosechamber.org.
The winner will be contacted in early March.
Have a “Titanic” Experience for a Worthy Cause on March 1
The Davis Square Theatre
Special performance of new Irish play Jimmy Titanic
to benefit Melrose Education Foundation
MELROSE (February 3, 2014) – Calling all theatre, history, and Irish culture buffs: Come experience the story of the Titanic like you never have before!
Tir Na Theatre’s Jimmy Titanic, an Irish take on the building – and sinking of – “the wonder ship” is staging a special performance at The Davis Square Theatre in Somerville on Saturday, March 1 to benefit the Melrose Education Foundation. Tickets for the play are $20, and all proceeds will benefit the Foundation’s grants program for Melrose educators.
Jimmy Titanic is a unique and, at times, hilarious take on the story of the greatest ship ever built, peppered with historical facts you haven’t heard. Having gone down with the ship he helped to build in a Belfast shipyard, the play’s Jimmy Boylan has rock star status in heaven and a direct line to an unlikely God. The play is performed as a fast-paced, one-man show with actor Colin Hamell playing more than twenty different roles, including a chain-smoking God; a swindling Archangel Gabrielle; wealthy first-class passengers and the immigrants traveling below them in steerage; and the Belfast mayor desperate to protect the reputation of Belfast workmanship and the local economy.
Set between Heaven and the ship, Jimmy Titanic follows the story of Jimmy and a mix of other characters who Hamell brings to life masterfully, switching “effortlessly from comedy to drama,” says Boston Edge.
“I’m happy to support the Melrose Education Foundation and its mission of supporting educators, including arts educators,” said Colin Hamell, artistic director of Tir Na Theatre and star of the show. Hamell’s wife is a public school teacher and he has family in the Melrose public school district.
“We’re thrilled by the generosity of Tir Na Theatre for donating proceeds of the March 1 performance to our Foundation,” said Foundation Board Member Elizabeth Christopher, who saw the play last year during its inaugural run. “I was completely absorbed not only by the powerful performance but by the historical details about everything from the people who built and travelled on the ship to the publicity about its sinking,” she said.
Produced by Boston’s Tir Na Theatre company, Jimmy Titanic premiered in 2012 in New York and has run in Boston, Philadelphia, and Belfast. It is set to run in Dublin and New York this spring.
Order your tickets today to the March 1 performance of Jimmy Titanic to benefit the Melrose Education Foundation by visiting http://www.MelroseEdFoundation.org.