Monday, March 30, 2009

Why the teacher's union, (and others) don't trust the Mayor's numbers

Why the teachers (and many others) don't trust Mayor Menino's budget numbers

The city claims that the budget problems we face are due to lower than expected revenue which means we have to cut budgets and lay off teachers and police. However, the numbers seem to show that the mayor is at best grandstanding for political advantage and more likely using our students, teachers and police as poker chips in a high stakes game to skirt the fiscal controls of Proposition 2 1/2 in order to get additional taxing authority for the city without putting an override to a vote.

Consider that the city has three sources of income; property taxes, state aid (including teacher pension reimbursements) and other miscellaneous revenues such as permit fees, parking fines and interest on investments. Taking each one separately:

1) Property taxes are expected to INCREASE by over $60 million next year, exactly as planned a year ago. There is and will be no shortfall in property tax revenues which now represent about 60% of the city's revenues.

2) While the state plans to cut aid by about $60 million, this has been more than offset by stimulus funds (about $30 million so far for schools and police) and other savings/revenues such as the hiring freeze ($10 million), lower fuel costs ($10 million), an extra $5 million payment for jet fuel excise received from the state in 2009 and other wage freezes ($5 million estimated). In addition, due to declining school populations, not the budget crisis, the city is planning to close several schools which should also save millions or even tens of millions of dollars. This doesn't include further cuts in other departments that the mayor has requested. State aid represents about 24% of the city's revenues and based on netting these figures, should be on or even above targeted levels.

3) This means that the entire budget shortfall must be due to a flattening of the city's miscellaneous revenue streams according to the mayor. However, the city only collects $400 million in miscellaneous fees representing a small fraction of the budget. This means that the mayor was either grossly incompentent by assuming these fees would increase by 25%, which doesn't happen even in the best of times or that the mayor expected to collect about $100 million more than he is claiming in these initial projections (which is what has happened on average for the past 5-6 years).

This is not advanced caclulus, it is simple arithmetic. The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald need to take a hard look at the numbers rather than simply report the information handed to them by Mayor Menino's press office. These numbers add up less and less every day.

Hiring freeze savings - Boston Globe, Jan 27, 2009
$10 million for school dept - p. A-13 - bond offering
$5 million for excise (estimated one quarter payment) - p. A-25 - bond offering
Property taxes -
BPS stimulus funds -
BPD stimulus funds -

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