Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Sunday, December 14, 2014

City's 250th Time Capsule - Suggestions Welcomed

City's 250th Time Capsule - Suggestions Welcomed | Newburyport MA

The City of Newburyport’s 250th Anniversary is far from over. In fact, we’re planning on taking our anniversary well into the future through a community time capsule! This time capsule is meant to be a celebration of all things Newburyport as well as to give an idea of what our City was like during its 250th year.
As residents of Newburyport, we want to know what items you would like to see placed in the time capsule. Do you want to see items included from local organizations like newspapers? Predictions of the future? City Council agendas? Something else? Well, don’t be shy - let us know!
The time capsule is being created by the Newburyport Youth Council. They ask that you email your suggestions to with Time Capsule in the subject line. We will be accepting suggestions for time capsule entries until 4:00 p.m. on January 4th, 2015.
Our 250th Anniversary Time Capsule will remain closed for 50 years and will be reopened on our 300th Anniversary. Information about the closing ceremony will be announced soon. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Local leaders vocal at first hearing on school finance law

The state’s basic school spending standard significantly understates the real cost of educating students, especially in how it accounts for special education, school employee health insurance, and technology.

This was the message from legislators and municipal officials from across the North Shore during a Nov. 17 public hearing in Danvers held by the special state commission established to study school finance law.

Municipal and school officials from the area also told members of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that unfunded mandates and the way that charter schools are funded are hurting local school programs.

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday told commission members that her city was struggling to provide adequate support for schools and had been forced to cut teachers and school staff and programs. The way the state funds charter schools, she said, was hurting her local schools and effectively reduces the state Chapter 70 school aid contribution to the city’s $33 million school budget to less than $2 million.

Amesbury Mayor Ken Gray told commission members that Chapter 70 aid was a shrinking share of school spending in his city and that unfunded mandates are a problem. Amesbury, he said, has also been forced to cut local school programs.

According to David Tobin, representing the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, actual local spending on schools under Chapter 70 totaled $11.7 billion in fiscal 2014, more than $2 billion above the “foundation” budget standard. In written testimony, he said that actual spending on special education and employee benefits and health insurance exceeded the standards for these two cost items by $2.2 billion. The result, he noted, is that adequate funding is not available for the teaching and learning necessary for students and schools to continue to make progress.

The MASS testimony included six recommendations for changes to the foundation budget.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission has scheduled six public hearings across the state, with the next meeting scheduled for Dec. 15 in Somerset. Other meetings are scheduled for Jan. 10 in western Massachusetts, Jan. 24 in central Massachusetts, Feb. 7 on Cape Cod, and March 9 in Boston. Details will be posted on the MMA website as soon as locations are announced.

The MMA website includes a way for local officials to provide comments on school finance issues to MMA staff and Attleboro Mayor and MMA President Kevin Dumas, who serves as the MMA representative on the commission. For the comment form as well as background information, visit

The commission, established by the fiscal 2015 state budget act, is charged with reviewing parts of Chapter 70 school finance law, with a focus on how the “foundation” spending standard is calculated.

At the first meeting of the commission in October, Rep. Alice Peisch, co-chair of the commission and House chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Education, said that analysis should focus on foundation budget “outliers,” where model spending amounts set under state law for different categories are out of line with actual spending in those categories. She mentioned two areas where costs have been growing at unsustainable rates: employee benefits (for both active employee health insurance and retiree benefits) and special education costs.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate chair of the Committee on Education, is the other co-chair of the commission.

The commission is comprised of 21 voting members and a six-member non-voting advisory committee. The commission includes eight legislators and four members of the Executive Branch. There are nine members representing other public education stakeholders, including Mayor Dumas.

• MMA’s Foundation Budget Review Commission resource page
Written by MMA Legislative Director John Robertson

Top-down ‘deficit sharing’ weakens fiscal partnership written by MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith

Gov.-elect Charlie Baker said, “I don’t think the Commonwealth should be cutting local aid halfway through the fiscal year. Cities and towns have built their budgets based on commitments that were made by the Commonwealth, and I think the Commonwealth should honor those commitments.”

Amen, Charlie !!!!


On Nov. 19, outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a plan to impose $65.8 million in immediate mid-year local aid cuts as a central part of his efforts to close a $329 million state budget deficit that was disclosed just two days after the statewide election.

The governor’s plans included legislation to slash fiscal 2015 unrestricted local aid by $25.5 million, and $40.3 million in mid-year reductions to key municipal and school accounts in the state budget, implemented using the governor’s unilateral “9C” budget-cutting powers. Together, these local aid cuts represent 23 percent of the $284.4 million in overall budget reductions sought by the administration.

Coming with virtually no warning, the governor’s cuts are bad news for cities and towns in every corner of the state, and are designed to shift the state’s fiscal problems onto communities in the middle of the fiscal year. This style of top-down deficit sharing is extremely disruptive, especially so late in the year, since communities have no options other than reducing services to their residents or draining all-too-thin reserves, weakening their overall fiscal condition.

The term “deficit sharing” is appropriate – of the 352 budgets in question (351 local and one state), only state government is running a deficit, and the governor’s plan to eliminate the 
Commonwealth deficit relies on shifting an oversized share of the burden onto cities and towns.

While the administration emphasized its decision to propose no reduction in fiscal 2015 Chapter 70 education payments, the plan does include the elimination of $29.6 million in funds that have been promised to reimburse communities for the cost of school transportation, special education programs, charter schools, and other key school accounts. At nearly $30 million, these mid-year 9C cuts are in effect now. Thus, the local aid reductions will certainly be harmful to schools, even if Chapter 70 remains untouched.

Every city, town and school district will be hit with one or more of these immediate 9C budget cuts. In most cases, the cuts will feel much deeper because the reductions are being implemented five months into the fiscal year. For example, with only seven months left in fiscal year 2015, a 10 percent cut in an account will translate into a 17 percent cut from now to the end of the year, and a 50 percent cut in a program will translate into an 85 percent reduction in remaining reimbursements due to cities and towns.

Further, the governor’s proposal to cut Unrestricted General Government Aid by $25.5 million would certainly hit both local schools and municipal services, because cities and towns use much of their local aid to fund local education budgets.

But the very good news is that before the ink was dry on the Patrick administration’s legislative submission to cut $25.5 million from unrestricted local aid, top lawmakers in the House and Senate, and Gov.-elect Charlie Baker, announced their strong opposition. Because UGGA funding cannot be reduced unless the Legislature passes a budget measure to do so, the $25.5 million cut is a non-starter at the State House.

Cities and towns can take heart in the immediate reaction of top state officials.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said “understanding the vital role cities and towns play in providing services and jobs, I will not support a reduction of unrestricted local aid. Local aid is integral to helping municipalities accurately assess and plan their budgets so they can contribute to the overall growth of the Commonwealth’s economy.”

Gov.-elect Charlie Baker said, “I don’t think the Commonwealth should be cutting local aid halfway through the fiscal year. Cities and towns have built their budgets based on commitments that were made by the Commonwealth, and I think the Commonwealth should honor those commitments.”

Perhaps the largest task that legislative leaders and the new governor must confront during the transition to next year is identifying the full nature of the fiscal 2015 state budget shortfall. 

With the exception of a $70 million revenue loss caused by an automatic cut in the state income tax rate from 5.2 percent to 5.15 percent (which really should have been anticipated), the state deficit is mostly the result of administrative and budget management issues at the state level, largely from the announcement that non-tax revenues are running $175 million short. But there has been no public disclosure of what is in the $175 million and why the state is failing to collect the funds. Further, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is expressing concern that the deficit could be larger, due to a $100 million deficit at the state’s Group Insurance Commission, uncertain Medicaid expenditures, and questions over federal reimbursements, and other very large budget exposures.

Local leaders look forward to being deeply involved in the new Legislature’s and administration’s budget deliberations, both for fiscal 2015 and in the development of the fiscal 2016 state budget. Communities are seeking a stronger fiscal partnership, and this requires collaboration, communication and a shared stake in the outcomes.

Deficit sharing is not a sound or sustainable solution to the state’s budget woes. Indeed, the real solution is for the state and localities to work together as partners to provide the municipal and school services that are essential to building a strong economy, and to recognize that each level of government has a powerful role to play in creating a stronger future for Massachusetts.

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 9th Special Election for Field Project Funding

The City is holding a special election on Tuesday December 9th. There is one question on the ballot.  This referendum question is required to approve the use of $1.7M in surplus funds from the Bresnahan Elementary School project to be reallocated to build a baseball field at the Nock-Molin, replacing the one that was displaced from the Bresnahan site, and to repair the athletic facilities, including the track, at Fuller Field. 
It is important to note that if this funding is approved, the total debt exclusion cost for the school projects and these fields is still set to come in approximately $1.5M under budget from what was projected back in June 2012.  A summary of the tax impact of the initial debt exclusions for the two schools and Senior/Community Center projects as well as the potential impact of the debt exclusion for these two field projects is below.
A YES vote means that you support this use of funding for improving the capacity and quality of athletic fields at the Nock-Molin and Fuller facilities.
A NO vote means that you do not approve of this use of funding for these purposes.
The City held a public meeting on Tuesday December 2nd at 6:30pm in City Hall Auditorium on City-wide field space needs and the importance of the projects at these two key locations.  The presentation from that meeting is also provided below.
Click ink for more details on this project:

Newburyport Youth Services announces upcoming Winter Movie Nights.

Newburyport Youth Services announces our upcoming Winter Movie Nights on Friday, December 5th and Friday, December 12th from 6:30-8:30pm at the Newburyport Recreation Center, formally the Brown School at 40 Milk Street. 
We are excited to announce that we will be showing the new releases, Muppets Most Wanted on Dec 5th andCaptain America: Winter Soldier on Dec 12th.  This event coincides with the Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Invitation Nights.  Popcorn will be available!  Youth should bring a blanket, pillow or sleeping bag and are also welcome to wear pajamas. 
The event is open to youth in grades 1-5 on Dec 5th and grades 6-8 on Dec 12th and is a drop off event.  Parents need to come inside and sign their child in—please use the gym entrance on Lime Street. Parking for drop off and pick up should not block neighbor’s driveways.  Please use the parking lot and carpool if possible.  We are asking for non-perishable food or monetary donations that will go towards the NYS/NLEC Bag a Turkey Food Drive.  No pre-registration is required.
Newburyport Youth Services is also hosting a dance for 7th and 8th graders on Saturday, December 6th from 7-9pm at the Recreation Center. The dance is free for Drop-In Center members and $5 for everyone else.
If you would like more information about the upcoming events, please call the NYS office at 978-465-4434 or visit us at the Newburyport Recreation Center.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Update on Storey Avenue CVS Project- Historical Committee Meeting Minutes - November 6, 2014

Giena of Newburyport, LLC
79 Storey Avenue, Building 1 - Full Building Demolition
79 Storey Avenue, Building 2 - Full Building Demolition
81 Storey Avenue – Full Building Demolition

Scott James Mitchell described the plans to demolish four structures in a commercially zoned
area and replace them with a drugstore and a gas station with a convenience store. One of the
buildings is less than 75 years old. Linda Smiley asked if the applicants had considered moving the buildings. They responded that they have not been successful in the past with moving

Linda Smiley moved that building #1 at 79 Storey Avenue is historically significant.
Mark Bilodeau seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
Mark Bilodeau moved that building #2 at 79 Storey Avenue is historically significant.
Malcolm Carnwath seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
Malcolm Carnwath moved that 81 Storey Avenue is historically significant. Mark
Bilodeau seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
A site visit will take place on Saturday, November 8 at 9:30 a.m.