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Shrinking the city’s growing budget gap

By Jeremiah Davis
Published: December 2008

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In efforts to shrink the city of Newton’s expanding budget deficit, the Citizen Advisory Group presented a report that highlights the city’s financial problems and presents a list of possible solutions to the crisis on November 19.

“Expenses are rising faster than the amount of revenue we can bring in as a city, Alderman Amy Sangiolo said.

Alderman Jay Harney points to Newton North as one of the main contributing factors.

“In the long run, Newton North is definitely having an effect on this. A lot more money [went into North] than we ever should have paid, he said.

In addition, there have been major issues with the city property tax, one of the leading sources of municipal income.  The city gains only seven percent of its revenue from what are deemed “controllable local fees such as parking meter tolls and building permits.

The majority of the remaining revenue comes from property taxes, which are hindered from rising quickly by Proposition 2 1/2. With city expenses constantly rising, this does not provide enough revenue to meet needs.

This budget plan is part of a set of recommendations that has been made to help diminish the gap. First is a price for each unit of trash thrown out by a household’s residents, which will be paid directly to the waste disposal services.

Parking meters are also predicted to help by increasing the rates by 25 cents per hour, increasing the number of meters, lengthening the operating hours, and changing employee/commuter parking policies.

The third recommendation is putting more effort into making sure construction costs are reported correctly and raising building permit fees.

Recreational, community education, and cultural programs will be condensed into one department,and user fees are increased.

An increase in leasing municipal properties will also lead to a greater income via cell tower rental. The sixth recommendation is using a grant writer to increase private donations to the public school system and the city. Municipal properties that are not being used adequately will be sold or leased. The last recommendation is to work out payments and services in lieu of taxes from colleges and hospitals.

“The plan is to have programs with increasing budgets pay for themselves and their staff, Sangiolo said

Even with such drastic changes to minimize costs and raise revenue implemented, the gap between costs and revenue will not be fully closed. This will affect education and Salzer expects more cuts this year at South

He believes the city should pay off the budget issues because it is too much to ask parents to give any more.

“We’ve really maxed out what people can spend to send kids to free public schools¦We can’t put more burden on families, Salzer said.

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