Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mayor obfuscates in response to my call for fiscal responsibility

This week Tom Menino decided to comment a bit on my positions on his absence of foresight and leadership on schools, funding and staffing levels. He has not commented on the fact that he has given away hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer property for free. He clearly is not happy that I have been telling people that we have hired 1200 new employees (7% increase) in the last 5 years and only 200 are cops and 75 are teachers.

From the South End News:

“Menino disagreed with McCrea’s assertions in a statement sent to South End News on Feb. 10.

"I have said and continue to say that education is an absolute priority and protecting classrooms from deep cuts has always been my goal," said Menino. "Unfortunately, we can’t tighten our belts out of this unprecedented global economic crisis, and there is no singular solution to our troubles. I’ve asked the Legislature to give Boston the tools it needs to raise much needed revenue at a local level, and my administration will continue to meet with City unions to negotiate a one-year wage freeze that could protect core services and save hundreds of jobs.

"Superintendent Johnson and I firmly believe in working with students, parents, and families to address the unreasonable transportation costs that put money into the gas tanks of underused school buses rather than classrooms. I am also hopeful that our partners at the federal level will craft a responsible economic recovery plan that prioritizes critical investments in our schools."

Menino spokesperson Nick Martin further addressed McCrea’s statistics in an e-mail Feb. 10, saying he was "not sure what source" McCrea had cited.

"[T]he Boston Municipal Research Bureau put out a report last July showing that between 2004 [and] 2008, BPS hires accounted for approximately 64 percent of new positions," wrote Martin. He also talked about fire fighter hirings.

The Mayor’s spokesman is comparing apples to oranges, an old political trick designed to confuse the issue. I am talking about teachers and police officers, I never once mentioned fire fighters. I also believe actual teachers in the classroom are more important than the multiple bureaucratic layers of administration above them. Before we cut teachers, we need to cut administration.

Here is the report Menino's spokesman is referring to.

And here is the conclusion of the report: “ Conclusion: The escalating growth of Boston’s employee health insurance and pensions costs and projected future benefit expenses are reasons enough to be especially concerned about an increase of 680 positions over the past two years.”

In other words, the report Menino cites already warned him last year that these problems were coming. His response: budget for 142 new hires and pay raises for all his staff!

My research team has additional follow up:

1) The BMRB report cites 16,049 employees in 2004 (city budget records cite 16,048) and the 2009 budget calls for 17,217 employees or an increase of 1,168 employees since 2004 - your quote of a 1200 employee increase (approximately) or 7.3% over 5 years is accurate.

2) Based on the Globe report below, the claim of 200 additional police is accurate - January 1, 2009 article in the Boston Globe

3) The city puts 1/1/2009 teacher headcount at 4,576 in the 2009 budget. The March 2004 "BPS At a Glance" puts the number of teachers in the system for the 2003-2004 school year at 4,488 (general fund only) - a difference of 88. Therefore by a count of 1 teacher, 100 additional teachers would be slightly more accurate than 75 additional teachers if you are citing numbers rounded to the nearest 25.

(Please note that all budgets prior to 2008 have been removed from the city’s website greatly exacerbating the difficulty of performing future budget analysis and cross checking of various versions of the budget which are subject to revision.) Not very transparent of the city!

Menino's spokesman in the SEN article isn't wrong - it's just apples and oranges - he's talking total hires - we are talking about teachers. They've hired a lot of people - but only 100 of them or so are teachers - depending on what numbers you look at. Roughly 650 of the hires in the school dept aren't teachers.

So, I stand corrected. My new statement is as follows:

The Mayor has hired about 1200 people in the last 5 years. 200 are police officers, 100 are teachers. Why are we talking about laying them off? Let’s look at the other 900 staff positions first before we start talking about laying off teachers and eliminating programs.

1 comment:

the zak said...

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