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Eagle Tribune nails it with growth of government

December 4, 2015

The North Andover/Lawrence Eagle-Tribune editorial board recently examined a recent Mass. Taxpayers Foundation report that found that property tax revenues across the state rose by 4.1 percent last fiscal year, the largest annual increase since 2010. Overall, total municipal revenues increased by 3.8 percent.

The Eagle-Tribune asks, pointedly, why this skyrocketing revenue still isn’t enough money for our cities and towns, that constantly complain about “fixed” costs in their budgets that prevent them from meeting their spending obligations with existing revenue.

The entire editorial is worth a read, but here are some interesting excerpts from the editorial, titled “Local tax take soars but is still not enough”:

Municipalities claim their revenue growth is insufficient to keep up with “fixed cost” increases.

Many of these “fixed costs” municipal leaders lament are not “fixed” at all but rather salary and benefits increases for municipal employees they themselves negotiated away.
The MTF report states the average salary for a municipal employee grew by 3.7 percent in the first half of fiscal 2015, compared to a 3.3 percent increase in average wages for private sector workers in Massachusetts. Total spending on municipal wages grew by 4.5 percent because of the addition of 2,000 employees.

Yet spending less rarely enters into communities’ fiscal planning. Any such suggestion is met with a panicked outcry about the loss of “essential” services and immediate threats to cut police and fire protection — the municipal services that have the greatest impact on people’s lives.
The only recourse taxpayers have is at the ballot box, by seeking out and electing candidates for municipal government who promise to get local spending under control, who serve the taxpayers and not the municipal employee unions.
Elect candidates who will make those promises, then insist they keep them.

Wow. Wise words indeed. Just 59 days until nomination papers become available for the 2016 town election.

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