Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Not so long ago, in a galaxy right here at home, Lowell had the Massachusetts Department of Revenue breathing down its neck, had gobbled up all its free cash and then some, and had what was effectively a structural deficit. When City Manager Lynch was hired, we were treading water near a very dangerous whirlpool. These budgets were the brainchild of the previous CM and rubberstamped by previous Councils - likely because the budgets were so obfuscated it was hard to tell what you were voting for.
That’s what makes Councilor Rodney Elliot’s comments at the meeting this week that Lynch is “addicted to taxes” so utterly ridiculous. Far from showcasing himself as the fiscal watchdog, Elliot seems to just be fiscally forgetful - and completely blind.
Let’s remember that the property tax increases of the last few years, while not zero, were NOT increased as high as they could have been (the levy limit, and beyond) like so many other struggling communities. Let’s also recall that the mere annual costs of doing business, and delivering the same level of service, go up, not down, and that the level of local aid has been - to say the least - a little rough, despite the state holding the line as best they could. Let’s also take a look at the charts that show the slow closing of the structural deficit, to a point where a negative balance in our free cash account has gone to a pretty impressive positive. Let’s also not forget that our cost of borrowing money has gone down because our fiscal house was put in order, with ratings increases for muni bonds saving us an awful lot of money.
All that could not have been accomplished by ZERO tax increases. Empty rhetoric notwithstanding.
Elliot is ridiculous and his math is sketchy. He constantly pretends he gives a crap about budgets but really, he’s just knee-jerk-reflexively anti-tax no matter the circumstance. That sort of leadership we could live without. I’d say we’re in damn good shape if Lynch is easing off the rather moderate tax increases of the last 5 years. Our budgets are clearer and better defined, and our free cash is once again where it should be. We here in Lowell are set up for a bright future, and if all Elliot can say is “I’ll believe it when I see it” because Lynch’s budget numbers cause him to sputter to come up with a way to be negative, well, he was on the Council back in the bad old days of structural deficits and I don’t remember him being quite so hard hitting back then.
I for one am glad our property taxes have been responsibly managed, that the city keeps on finding ways to become as efficient as possible, and that this year, the property tax increase will be minuscule. But let’s face it, a few tens of dollars extra per quarter for solving our budgetary near-crisis was a small price to pay for sitting pretty in the catbird seat right now. Unlike some people, I have a longer memory and can appreciate where we’re going by looking at where we’ve been before.
Kudos to the city administration for all the hard work - I know it’s a thankless job, but some of us at least understand what you’ve accomplished.
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