Perhaps my silence on Monday evenings events may have you wondering, “Why doesn’t he mention the meals & lodging tax issues?”
Because the issue is convoluted and can sometimes tax one’s sanity. It’s the same way with History. (As in capital “H”)
One of the biggest mistakes is to look at ancient events through contemporary eyes. Historians spend years analyzing and trying to get into the minds of historical figures to find out why they did things.
That is why the vote to pass the meals tax and to have some go to infrastructure does not thrill me. (50% of the meals tax revenue goes toward sidewalks.)
It has to do with the mayor (referring to any person in that position) and the General Fund.
If you had a personal budget and you found out that a runaway line item was bankrupting you and that you would be held personally responsible by your family and even lose your house if you can’t keep it under control; you might just get a glimmer of what the position of mayor is like in Massachusetts. The General Fund income is composed after the regular local revenue of some state funds – state funds in which no one really knows how much they are getting. These ‘Chapter 70’ funds are suppose to have a mathematical formula but in actuality it’s a bunch of guess work. So right there, if I was in the shoes of the Mayor; I’d be up at night wondering if Newburyport gets a lot or little and how to pay for a possible shortfall.
Add to that health care costs are rising at 10% increases and pension costs are skyrocketing. General insurance costs are rising rapidly, unions (always) want more money regardless of the economy and now you are pacing the floor all night!
We’re talking about a desperate person here!
If any meaningful things are to be done for real infrastructure improvements in this City; we need to make sure that whether it’s revenue apportionments from meals tax surcharges or parking plans are firmly out of the reach of this individual’s hands.
Councilors thought they had a good method by establishing by ordinance a certain fund. They were told it’s illegal. Prove it I say! But regardless, now this account will reside within the General Fund and the Mayor’s office.
Once the smoke and fire die down and other issues come upfront; this whole ‘account’ is going to ‘dissolve’ into the budget process. Did you know that the Sidewalk Maintenance Fund last year had $700,000 plus in it? Enough that major work was done on Ferry Road. Many city councilors didn’t know it had gotten that large and this new account may too be hidden through neglect!
So as for the victory…hurrah. The hard work is to keep an eye on this thing AND TO MAKE SURE IT GETS USED AND THAT THE CITY HAS A SYSTEMATIC PLAN TO SPEND THE MONEY WHERE IT IS DESPERATELY NEEDED!
That battle lies ahead still!