Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Budget Update-As usual the Mayor is not being Transparent and Honest(?)

The budget will be the important topic of debate in the near future, as people are facing layoffs, the Dow is dropping, and people are trying to figure out the new dynamic and stimulus coming from Washington.

Tom Menino, who promised to be transparent about the budget process, is not being transparent about the budget process. The president of the teachers union, Richard Stutman has come out publicly saying he doesn't believe the Mayor:

"We're not going to take on face value the city's statement that there's a budget deficit of X, whatever X is," Stutman said. "What the city is doing is putting a creative spin on its inability to find more funding for all of our unions. We believe there is money to be had."

There is other money to be had. Enforce proper PILOT payments, sell parcels of land the Mayor has given away for free worth tens of millions of dollars (Hayward Place, City Hall Plaza, and Winthrop Square garage for example), charge the BRA for its space and its land, stop giving tax breaks to developers, etc.

I, of course, have blogged about how the Mayor is not being transparent about the budget and do not believe his numbers either. The year over year budget is actually going to be up by 11 million dollars. I have asked Lisa Signori's people to tell us how much money we owe and how much money we have and what interest rates we are paying and getting and there was no response, despite her promising an open process. So, 12 days ago I made a public records request directly to the Mayor's office and to date have not received any information back. In two more business days I will report him to the State for not providing this information. This is the lack of openness and transparency that would lead the unions to not believing him that there really is a big budget shortfall.

In addition, the Mayor is going to get around $125 million in Federal Stimulus aid, which is remarkably close to the $140 or so million that the Mayor is claiming we are short. Knowing how to play a bit of a shell game with money, I'm sure the unions can figure out that the Mayor will probably be able to pay all his bills this year. Next year is going to be the REAL problem.

Another shell game the Mayor has been playing for the last few years (since 2005 when he started ratcheting up the rhetoric for the meals tax) has been to claim every spring that there was going to be a budget deficit the next year so that he needed a meals tax increase.

Year------Projected Deficit-----------Surplus (in Millions of dollars)
2004 ----------- 0-----------------------5
2005 -----------52-----------------------8
2006 -----------32----------------------14
2007 -----------23----------------------15
2008 ------------4----------------------16

It doesn't take a genius to see that Menino's cries of "Wolf" have not been honest. If I were the teachers union or any other union, I would ask to see the real numbers and make them available publicly. This is OUR money, not the Mayor's money. This is our budget, we should have these numbers available to us so that we can advocate for the budget priorities we believe in.

As I have stated before, and I will state again: When I am Mayor I will not cut one teaching job from this budget.

The Mayor has added 1200 City Workers in the last 5 years. Only 200 are police officers and 100 are teachers. We need to talk about laying off the other 900 before a single cut gets made to public safety or education.

It is time to post all the available information online so that people can make smart, informed decisions about our collective future.


the zak said...

Ask for City Departments' Annual Reports. Annual Reports, available at City Council offices in printed format have been maintained by the City Messenger. Persevere in enquiring about Annual Reports. Council staff deflect, delay, deny before producing the documents. Older Annual Reports of City Departments are also available in the Government Documents Division at Boston Public Library http://www.bpl.org/research/govdocs or City Archives http://www.orgsites.com/ma/

City Departments' Annual Reports are initially sent to the Mayor's Office as memos. Knowing Boston City Hall records management deficiencies, filing a public records appeal for City Departments' Annual Reports will get a better response, see http://www.sec.state.ma.us/

Rob said...

Kevin, what motivation would Menino have to do this in an election year? It makes no sense to hide money and instead cut popular positions like teachers and police officers when he has to face the voters in the fall. It's tough to buy into your claims of hidden dollars in that regard. Can you identify any motive?

O'Reilly said...

Kevin can you post the list of 900 job titles added in the last 5 years?