Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Selectmen Endorsement


The Selectmen’s race features incumbent Denis Keohane running for a second term, and David Burnes a newcomer to Milton politics who has never held an elected or appointed position in the town.

Keohane bases his re-election campaign on his experience and his first term record. Burnes points to his years leading the Recreation Departments in Westwood (as Director), and in Boston (as Deputy Director). 

I supported Denis Keohane three years ago because I liked the stands he took and because I thought the incumbent he was running against had not done a good job.  I also thought he would bring a different perspective to the Board of Selectman that would be beneficial.

I didn’t support him because I agreed with him on all the issues facing Milton.  And I have not agreed with every decision he’s made as Selectman. But I think he’s done a good job and makes decisions carefully after listening to all sides. Why do I believe he’s done a good job?

·         He properly identified a less than ideal working environment in certain areas of town government, and with respect to how residents were treated in some cases, and he took action that has improved those situations.

·         He was concerned about the treatment of our first class Chief of Police, especially with regard to a year to year contract process that was unworthy of both his position and his performance. Today he has a three year contract. If you don’t think securing the services of a very effective head of the most important public safety department in town is important, you don’t know Milton

·         He promised progress on the East Milton deck parking effort that had become mired in bureaucracy. We now have a plan to build 32 additional parking spaces on the deck. This will provide needed parking to serve the businesses of our most important commercial district and safeguard the commercial tax revenue we receive from them.

·         He has been a major supporter of Milton Seniors. After some years of administrative contention on the Council on Aging budget, he supported the addition of a part-time Van Driver to handle the burgeoning need of Milton Seniors for transportation services to medical and other appointments.

·         He has supported the move to a Strong Town Administrator, with appropriate safeguards for Board of Selectmen executive authority, a necessary measure to modernize town governance to fit the 21st century.

·         As a past member of the School Committee, he is conversant in the needs of the Milton Public Schools and their budget is a strong supporter of the schools, based on actual actions as an elected official.

·         Denis is world class at constituent services. He’s available virtually all the time, answering resident questions by phone, email and text message. He listens and tells residents whether he thinks their concerns are correct and takes action in appropriate cases.

Given these accomplishments, I was frankly surprised when an opponent entered the race. I was curious  to watch the campaign unfold and discover what alternative Mr. Burnes might offer. I must say I haven’t seen much. Mr. Burnes seems to be a very likeable man. He touts his experience at running a very large  department with a budget equal to the Town of Milton’s budget. He must be an able administrator.  And he makes much of his love of Milton, which I don’t doubt, and the fact that he was born and raised here.

However, when it comes to experience appropriate to serving on the Milton Board of Selectman, Denis Keohane is clearly the most qualified. Running a large department in the City of Boston is not the same as serving as one of the Chief Executives of Milton. The latter involves a much broader role in areas like Public Safety, Public Works, Schools, Budgeting and a myriad of other functions. That’s why it is highly unusual to see a citizen with no elective office experience serve as a Selectman in Milton. In fact it is difficult to find an example of a Selectman in the most recent decades who doesn’t have service in Town Meeting, or Warrant Committee, or School Committee, or other committees of the Town before seeking our highest office. These roles provide invaluable insight into the workings and issues facing the town. 

Yes, David Burnes was born and raised in Milton and Denis Keohane was not. I‘ve never felt that was much of a criteria for choosing our leaders. The fact is Denis has been a resident of Milton for over 20 years, a longer period of time as an adult than his opponent has spent in Milton, having spent the first decade of this century outside of Milton.

I do not see this as a difficult choice. We have an incumbent who has performed well in his first term and given past history will perform even better in a second term. And we have a promising young man who is an asset to the town, but who is not running for department head, or Town Administrator, but one of our Chief Executives. I hope David Burnes will involve himself as a Town Meeting member, or Warrant Committee member; and I suspect I might be supporting him at some point in the future.

I ask you to support Denis Keohane in his re-election bid as Selectman of the Town of Milton.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Comparable Library Expenditures


Library Expenditures – Comparable Communities

This data comes from the Massachusetts Bureau of Library Commissioners. It is for 2013. Total expenditures include both appropriated municipal income and income from other sources.  Ranking is by total expenditures, with per capita expenditures presented as well.

 

Town------------------------------------Total Expenditures------------Per Capita

Belmont----------------------------------$1,989,724------------------------80.46

Hingham----------------------------------$1,680,438-----------------------75.84

Westford---------------------------------$1,552,182---------------------- 70.71

Needham--------------------------------$1,493,521------------------------51.70

Reading----------------------------------$1,380,748-------------------------55.79

Milton------------------------------------$1,200,109-------------------------44.44

Westwood------------------------------$1,045,491--------------------------71.52

Scituate----------------------------------$ 986,376---------------------------54.46

Westborough---------------------------$ 961,869---------------------------52.64

Sharon------------------------------------$ 927,826---------------------------52.68

North Andover--------------------------$ 859,981---------------------------30.33

Walpole-----------------------------------$ 785,390---------------------------32.63

Holliston----------------------------------$ 467,064---------------------------34.48

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Comparable Communities Financial Data

 

I apologize for not posting in quite some time.  I hope to be able to post more regularly in the immediate future.

The Board of Selectman and the Warrant Committee have committed to the need for an operational override next spring to fund town-wide operational budgets. This would be the first override of this type in 7 years. That being the case, it seems like a good time to look at some financial comparisons between Milton and comparable communities – data I’ve posted on at least two prior occasions, the last in 2009. You can learn about the criteria for selecting comparable towns here:


Average Single Family Tax Bill, Rank Order 

Town---------------------------------------Tax Bill

Belmont-----------------------------------$10,983

Westwood--------------------------------$ 9,999

Sharon-------------------------------------$ 9,617

Needham---------------------------------$ 9,240

Hingham----------------------------------$ 8,697

Westborough----------------------------$ 8,045

Milton-------------------------------------$ 7,880

Westford---------------------------------$ 7,543

Holliston---------------------------------$ 7,495

North Andover-------------------------$ 6,851

Reading----------------------------------$ 6,824

Walpole---------------------------------$ 6,693

Scituate---------------------------------$ 6,454 

Median Family Income

Town-----------------------------------------Income 

Needham-----------------------------------$160,644

Westwood----------------------------------$157,656

Sharon---------------------------------------$143,630

Hingham------------------------------------$142,820

Westford------------------------------------$137,240

Belmont-------------------------------------$135,676

Milton---------------------------------------$133,446

Holliston-------------------------------------$130,647

Westborough------------------------------$126,902

Reading-------------------------------------$122,512

North Andover----------------------------$121,414

Scituate-------------------------------------$117,457

Walpole-------------------------------------$109,206 

Tax As A Percentage of Income

Town----------------------------------------% of Income 

Belmont---------------------------------------8.1

Sharon-----------------------------------------6.7

Westwood------------------------------------6.3

Hingham---------------------------------------6.1

Walpole----------------------------------------6.1

Milton------------------------------------------5.9

Needham-------------------------------------5.8

Holliston--------------------------------------5.7

Reading---------------------------------------5.6

North Andover------------------------------5.6

Westford-------------------------------------5.5

Scituate---------------------------------------5.5 

Non-Residential Assessed Value 

Town------------------------------------------% 

Westborough------------------------------35.5

Westford------------------------------------15.3

Needham*----------------------------------13.7

Walpole*------------------------------------13.6

Hingham------------------------------------12.8

North Andover*---------------------------12.8

Westwood*---------------------------------12.5

Holliston------------------------------------12.5

Reading---------------------------------------8.6

Sharon----------------------------------------7.1

Belmont--------------------------------------5.6

Scituate---------------------------------------4.5

Milton*---------------------------------------3.9

*Towns with split tax rates 

Municipal Revenue Growth Factor –MGRF measures annual growth rates of revenues. 

Town---------------------------------MRGF Avg./2011-2015

Needham------------------------------------4.54

Westford-------------------------------------4.50

Westborough-------------------------------4.49

Hingham-------------------------------------3.80

Walpole--------------------------------------3.63

Sharon----------------------------------------3.50

Westwood-----------------------------------3.46

Belmont--------------------------------------3.27

North Andover----------------------------- 3.24

Holliston----------------------------------- --3.19

Scituate---------------------------------------2.90

Milton-----------------------------------------2.65

Reading---------------------------------------2.61 

Expenditures By Major Segments 

Education 

Town-------------------------------------------% Budget 

Holliston----------------------------------------59.04

Sharon-------------------------------------------58.60

North Andover---------------------------------55.19

Westford----------------------------------------54.17

Westwood--------------------------------------52.95

Scituate------------------------------------------52.84

Westborough-----------------------------------51.76

Belmont------------------------------------------51.71

Walpole------------------------------------------51.31

Milton--------------------------------------------50.90

Needham----------------------------------------49.61

Reading------------------------------------------48.61

Hingham-----------------------------------------48.45 

Police 

Town----------------------------------------------% Budget 

Milton-----------------------------------------------8.74

Belmont---------------------------------------------7.49

Walpole---------------------------------------------6.12

Scituate---------------------------------------------6.07

North Andover------------------------------------6.05

Reading---------------------------------------------6.00

Hingham--------------------------------------------5.92

Sharon-----------------------------------------------5.29

Westford--------------------------------------------5.29

Hollliston--------------------------------------------4.82

Westwood------------------------------------------4.76

Needham-------------------------------------------4.32

Westborough--------------------------------------3.39 

Fire 

Town----------------------------------------------%Budget 

Scituate---------------------------------------------7.14

Milton-----------------------------------------------6.78

North Andover------------------------------------6.56

Hingham--------------------------------------------6.23

Belmont---------------------------------------------5.98

Needham-------------------------------------------5.48

Reading---------------------------------------------5.24

Walpole---------------------------------------------4.79

Westborough--------------------------------------4.67

Westwood------------------------------------------4.50

Sharon-----------------------------------------------4.26

Westford--------------------------------------------3.45

Holliston---------------------------------------------1.45 

Public Works 

Town-----------------------------------------------% Budget 

Reading----------------------------------------------8.23

Milton------------------------------------------------7.14

Scituate----------------------------------------------7.04

Belmont----------------------------------------------6.92

North Andover-------------------------------------6.60

Walpole----------------------------------------------6.26

Holliston---------------------------------------------5.94

Hingham---------------------------------------------5.92

Westwood------------------------------------------5.84

Westford--------------------------------------------5.41

Sharon-----------------------------------------------5.31

Westborough--------------------------------------4.77

Needham-------------------------------------------3.71 

Debt Service 

Town----------------------------------------------% Budget 

Sharon-----------------------------------------------12.73

Westborough--------------------------------------12.72

Holliston--------------------------------------------10.83

North Andover-------------------------------------9.02

Hingham---------------------------------------------8.51

Needham--------------------------------------------8.34

Westford--------------------------------------------8.33

Westwood-----------------------------------------7.55

Belmont--------------------------------------------6.94

Reading---------------------------------------------5.82

Milton-----------------------------------------------5.67

Walpole---------------------------------------------3.59

Scituate---------------------------------------------3.44 

Expenditures Per Capita –A rough approximation of the amount of services provided 

Town--------------------------------------------Exp. Per Capita 

Westwood----------------------------------------$4544

Westborough------------------------------------$4383

Westford------------------------------------------$3889

Needham------------------------------------------$3856

Hingham-------------------------------------------$3640

Holliston-------------------------------------------$3552

Sharon---------------------------------------------$3521

Scituate--------------------------------------------$3250

Reading--------------------------------------------$3085

Milton----------------------------------------------$3053

Belmont--------------------------------------------$3000

Walpole--------------------------------------------$2980

North Andover-----------------------------------$2471 

Free Cash Balances – FY2014 Ranked by % of Budget 

Town-----------------------Amount--------------% Budget

Hingham--------------$6,169,000------------------13.85

Reading---------------$ 7,584,000------------------8.03

Westford-------------$7,697,000-------------------7.36

Needham-------------$10,133,000-----------------6.53

Walpole---------------$ 5,353,000------------------6.04

Westwood-----------$ 3,806,000-------------------4.83

Westborough-------$ 3,891,000-------------------3.99

Scituate-------------- $ 2,813,000-------------------3.65

North Andover------$ 2,462,000-------------------2.57

Holliston--------------$ 1,358,000-------------------2.24

Milton-----------------$ 2,005,000-------------------2.04

Sharon----------------($335,339)---------------------(.43) 

Stabilization Fund – Rank by % of Budget 

Town--------------------Amount------------------% Budget 

Holliston---------------$3,969,000-------------------6.56

North Andover-------$3,773,000-------------------3.94

Needham--------------$5,955,000-------------------3.84

Westford--------------$3,670,000--------------------3.51

Milton------------------$3,233,000--------------------3.29

Westwood-----------$2,546,000---------------------3.51

Scituate---------------$2,161,000---------------------2.80

Westborough------- $2,236,000---------------------2.29

Walpole---------------$1,561,000---------------------1.76

Belmont-------------- $   250,575---------------------.23

Sharon----------------$    100,378---------------------.13

Hingham---------------------0-----------------------------0

Reading----------------------0-----------------------------0 

Comments

Milton’s average single family tax bill, Median Family Income, and the average tax bill as a percentage of income remain in the middle of the pack as they did 6 years ago. We moved from 8th to 7th in tax bill and income, while moving from 7th to 6th in tax burden. 

The percentage of our assessed value remains the lowest of the 13 communities, at 3.9%  The share of property taxes from commercial is higher because Milton, like 4 other communities on the list, has a split tax rate, charging a higher rate for commercial than for residential.

Our annual growth in revenues, as measured by the MRGF is 12th out of 13 communities. At a five year average of 2.65 % it barely exceeds the 2.5% permitted under Proposition 2 ½ and reflects a systemic revenue problem that can only be addressed by periodic overrides.

Major budget segment allocations show some changes since 2009.

·         The school spending allocation increased almost 5 percentage points to 50.9% of the budget moving Milton from last in rankings to number 10.

·         Police and Fire allocations remained at (Police) or near (Fire) the top of rankings. Fire moved up from 5th to 2nd.

·         Public Works increased from 5.96% of expenditures to 7.14%, boosting our ranking from 5th to 2nd.

·         The cost of debt service remains low, at 5.67% of budget, ranking 11th among the towns and below the state wide average of 6.96%

·         Expenditures per capita provides a rough approximation of the level of services provided by the town.  Milton remains at 10th in ranking, with expenditures of $3053 per person, almost $1500 per person less than the number one town, Westwood.

Milton’s Free Cash balance for FY 2014 ranked 12th out of the 13 communities, as a percentage of budget.  At 2.04% we remain short of the Department of Revenue’s suggested range of 3-5% of budget.  It has only been in recent years that we’ve begun to generate Free Cash in any substantial amount and taxpayers need to understand that the existence of $2 million in Free Cash doesn’t mean we can avoid overrides. Such balances are necessary to fund expenditures such as Capital items, and as a source of contributions to the Stabilization Fund.

And our Stabilization Fund has $3,233,360 in it (FY2014) which as a percentage of our budget ranks us 5th among the towns. Some towns with very large Free Cash balances have little or no balance in the Stabilization Fund, such as Hingham, Reading, and Sharon.

Between these two funds we have 5.33% in reserves which meets the DOR’s recommended range of 5-7%.