Budget Spotlight: Full-day kindergarten for all children

Tonight, the Board of Aldermen will discuss an appropriation of $594,000 to fully fund all-day kindergarten in the Melrose Public Schools.

Every child in Melrose should have the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten. Children who attend a full-day program are better prepared for first grade, and I do not want any child to miss out on this essential experience.

Like most communities, we charge a fee for all-day kindergarten, and therefore we only get half the state aid for for those students that we would get if there were no fee. If we offer kindergarten for free, we will receive full aid for those students. The catch is that we have offer full-day kindergarten at no cost to parents for one year before that additional state aid can kick in.

That means a one-time investment of over $500,000. This year, we have an unusual combination of factors that allows us to make that investment: We had almost no snow, which means our spending on snow removal is far below what we expected, and we had an unusually modest increase in health insurance premiums for our employees. In addition, we will be spending somewhat less on capital improvements as we shift to a year of assessment and planning for the future before embarking on new projects. These three factors allow us a one-time opportunity to fully fund kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year, after which these students will become eligible for full state aid under our Chapter 70 formula.

I have received words of support from many of you—including many whose children are past kindergarten age—and I firmly believe that this is the right thing to do for our children. If this passes, Melrose will be the only community among our peers to have accomplished this goal. That is an important investment in our children, our home values, and our community as a whole.


Budget spotlight: Recycling

I hear it all the time: “Why can’t the city do weekly recycling pickups?” The fiscal 2013 budget takes some concrete steps toward making that a reality.

Weekly pickups cost more than biweekly, and we plan to close that gap in a couple of different ways. One is to reduce tonnage, the amount of trash that has to be disposed of. Our solid waste goes to a transfer station and then to an incinerator, and we pay for it by the ton. If you throw out less trash, we pay less tonnage. So we will be looking at ways to reduce the amount of solid waste in the system.

One way to do that is to use less to begin with. That has been a trend in our society, with less packaging and more reusable items, that I hope will continue. That comes down to individual decisions.

The other piece is increasing recycling, and that’s where we can help. Our goal is to make recycling in Melrose as easy and straightforward as possible. It shouldn’t be a chore. Our new Recycling Coordinator, Jessie Schmitt, is working on some neighborhood education campaigns, and she is having special recycling days throughout the year so people can dispose of things they can’t put in their regular recycling. In May we will be shredding paper, and in June we will take your used books.

We have already moved toward this goal by removing the requirement that corrugated cardboard be cut into pieces of 2 x 2 feet or less. Now you can simply flatten it and put it out with your other recycling. And glass, metal, and plastic can all go in your bin. In addition, when Fiscal 2013 begins, on June 30, we will remove the $5 charge currently assessed for recycling bins.

While Melrose has always been proactive about recycling; we were offering pickup service long before many other cities and towns. Weekly pickups will increase our recycling rate even more, and in the end, everyone will benefit. Recycling is the right thing to do, both for the budget and the environment, and we will work hard to encourage everyone to do it.

By working together, we can reach my goal of moving to weekly recycling within the next 24 months.

Come to the Job Fair on April 25!

On Wednesday, April 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Career Place in Woburn will be holding a multi-industry career fair in Memorial Hall. While the job fair is dedicated in honor of our returning soldiers from the 182nd Infantry Regiment, it is open to the public.

At the same time, our Veterans Service Officer, Ryan McLane, will be overseeing a special benefits fair for veterans in the Aldermanic Chamber here in City Hall. “We are going to have about 10 veterans’ organizations to allow a member of the 182nd or any other vet to have one-on-one time with someone from an agency. We will have field representatives from Dept of Veterans Affairs disability and compensation section, and the health section will be there, so if they have specific questions they can ask. We will also have representatives from UMass Boston and Red Sox Home Base. McLane will also be available to assist with paperwork for welcome home bonuses.

The Career Fair is sponsored by myself, Rep. Paul Brodeur, and the Melrose Veterans Advisory Board.

Come help unveil the Hoover School playground April 11!

Our Parks Department has been working hard to spruce up the Hoover School playground, and everyone is invited to a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at the school.

Here is what we have done:

  • Installed a new irrigation system in the grassy area and the gardens
  • Re-sodded the grass portion of the playground
  • Repaved the inside of the paved portion of the playground
  • Replaced the damaged playground equipment
  • Installed new timbers
  • Rebuilt the retaining wall along Glendower Road
  • Repaved an area within the parking lot and added crosswalks to make it safer for children when they are walking to school

Joan Bell, Nick Gove, and John Scenna have worked hard to make this a great playground for our Hoover students, and with spring well and truly upon us, I’m looking forward to opening it up.