Focus on Melrose: Sound Debt Management

This may seem surprising, but debt is good. Or rather, some debt is good.

The cost of the work that must be done to maintain our community—repairing and replacing water pipes, paving roads, renovating older buildings, building new schools—is beyond the scope of the general operating budget to absorb all at one time. Borrowing enables us to do the infrastructure work we need to do when it needs to be done. Conversely, a community with no debt is a community that is not investing in itself. Just as you invest in your home—fixing things when they break, doing maintenance so they last longer and work better, replacing the roof or the fuse box when necessary—we must constantly invest in the City of Melrose.

The key is careful debt management: If it’s bad to have no debt, it’s worse to have too much. Just as we have a capital improvement plan, we also have a plan to manage debt, and it relies on two simple principles:

  • We limit the amount of debt so that debt payments amount to no more than 5% of the general operating budget in a given fiscal year.
  • We have structured our debt management plan so that approximately 80% of existing debt will be paid off in 10 years.

The graph above shows this: The lower line is currently bonded debt, and the upper line is borrowing that has been authorized but hasn’t been bonded yet, such as the school modulars.

We plan our capital expenditures so that new debt comes on as older debt is being paid off, so the net effect is that we are not using more than 5% of the operating budget to pay for it. We are replacing existing debt with new debt, rather than simply piling up debt and putting the City’s future on a credit card. This allows us to tend to the City’s current needs while limiting the debt liability for future administrations, allowing them the flexibility to borrow money—or not—without imposing an extra burden on taxpayers.

Melrose Arts Presents Arts in April on April 29 & 30

Melrose Arts will host the 12th Annual “Arts in April Festival” at Memorial Hall in Melrose. This two-day festival is a juried show featuring original fine art and fine craft by 44 artist exhibitors from Melrose and the surrounding area.

Saturday April 29th (10:00am – 5:00pm) and Sunday April 30th (11:00am – 5:00pm)

  • Free Admission during the day on Saturday & Sunday
    • Suggested donation at the door
      • Promotional merchandise available as a thank you to our generous supporters.
  • Enjoy the exhibition at your own pace
  • Take part in the Community Art Project
    • Participate in making a decorative piece that will be displayed at the Melrose Public Library throughout the month of May
  • Face painting, live music, and other family fun
  • Raffle includes gift certificates to local restaurants, free admission to artist demos, Red Sox tickets, and more
  • Food available for purchase from on-site food truck

Where: Memorial Hall, 590 Main Street, Melrose, MA 02176

Who: 44 juried artist exhibitors from Melrose and surrounding areas
Presented by Melrose Arts.

This 12th Annual Juried Show supports Melrose Arts effort to encourage the artistic vibrancy of our community

About Melrose Arts:

We unite artists, arts organizations, patrons, and other enthusiasts of culture to encourage, present and sustain artistic and cultural activities in Melrose for the benefit of its citizens.

The Arts Festival is our most popular and anticipated annual event.

Visit or find us on Facebook at

Commission for Women Presents Panel on Equal Pay

The Melrose Commission for Women is excited to host a discussion panel “Achieving Equal Pay and What You Need to Know” on April 27, 2017 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Melrose High School (360 Lynn Fells Parkway) in the Learning Commons space on the second floor.

Last September, the recently established Melrose Commission for Women sought input from the community at the Victorian Fair for topics of particular importance to women in the community. Understandably, there were inquiries about the new Equal Pay Law which just been signed into law by Governor Baker just months before in August of 2016 and is due to go into effect on July 1, 2018.

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Coalition and MassNOW will bring this panel discussion to us. The proposed topics will include why this new legislation was enacted, what inequities in the workplace prompted this legislation, and what specifics both employers and employees need to know about the new law. Currently scheduled to be on the panel: Katie Donovan, Equal Pay Consultant, AAUW; Elizabeth A. Hart, Executive Director, Tailored for Success, Inc.; a representative from the Attorney General’s Office; and a lawyer from the Women’s Bar Association. We hope that after attending this panel discussion, both employers and employees gain a better understanding of employee rights before the law goes into effect next year.

You may register for the event at

Additional Panels to SAVE the DATE!!!

Women’s Economic Empowerment Series, May 4, 7-9 (Learning Commons) AND May 11, 7-9 (Learning Commons)

The Women’s Economic Empowerment series consists of free educational sessions discussing wage negotiation, money management, retirement, and investment strategies. This event is cosponsored by the MA State Treasurer’s Office and AAUW

Sign up here:

Help Out with the Ell Pond Cleanup on May 6!

The Ell Pond Improvement Council, Inc. is sponsoring its annual restoration and clean up day on Saturday May 6, from 9 am to noon. Start behind the Memorial Knoll, across from the Middle School, and near the pond. Bring your own work gloves. All are welcome to join in the clean up. Young children must be accompanied by an adult. Students needing community service credit should bring the appropriate form with them.

Highlands Congregational Offers Workshop on Racism on April 24

Workshop on Race & White Privilege
I’m a Good Person! Isn’t That Enough?!

Monday, April 24, 2017
7-9 P.M. at Highlands Congregational Church, 355 Franklin Street
*accessible entrance at rear of the building; parking across the street

White privilege? Racism? You’re not talking about me, are you? No, not just you, but everyone in the white community. Irving shares how her own white-skewed belief system enabled her to affirm harmful and tense racial patterns for decades rather than question and dismantle them. Together we will explore white privilege and our own, often subconscious roles in perpetuating racism at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. The workshop includes time for Q&A, reflection and dialog. The event is free, but we request an RSVP for space planning purposes:

Irving is the author of the book, Waking Up White. Her story provides a context that allows white people to quickly grasp modern racism’s inner workings and enter into conversations with new awareness and skill. It’s the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. “When I finally came to understand the way racism worked,” she explains, “I spent a lot of time thinking about what might have enlightened me earlier. I decided it wouldn’t have been an academic book, an essay, or a book from the perspective of a person of color—it would have been another white person describing their own awakening, with some humor, poignancy, and drama in the mix. What I needed was a memoir so irresistible that I would have read it even if racism weren’t on my mind.”

The workshop is offered by the Highlands Congregational Church and the White People Challenging Racism alumni group. The Highlands Church is a progressive Christian community that follows the path of Jesus as we seek to embody his love in the world. The church participates in service and outreach projects and seeks to embody peacemaking in the community. White People Challenging Racism is a workshop offered here in Melrose (and throughout the Boston region) by volunteers to support people in their journey of learning about white privilege, and moving from talk to action.

UU Church Presents Environmental Film Series

Please join us for the first film in the Environmental Justice Film Series presented by Melrose UU Church GreenSanctuary Committee.

Saturday April 22, 2017
7:00 pm
Melrose UU Church
70 West Emerson St. Melrose
Once in a while someone comes along that totally wows you; this is the story of Tim DeChristopher. In 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher committed an act which would redefine patriotism, igniting a spirit of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice. As bidder #70, he bid and saved 22,000 acres of pristine wilderness. No property was destroyed, no one was hurt, and valid concerns were raised over the entire oil and gas leasing process. Bidder 70 centers on an extraordinary, ingenious and effective act of civil disobedience, demanding government and industry accountability. Tim’s commitment to future generations, his evolution as a leader and his willingness to courageously accept the consequences of his action make his a story one that will inspire and motivate a new generation of activists.​​​

Save the date for the following films in our series:
Sat. May 20, 2017 7:00 pm Play Again
Sat. June 17, 2017 7:00 pm Just Eat It

All movies are FREE and Open to the Public

The Flamingos Are Back… for the Melrose Education Foundation!

Support the Melrose Education Foundation!
The spring flocks are flying in: order here!

Here are the details:

Orders will be accepted Sunday, April 9, through Sunday, April 23, and flocks will begin to land on Monday, April 24.

For your tax-deductible donation, you can send a flock of flamingos to a friend or neighbor in Melrose . . . or to your own yard! The flock will land on the lawn and remain there for 24 hours.

You may send a half-a-flock ($25 for 6), full flock ($50 for 12 — looks great in front yard!), or jumbo flock ($100 for 24).

Want to flock a block? If you and your friends order four flocks in the same neighborhood, we will add a free flock and coordinate the deliveries for the same night! Be sure to check the box on the “flock the block” box on the flocking form.

Is it someone’s birthday? You can send a special birthday flock! Just check the box.
Order at: before April 23! Flocks begin landing on April 24!

Celebrate the Arts TONIGHT with the Victoria McLaughlin Foundation

Do you want to support the arts in Melrose Schools? Come on down to Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School tonight, April 13, to Celebrate the Arts!

For the ninth year, the Victoria McLaughlin Foundation will be combining the 2017 Melrose Public School Annual Art Exhibit with the Celebrate the Arts! Evening line-up. From 5 P.M to 8:30 P.M. they will celebrate the achievement in visual and musical arts by Melrose Public School students. The evening will feature artwork by K-12 students and musical performances by the MHS Orchestra, MHS Jazz Band and the Honors Chorus group. Dessert and coffee will be served.

5:00 – 7:00 PM Melrose Public School Annual Art Exhibit
7:00 – 7:45 PM Music Program featuring MHS Orchestra & Chorus
7:45 – 8:30 PM Musical Entertainment featuring MHS Jazz Band & String Quartet

Admission to the event is free for all. Throughout the evening you will have the opportunity to purchase previously selected books for the Victoria McLaughlin Library, participate in raffles and a silent auction, and make a donation to the Victoria McLaughlin Foundation.

The Victoria McLaughlin Foundation has donated tens of thousands of dollars to support arts and library programs in the Melrose Public Schools, as well as Melrose’s Recreation programs. Please come and enjoy the night with family and friends. All are welcome.

Focus on Melrose: Why Our Bond Rating Matters

The chart above shows that Melrose’s bond rating, as assigned by Standard & Poor’s, has risen consistently over the past 13 years, going from a negative outlook in 2003 to AA+ with a positive outlook for the past four years. I am proud that despite the most difficult economic times in recent memory, we have been able to reach and maintain the highest bond rating the City of Melrose has ever had.

We use bonds to fund capital work such as road, water, and school improvements, and that high bond rating has a direct and concrete impact on the people of Melrose:

  • It draws in a pool of investors to bid on the bonds;
  • It increases competition among the bidders, so they will come in with their lowest interest rate; and
  • The lower interest rates free up more money for other projects and funds the existing project at the lowest possible cost.

Who doesn’t hate paying interest? A strong bond rating allows us to borrow money at favorable rates. That’s the bottom line.

It wouldn’t be possible to pay for big projects such as road and school improvements from our yearly operating budget. Bonding allows us to get the money up front and pay it off over 10-20 years—similar to a mortgage or a home equity loan, but with bigger numbers. Where an individual has to shop around for the best deal, though, the bond market does that for us. Institutions bid on the bonds, offering lower interest rates to municipalities that have good financial management and a stable outlook—in other words, cities and towns that are a good risk.

Standard & Poor’s is the premier rating agency for cities and towns. They have a lot of municipal experience, and they do an in-depth analysis of the community’s financial picture to make a determination for the outside world. From their point of view, Melrose is doing a good job of managing its money while providing a high level of services to our residents, and that translates into our excellent bond rating.

New City Hall Artwork Celebrates Melrose’s Diversity

On Tuesday we unveiled a new work of art that has been permanently installed on the first floor of City Hall: A collage of drawings that celebrate the many faces of Melrose, collected by the Human Rights Commission and assembled into a beautiful painting by artists Sara Gravante and Kris Rodolico of Follow Your Art. The drawings that make up the collage were done by members of the Do the Right Thing Club at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, the Social Justice Club at Melrose High School, and the First United Methodist Church, as well as residents at Golden Living. A grant from the Melrose Messina Fund for the Arts helped fund the piece. I want to thank all those who were involved in creating this spectacular work of art, and I encourage you to stop by City Hall and see it for yourself.

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