Should teachers and town employees get raises next year?

That’s been a hot topic on this blog and elsewhere recently as the town continues to look for ways to trim municipal and school budgets.

All of the town’s major union contracts are under negotiation this year, from teachers, to DPW workers, to police and fire, to the Town House staff. It’s those contracts that will determine whether a large percentage of town employees get raises over the coming years, and if so, how much.

Teachers are expected to vote on their contract on April 5. Selectmen have said they hope to have the rest of the contracts finalized before Town Meeting on April 11. Until the contracts are ratified, we won’t know whether they include provisions for salary increases.

Superintendent Charles Gobron has said that projected personnel costs have already been worked in to the K-8 schools’ proposed $16.7M budget, and when ratified the teachers contract will not result in any additional increase or decrease to the budget.

As he has on this blog, Advisory Committee member John Butler earlier this week challenged the notion that union employees should get raises.

“Contracts should not include raises of any kind, now or for the next few years,” member John Butler said, acknowledging that the town would need to plead its case in arbitration.

“I think we should go to the mat on that,” he said.

At the same meeting, Selectman Bill Boland pointed out that built-in increases for non-union town workers — those under the town’s Salary and Administration Plan — were frozen last year, and he said it would be unfair to do so two years in a row. While they did not get built-in increases, non-union town employees were eligible for merit increases last year.

What do you think? Are you getting a raise this year? Should teachers and town employees get them? Sound off in the comments.

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Al Hamilton
13 years ago

I agree with John’s assessment. For the past 3 years as the economic tsunami surged around the rest of us with layoffs, pay freezes, pay cuts, stubbornly high unemployment, credit crunches and foreclosures our public employees have been blissfully uneffected.

We have given raises for the last 3 years.

To my knowledge there have been no layoffs of any Town employees.

We continue to offer a very generous benefits package, one that long ago disappeared from most of the private sector.

We have not changed the basic terms of employment.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high and the benefits of an economic recovery have not yet be felt in many households in the Commonwealth.

Since most of our employees are union members if we do not offer increases we will ultimately find ourselves in arbitration where the deck will be stacked against us but we should stand firm and take this step.

We have a lot of good people working for us but we need to be honest with them about our ability to meet their salary expectations and their expectations about current and future benefits. If they are not happy with what we can afford to pay there are 100’s who will be happy to take their place.

Pat Q
13 years ago

These dicussions about pay raises vs. freezes should have nothing to do with
being fair (or not) or being deserving (or not) when we are in this kind of economy and facing these kinds of fiscal issues. It is about what this town can afford
and what taxpayers are willing to fork over (yet again). We need to separate the two or we are in trouble come Town Meeting. When I talk about freezing salaries that shouldn’t be confused with bashing or being disrepectful or unappreciative. It is a matter of running a business (town).

“Selectman Bill Boland pointed out that built-in increases for non-union town workers — those under the town’s Salary and Administration Plan — were frozen last year, and he said it would be unfair to do so two years in a row”. Yes, I agree; If the economy were healthy and robust, that would be unfair.

But in this economy and with our town’s budget, that kind of thinking needs to change. I know many people who have NOT gotten a raise 2 years in a row. In fact, I know people without a job……… 2 years in a row. I know people who have accepted lesser paying jobs………2 years in a row. This should be about sustaining this town’s budget and NOT by just asking the town’s people to dig into their pockets.

Mike Hanigan
13 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q


At town meeting, voters will be asked to approve a salary plan submitted by the personnel committee. That includes 3% raises for all non-union employees. I think there aren’t too many employees in that group, but I don’t know the number. I think the feeling is that these people gave up or had their scheduled raise cancelled last year while the police, fire, dpw and teacher unions all received the raises in their contracts.

I agree with you that no town employee should receive a raise this year but the town is legally required to pay the employees the raises in their contracts.

I hope someone at town meeting makes a request that all raises be frozen this year and that any contract for any union that included a raise be voted down.

Your posts are very direct and informative and I appreciate you taking the time to post.

Pat Q
13 years ago
Reply to  Mike Hanigan

Thank you Mike. I appreciate your points. A contract should legally be met by the town; a contract is a contract. You are right. ( I should have re-read the article as it did state they were “built-in increases” ….meaning a contract, correct?).

Your post makes it more apparent then that the town officials and Superintendent should have a heavier hand when it comes to any union or non-union contracts that are up for negotiation at this time. Contracts are usually a 2-4 year deal, correct? So, why would the Superintendent and BOS put us in a position for the next few years to be bound to raises when there is no light at the end of this economic tunnel?

13 years ago
Reply to  Mike Hanigan

I believe it is 19 employees who are not part of a union or under contract.

13 years ago

I know several executives who have been layed off who live in Southborough
2 from UMass Medical
1 from a software company
1 from a chemcial manufacturing company
1 bank branch manager
3 in construction
I have never seen such a broad spectrum of layoffs.
These budget and salary issues are real and the public sector and those who represent them are acting as if the economy is robust and climbing. The economy is flat while Northborough this year increased budgets for core services and reduced taxes. If our neighbors can do this then Southborough with all its very bright residents should be able to resolve this without raising any taxes.

bob a
13 years ago

Out town employees are great!

But lets be realistic.

We are spending more than we can afford now!

It is time for layoffs or paycuts…not raises.

I have put this plan here before

As a town employee if you make

over 100k 15% pay cut
75k-100k 10% pay cut
50k-75k 5% pay cut
less than 50k no pay cut

another option is no pay cuts but lay offs to meet the desired budget number

I have heard the cry about union contracts, so the option would be to accept the new compensation numbers or have your low union man laid off.

Frank Crowell
13 years ago

I wonder how much more teachers and other union employees would take home if they did not pay union dues? Not ever having worked for a union, I have no idea.

13 years ago

I will add my family to Peter’s list of people in Southborough who are currently unemployed. My husband and I are currently both unemployed and have been for 9+ months. We are professionals with advanced degrees. Yes, we live in a nice home and drive nice cars – to the outsider everything looks fine. But we are currently surviving by living off of our savings. We did everything right. We had a six month+ liquid emergency fund, we put 20% down on our house and payed extra toward the principal every month. We contributed the max to our 401(k)’s. We have zero credit card debt.

We can’t afford to eat out, go to the movies, travel, or buy anything except for groceries and gas. We have cut our lives back to the bare minimum needed to pay the required bills and this has been the case now for going on a year. Although grateful for all the blessings we do have, this is a challenging and stressful time for us.

We have always had a household budget and we track our income/expenses weekly. We live within our means – when we had income and now that we don’t. To be asked by the town to give even more money in this tough economic climate is frustrating to say the least. And that frustration has absolutely nothing to do with the high value that we place on town services and education.

Southborough, like my family, needs to live within its means. We need a balanced budget that is based on current tax revenue. One that doesn’t include one time income or the fact that a few people just happened to retire or the notion that people deserve a raise simply because a year has passed. One that doesn’t charge $X for a transfer station sticker, even though that knowingly doesn’t cover the cost of operations. We need a balanced budget grounded in reality and evidence.

I value and appreciate all those who work on behalf of the town of Southborough and our schools. I simply do not have any additional money in my budget to give.

Pat Q
13 years ago


Thank you for being so open and honest about your situation. It is much appreciated and should be read twice by those who want to run business as usual with our town’s
contracts and finances.

I hope things turn around for you both very soon. I’ll be rooting for you!

John Rooney
13 years ago

Mr. Hamilton has said many times that we have an unsustainable business model in town. This accurate pronouncement is reflected in the Wisconsin phenomenon; which, in my opinion, is not an anomoly. An unsustainable business model will never become sustainable again. While Wisconsin may represent the far end of the spectrum, its inertia has spread to WA, FL, NJ, OH, MI, KS, IN, PA and beyond. The common denominator: We are all broke.

The state budget deficit is approximately 2 billion dollars. Revenue growth is not sufficient to close the gap opened by (a) loss of federal stimulus funding; and, (b) continued cost increases. I recently asked our state legislators if they thought local aid from the state would ever return to pre-recession levels; the answer, as expected, was “no.”

Pat Q, I always try to be responsive to questions such as yours.

First, when we started this budget season, I sensed an attitude that people were aiming to present TM with a budget that raised taxes up to the statutory cap. I could never support such an increase, and my suggestion at the time was that if TM was going to be presented with that recommendation, we should propose a budget in excess of the statutory cap and seek an override so as to allow a greater portion of the population to vote. In my mind, a tax increase up to the cap is so significant for so many people that demands a special election.

As we went through the budget season, it appeared that we maybe, and I stress, maybe, could recommend a budget that had a 2% tax increase. It became apparent, in least in my mind, that FY 2012 was not and is not the time to propose a 0% tax increase. Others disagree. They have every right to. Right now, a 0% tax increase imposes reductions that are too severe, too immediate and done arbitrarily. We need to discuss as a town the ramifications of possibly doing away with entire departments and services. That said, I have been clear in my position that all departments need to start preparing right now for a 0% tax increase for FY 2013, especially given that our recommended FY 2012 budget includes the use of a lot of overlay money.

Next, in FY 2010, all town employees in the SAP (Salary Administration Plan) took a 1 % decrease in pay. In FY 2011, all town employees in the SAP had a 0% increase in pay. The Personnel Board has recommended that since it has been 2 years, town employees in the SAP should be entitled, if eligible, to a salary increase in FY 2012. I support the Personnel Board’s recommendation, especially since town employees have been paying 25% of their health care costs for the last three years, which has resulted in a savings to the town of $152,258. Parenthetically, the schools did not go to this 25% payment in FY 2009 as did the rest of the town.

There may be a perception that public-service employees are overpaid in comparison to their private-sector counterparts. That perception is not reality. A Massachusetts study was conducted in September 2010 and notes:

“When state and local government employees are compared to private-sector workers with similar characteristics – particularly when workers are matched by age and education – state and local workers actually earn less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts. On this basis, the wage penalty for state and local government workers in New England is close to 3 percent.” The authors go on to note that “in Massachusetts, the public-sector wage penalty is about 2 percent” This takes into account benefits as well as wages. You can read the entire study at

Despite the study, when salary increases are indifferent to performance and based on longevity, Mr. Hamilton’s surgical accuracy rises to the top – especially when the increases are immutably tied to tax revenue.

Continuing on Pat Q, the town is in the process of negotiating its union contracts. It is not proper for me to comment while these negotiations are ongoing. If the negotiations are concluded without having to resort to arbitration, I will be more than happy to comment on the town’s position in those agreements. The hope is to be able to fully discuss the contracts at TM. Until then, I would respectfully ask that you understand this constraint.

As we approach TM, please know that everyone has tried to come up with a budget that affords residents the services they expect and minimizes the payment increase for those services. The process is far from perfect, but the municipal budgets have been vetted and vetted. One of the checks of our great system is that if you do not agree with your selectman’s recommendations or thought process, you have the ultimate power at the ballot box to effect a change. Change is indeed sometimes a good thing, but having a fully transparent process with a well-informed public is a priority that can never be compromised.

Pat Q
13 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Mr. Rooney,

I very much appreciate you taking the time to respond to my posts. It is quite helpful to residents to hear from town officials especially of matters that are as complicated and delicate as the ones before us.

I guess my angst rears its head when I hear people who have been involved in town
finances, whether from a volunteer or official point of view, admit that the town has a business model that doesn’t support itself, and that “we are all broke” (as you state in your response) like many other towns. In addition, I read your second paragraph explaining the state budget deficit being 2 billion dollars and low revenue growth which cannot support the deficit made worse by loss of federal stimulus funding and raising costs. I hear all this yet, you discuss a town employee salary increase. Naturally, it leads one to a state of frustration.

I applaud that the town employee’s have been paying 25 % of their health care costs for the last 3 years but that is a separate issue from being “entitled or eligible” for a salary increase considering our current financial standing (that you yourself refer to in your post). They are also not entitled because “the schools health care contribution DID NOT go to this 25% payment in FY 2009”. That is also a separate issue (although should be changed). The town employee’s have certainly stepped up to the plate (thank you) and the schools have not.

Regarding the issue of whether public-service employees are overpaid in comparison to their private-sector counterparts; that also has no bearing, in my opinion, on whether they are entitled or eligible for a salary increase at this point in time. To me, the major player here is ……..we cannot afford it. Whether they are or are not being paid the same is irrelevant when you have to ask the town to pay more in taxes to fund those salary increases. In better times the playing field should be made equal but perhaps not now.

Regarding the town currently being in negotiations with its union contracts; I am
fully aware of the confidentiality constraints surrounding these negotiations however, am completely within my rights to voice my opinion of what outcome would be in the best interest of this towns finances. I didn’t expect anyone to divulge what is being discussed but you have to understand the frustration from a tax payer’s point of view when we are bombarded with the reality of our fiscal issues teamed up with a stagnant economy and can only guess at what these contracts will look like and how much we will be asked to pull from our pockets. Voices should be heard at the very least.

We are only in the very early stages of an economic recovery as wages remain
flat and energy costs rise making the cost of daily living even higher. This all continues to put a squeeze on our pay checks (if you have one). Although recent jobs market reports were positive, the percentage of people without work for at least 6 months has increased. The jobs market also doesn’t touch on the fact that many are taking lower paying positions. As someone in an earlier post pointed out, it is not just in one segment of our job force but cuts across many. I only question why we would put ourselves in a position of a binding contract for salary increases in the face of all this.

I do agree with you that a well informed public is a priority and that should never be compromised. The more transparency and the more information, the more people will understand the reasons behind the decisions and the less anger and frustration you will create. Transparency, however, sometimes only comes to the surface when people first pose the questions.

Mike Araujo
13 years ago

John, thanks for the thoughtful post. For the most part I agree with what you’ve said. However… and there is always an “however”, isn’t there ?

The study you base your statement about “the wage penalty for state and local government workers in New England is close to 3 percent’ is co-authored by a noted “progressive” think tank and a UMass group. In my mind, they both have a vested interest in continued out of control funding of the public sector… I can’t say I’d put too much stock in what they report. Perhaps a counterbalancing “study” would have been appropriate ? or at least something from people without “skin in the game” so to speak.

Otherwise, wanted to say I thoroughly enjoy reading your analysis of town issues whether in a blog or in the local papers. Keep up the good work !

John Butler
13 years ago

I am glad to see this lively debate here. If you didn’t attend the Advisory Meeting on Thursday you wouldn’t know how much some people don’t want this conversation to occur. Thursday night, Selectmen Boland and Town Administrator Jean Kitchen tried to shut down my talk about raises for employees. They claim that I shouldn’t be saying these things because the union will claim an unfair labor practice. Note that I am not a party to the negotiation and know nothing about the content of the negotiation except what was said by the negotiators in a public meeting. My view is not focused on the unions. I believe the freeze should be on all compensation, union and non-union.

Here is the problem with no discussion now. Town Meeting has to vote, down or up, on the municipal union contracts. The contracts may be signed only hours before a Town Meeting. Free speech and democratic debate takes some time, not a few days or a few hours. Keeping content secret and suppressing speech until a few hours or days before a vote is the classic way that petty dictators control legislatures. The idea of such a charade is repulsive. I am supposed to advise voters at Town Meeting, and will not be party to such a short circuit of the legal democratic process. Furthermore, since I am not a party to the negotiations, and made no agreement to restrict my speech, I do not give others the right to restrict my speech for me.

A possible solution would be that the Selectmen decide to defer consideration of the contracts at the forthcoming Town Meeting, and schedule a Town Meeting, solely for consideration of the contracts 45 days after the contract is complete. Some deferral of discussion by those of us on Advisory could occur with that subsequent time allowance for open debate. In fact this is the way it should occur.

The substance of the topic of raises has been eloquently stated on this site by Al Hamilton several times. In short, if we keep increasing compensation we will probably keep laying off employees, for the foreseeable future, gradually eviscerating services. The elected executives, Board of Selectmen and School Committee should see this and act to avoid it, but perhaps they have not. The School Committee has more power than the Board of Selectmen in this regard under State law. Their contract does not require Town Meeting approval, so Town Meeting cannot save them from themselves.

A brief look back is in order. When the financial meltdown happened, about two years ago, the town’s union contracts were not up for renegotiation. There was no option to freeze wages unilaterally as that would be a simple abrogation of the contract, which is illegal and wrong. Marlborough tried this and failed promptly in the courts. So, for the most part, during the last two years, we have had ongoing compensation cost increases, with just a few exceptions. These contracts are the first opportunity to take into account the changed economic circumstances of the last two years. Since I don’t believe in freezing the salaries of non-union employees in a way that is not paralleled in union contracts, this is the first opportunity across the board to address economic reality.

This blog is wonderful, but, ultimately, venting here doesn’t get anything accomplished. If you want to address this issue you must go to Town Meeting and vote no on contracts that contain raises. You will be told that you are being impractical, and worse. Imagine what every President has wanted to say to every Congress. That is what you will hear. In this picture you are the Congress, and it is your choice.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

I have know John Butler for about 10 years. We do not always agree on matters of public policy, he is far more liberal than I am, but I have learned that when John speaks we should listen carefully as his analysis and proposals are normally well thought out and carefully considered.
This post is indeed alarming and should serve as a rallying cry for anyone who cares about our democracy and free speech. Let us be clear about what just happened.

John is a member of Advisory with a long and distinguished record of volunteer public service. Advisory is a subcommittee of Town Meeting, our legislature. Each registered voter is a member of that legislature. Neither Town Meeting Nor Advisory is subservient to the Board of Selectmen or any other Executive, Town meeting and its subcommittee Advisory is independent and co equal as the founders intended.

This attempt to stifle free speech and public debate on important public matters is reprehensible. An attempt to silence John is an attempt to silence each and every one of us and should be resisted fiercely.

As we speak, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are risking their lives and some are making the ultimate sacrifice to help others in distant lands enjoy the simple freedoms we take for granted. This action is disrespectful to all who have died to preserve John’s right to speak his mind.

Shame on anyone who does so.

our family
13 years ago

I believe my family is not alone in this town, as seen in Erin’s comments. We are struggling so much with paying our bills. We never go anywhere, we do not support our town businesses, we cannot donate to our church, our electric use is bare bones, our thermostats are as low as we can go, our family meals are basic to sustain us. We have eliminated prescriptions, sold a car, not renewed the cell phone contract, etc, etc. Yet, health insurance raised their rates, fuel oil prices climbed, gas prices go up every day, and grocery items come in smaller packages for the same price. My parents, on their fixed incomes, have no options, either. So I ask you, where is the extra tax money supposed to come from? A few hundred dollars may not seem like much, but it is couple of weeks of groceries that we will have to do without. And no one wants to stand up at Town Meeting to speak of themselves in this way. But there may be hundreds of families in Southborough that feel exactly this way. We will ask our adult children to attend TM with us this year, to vote down the budgets, for the sake of our family.

Pat Q
13 years ago

To “our family”,

You are so correct that many families may be in the same situation as you or close to it. It is a subject that is not easy to stand up and talk about even if anonymously in a post. These are the real situations and the real families the committees in our town need to consider when negotiating contracts and asking for more tax dollars.
Thank you for posting and I wish your family well.

Bill Smillick
13 years ago

One thing I have noticed with certain blogs is that it’s the same people commenting all the time and they have an opinion on everything. You know what they say about opinions! After a while, when you post comment after comment after comment you lose your credibility and the message becomes one very long rant that nobody wants to hear. I have lived in Southborough my entire life. With that being said I will share with the readers some information of my own.

The Advisory COMMITTEE is not a board, they’re not elected officials and they have no official power. They are nine members who are appointed by Town Moderator David Coombs to make recommendations to the voters at Town Meeting. I believe the Advisory COMMITTEE has been advising us very poorly over the last 5-7years. You may have heard in the past at Town Meeting from the blogger who posts something about everything. He advocates the Town to use some, if not all of its money from stabilization, free cash, overlay, reserve, ambulance fund and any other type of account the Town has money in.

These accounts are set up for various reasons such as emergencies, unexpected expenditures and to have money for a rainy day. Instead, we have been taking money out of these accounts just to pay the bills. After a while those accounts will run dry and you’ll need to either curb your spending or find additional income. If the Town had raised taxes back 5-7 years ago we could be in good shape right now with balanced budgets.

All of us are being told again there’s an income problem – we are paying out more than is taken in. The reason we’re in this position is because Advisory foolishly recommended to us at Town Meeting to spend down these accounts and we voted for it. More accurately I should say we bought what our nonstop blogger and others were telling us. I firmly believe if we had raised taxes when the economy was better 5-7 years ago we wouldn’t be in this position right now.

This Town has all new schools and the School Department budget is roughly 70% of the Town’s total budget. The Advisory Committee needs a reality check in a big way…and fast! Advisory is not getting the message – stop listening to the minority and start focusing on what the majority wants!

This blog certainly does not speak for most of us by any means. The lion’s share of the people in this community want great services and high-quality schools. We are tired of hearing the negativity, doom and gloom and the twisting of the truth by a hand full of naysayer’s and one member of Advisory. I suggest they find a new hobby and stop pushing these fairy tales they want you to believe.

For most who reside in Southborough, which is ranked as “#2 in the country for6-figure Towns” and “#31 best places to live” according to CNN – you should be able to afford it. I urge my fellow citizens of Southborough to join me at Town Meeting and vote YES for our schools, our municipal services, our employees and even our proposed splashpad.
Ifyou agree with the philosophy of Mr. Rooney and Mr. Boland, then at town meeting support them by voting the way they suggest. We owe it to our elected officials to support them if you agree. If you don’t you can show it in the ballot box as Mr. Rooney has stated.

I love this Town and want to keep feeling proud about the community. I for one will not cave to the conservative bulling approach. I will use and defend my rights under the Constitution and let the will of the majority decide.

John Butler
13 years ago
Reply to  Bill Smillick

You might want to be prepared by knowing that if you vote YES for the schools, as you shout here, you will be opposing your elected Mr. Boland and Mr. Rooney, who want you to vote NO on the school budget delivered by your elected School Committee. You are somehow going to have to make choices between your elected officials.

There is a detailed analysis of why voters should not have raised their taxes to leave their money on deposit in Town accounts. It is available at as “Cash Reserve Policy”. If you want to engage on the substance, it is all there. You, of course, can advocate for higher taxes merely to leave the money deposited at the Town. I cannot find much justification for doing that. Reasons are all in the document.

Advisory’s job is not to try to understand what the majority wants and say just that. That is useless. By definition the majority already knows that.

I hope that your express love for Town translates to your volunteering for a Town committee. In all seriousness, it often is the case that when people get mad, as you may be, and also love the Town, the Town gains a valuable volunteer. Please show up at meetings, volunteer, and make a sustained difference.

I’m not a conservative, by any means. Occasionally if some analysis comes out in a way that sounds like it, if it seems valid, I’ll stick to it, but my instincts and history are all in the opposite direction. I have supported more use of pubic funds for schools, open space and cultural resources, social services, all the traditional liberal causes, for more decades here than seems possible. I plead guilty however to reading with sympathy the accounts posted here by people who are having a hard time because of the economy. I cannot in good conscience advocate raises for the publicly employed, endlessly, under such circumstances. I cannot deny those taxpayers the information they need to vote for no tax increase if they want, even if it isn’t what I want. Call me conservative for that if you must.

I agree with you that I post too much here, particularly during budget season. That statement does shame me. Rest assured I look forward to the end of budget season as much as anyone, and will enjoy my long vacation from meetings, from spreadsheets and from this space at least as much, apparently, as you will. Until, then, I hope to see you at a meeting.

John Butler
13 years ago

Town Meeting voters will have a choice of “no tax increase” this year as an alternative to a 2% increase. For the average house difference is $160 next year. Advisory Committee will provide this option to Town meeting attendees as its minority report, and if Town Meeting votes in favor of it, there will be no tax increase. If you attend Town Meeting you can pick up this set of budgets at the entrance. Before Town Meeting, if you want to see the no tax increase budget, a draft of it can be found as a pdf or spreadsheet at in the Files section.

Here is the background. At the beginning of the budget review season the Advisory Committee decided to provide to Town Meeting a “no tax increase” set of budgets as well as a set that might require a tax increase. It sent a letter to all department heads and the schools requesting that they submit budgets that have no increase over last year and also a 2% increase over last year, furthermore that they be prepared to describe the impact of each when they met with us. Almost no department heads complied with the “no increase” request. Advisory Committee, after voting for a set of 2% increase budgets a week ago, had the question of what to do about a zero tax increase on the agenda last Thursday.

I urged the Committee stick with its plan to provide a zero tax increase set of budgets for taxpayers who may want that option. If citizens want to rally to come to Town Meeting to vote for no tax increase, they are motivated to do so, knowing that the option will be there. However, a majority of the Committee backed down from its earlier determination. It did not want to have such a set of numbers provided to the Town Meeting voters, only its preferred 2% option. Selectmen and department heads attending the Thursday meeting also urged the Committee not to provide this information to voters. Democracy with real choices seems to make them nervous. The Town Bylaw however provides that Advisory Committee minority positions can also be provided to voters. Therefore, I told the Committee Thursday, that if it will not provide a second choice, I will be providing it as a minority report, to give voters the option, if they want to vote for it.

I have only two strong beliefs about these budget choices that will be before Town Meeting. First, democracy requires real choices. It is too hard to make changes from the floor to achieve large shifts in policy not supported by the “head table.” It is as if democracy consisted of one candidate plus, “write in”; never two candidates. Frankly, if only a few of the anonymous posters to this site who have testified about their personal struggles in these difficult economic times vote in favor this, or believe that someone cares, I will feel that this effort is worthwhile. I don’t understand how someone can read those statements and not support giving these families a substantive choice not to increase their taxes and still call this a democracy. Second, neither choice is wrong. If you want no tax increase, by all means come to Town Meeting and vote for it. You will NOT be being irresponsible. The sky will not fall. You will not be playing Russian roulette. We will still have good schools. You should not allow yourself to be frightened into spending your money. If you want to spend the $160 more and don’t mind committing everyone to doing so, fine. If you don’t, you will have that choice.

John Kendall
13 years ago

I just wonder where the rest of Advisory sits with this? You are the only member who posts quite regularly here so I often wonder if you speak for yourself, the committee. Not trying to be a smart alec, but it would be helpful to see more Advisory Committee member names attached to some of these posts.

John Butler
13 years ago
Reply to  John Kendall

I try to be clear when I am speaking for myself or the committee. At the time of the last vote on this, a majority of the committee did not want to present a no tax increase option to the voters. Two members, myself and one other, felt that we should do so.

I am not in favor of no tax increase, necessarily. But, I believe strongly that voters should have that choice, and have the information they need to vote that way if they want to. John Boiardi who also posts here regularly may want to speak to his views.

John Boiardi
13 years ago
Reply to  John Kendall


The Advisory committee voted 7 to 1 against presenting a zero tax increase budget.

I can only tell you why I “backed down from my earlier determination” After evaluating John Roony’s (BofS Vice Chair) explanation of the affect of further cuts to the municiple and town safety budgets I felt the zero tax increase budget would be too drastic for the town. In my opinion the zero increase would severly cut the town services such as three per shift instead of four firemen, the possibility of not being able to dispatch a second ambulance as quicklly, delayed police response, fewer hours for the library and town house, program cuts for smaller budgets etc. For the schools it meant larger class sizes. For these reasons I voted against presenting a zero tax increase budget. I realize next fiscal year we may be faced with the same situation. Currently stae tax revenues are rebounding and we won’t have to cut further..

Mike Hanigan
13 years ago


If you reread John Butler’s post where he writes “However, a majority of the Committee backed down from its earlier determination” I think he was trying to say that the majority of the committee voted against him :)

The advisory group meetings are now televised and its interesting to watch the quite substantial differences of opinion of the committee, although sometimes it is hard to hear all the voices. Mr. Butler seems to do most of the talking.

When I watched the video from the last meeting, I got the sense the committee objected to Mr. Butler’s request to create a zero budget increase because he was proposing this only a week or so before town meeting and this would not give anyone a chance to analyze the layoffs his plan would cause for the police and fire. Remember, Advisory has been criticized in the Villager this year for failing to give clear direction to the departments on what they want to see in the budgets. Maybe this is more of the same confusion? Again, its hard to hear the details but that’s what I think happened.

I have seen posts on this blog from Advisory member John Bioradi, Mark Ford and former member Al Hamilton but I think that’s all I have seen. I don’t know why the others do not chose to post on this blog but I am glad to see from the videos there appear to be different points of view on the committee. I remember at town meetings where we discussed using up most of the stabilization money (wish we had some this year!), that not everybody on Advisory agreed with Mr. Butler. I don’t know all the people on that committee so I couldn’t tell you who voted which way, but I remember it was definitely not unanimous.

I’m glad to see there are differences of opinion on Advisory. We all benefit from getting different perspectives on that committee.

John Kendall
13 years ago
Reply to  Mike Hanigan

I appreciate what all the members do. It’s lots of work for no pay. This will be my 36th year voting at Town Meeting. I’m betting it’s going to be interesting.

our family
13 years ago

Mr. Butler,
I thank you very much for the respect and consideration that you have given to my view. I value the work that you and all of the Advisory Committee have contributed to the town. Your thoughtful evaluation and recommendation of the proposed 2% budget will make it less painful to me when it passes at TM.

Then I can return home to my “fairy tale” life in this town that I will continue to love, with or without a splashpad

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