Monday, May 14, 2007

The Clock is Ticking - Let’s Act to Preserve Quality of Life

Jeff Stone
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 11

A Hobson’s Choice is defined as “the necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives.” That is the kind of choice we faced at Town Meeting on May 10th with Article 39 concerning the School Budget for Fiscal Year 2008. Town Meeting Members were forced to choose between two things the town treasures, unfettered educational excellence and fiscal prudence. Fiscal prudence won and there will be less for Milton students next year.

First off, a last-ditch proposal was made to take $300,000 from the town’s Stabilization Fund to partially shore up the depleted School Budget recommendation and avoid some of the inevitable staffing and programmatic cuts. The prudent decision, almost all agreed, was to reject the proposal because raiding the Stabilization Fund for an annual operational budget is bad precedent and would jeopardize our already jittery bond rating.

But raiding the Stabilization Fund was what I was voted for, nonetheless. Not because it is fiscally wise but because I think it has become necessary for this town - us - to give ourselves a swift kick in the posterior about our fiscal condition and get working on some remedies. In that sense, raiding the Stabilization Fund might actually have been fiscally prudent in a backdoor sort of way if it shocked us into doing the serious economic planning process we’ve neglected. We’ve got to get beyond the annual budget crises and override campaigns. We need a dope slap to face our real situation, which the experts call “Structural Deficiency.” Raiding the Stabilization Fund and seeing our bond rating lowered might have been just the shock we needed to get motivated.

On the first day of Town Meeting, the Warrant Committee had given a sobering report on the gathering fiscal storm. The storm seemed offshore but three days later it arrived. The schools will now make cuts in many areas. Eventually the same will happen to police, fire, DPW and other budget areas. We will see gradual - and maybe abrupt - drop-offs in the quality of the services we appreciate.

When it comes to broadening the town’s tax base, Milton’s been acting for years like a snoozing old dog with flies buzzing around its head. We’re going nowhere fast. I don’t have an explanation for this. We have way too much talent, brains, devotion to community, money and influential people in our town to justify the glacial pace in this area. And now we even have a Governor as Paul Vaughan reminded us at Town Meeting. Let’s hope that will help.

Not counting on Deval to rescue us, however, Marion McEttrick talked about several plausible tacks we can take, like reducing town health insurance costs, applying for more state aid and exploring both residential and commercial development. I’d like us to do the latter and do more than explore it. We’ve done enough exploring.

It’s time we take action steps necessary to put out RFPs for developing potential commercial locations scattered throughout town. We need to develop a can-do attitude about this. Milton may wind up looking a bit different with business along Rt. 138, Randolph Ave., Central Ave., Granite Ave and other spots but developments can be sensibly controlled and Milton will still be Milton.

We can’t sell off our chunk of the Blue Hills for revenue, nor should we, but it’s high time to get real and add some commercial tax revenue so we can hopefully avoid a raft of Hobson’s Choices. If our three selectmen and our other superb elected officials, voluntary town committees and town staff provide us with leadership in this matter, I believe that Milton residents will support them.

Senator Brian Joyce and the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA)are bringing to Milton a First-time Homebuyer Workshop. Are you prepared to purchase your first home? Do you know someone thinking about purchasing a home? MAHA can help make dreams come true. Do it right the first time with our award-winning 12-hour first-time homebuyer workshop on Tuesdays, June 5th, 12th, 19th, & 16th, 6 - 9p.m. at St. Mary of the Hills (Lower Church), 29 St. Mary's Rd., Milton. Cost is $35 per person. The certificate provided to participants upon completion of the workshop is required for affordable mortgage products and down payment assistance programs. To register, please visit, or for more information, contact Chava Hassanat 781-636-4000 or


The Milton Library is asking residents to take a five minute survey. Please visit their webite at and answer a few simple questions.


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