I) The Steps we have taken
Eleven weeks ago, we had just settled the lawsuit against Quorum
and used those one time funds to keep our public library open.
Eleven weeks ago, the newspapers were filled with stories that
we would suffer the disgrace of being the first city since Chelsea
in 1990 to be taken over by the State and put into receivership.
Eleven weeks ago, our deficit stood at $4.2 million. Eleven weeks
ago, our situation seemed hopeless.
That was eleven weeks ago.
Look at what we have accomplished today.
A) Steps to cut expenses
1) Reorganization of city government
The Mayor and the city council worked together to reorganize
city government. We merged four departments into one, eliminated
positions at the top, merged our economic development and community
development departments, and in the next year and a half saved
taxpayers of the city over $200,000 in next years budget.
2) Hiring and spending freeze
We instituted a spending and hiring freeze and stopped all nonessential
spending. We refused to fill any position until we were sure
that the person we hired would not be laid off in July. Ive
taken some heat for that: but I would rather take the heat than
have the taxpayers pay the salary and then pay the unemployment
costs for someone we hire and then lay off. I wont do that
to a new hire: and I wont do it to the taxpayers. Partially
because of our actions, this July we will $500,000 in free cash
to apply to next years deficit.
B) Increasing revenues
But just looking cuts has not been enough. The Council and I
have worked together to search for every possible means of increasing
new revenues. Ive been to Boston and spoke with our legislative
delegation. Our legislative delegation, led by State Representative
Brian Dempsey, listened was able to find an additional $500,000
to help us with next years budget deficit. Our delegation
is here this evening, and I want to publicly thank them for their
work on our behalf: State Representative Brian Dempsey, Representative
Harriett Stanley, Representative Barbara LItalien and our
own Senator Steven Baddour.
Then the Council worked with
me to institute a tax amnesty program. In slightly over two weeks,
the amnesty program has brought in an additional $35 thousand
dollarsmoney that we might have never seen, and certainly
would not have seen in this years budget.
But the best part of the tax
amnesty program did not have to do with money. One elderly woman
was about to lose her house because the combination of back taxes,
interest and penalties was too much for her to bear. By offering
an amnesty on the back interest payments, the amnesty program
allowed us to get all the tax dollars we were owed and allowed
her to stay in her home.
Weve reexamined our
budget to see if we can allocate more from free cash or from
new growth. We have asked the legislature to help us speed up
the sale of land. This council had the courage to do the right
thing, and voted to bring in an additional $1.1 million in funds
by partnering with Aggregate Industries to bring in dirt for
our landfill. It was a tough decision, but the city council made
the right decision. We were aided by an increase in the outlook
for the State allowing us to adjust our figures for State aid.
C) Resultsa $4.2 million
deficit is now a deficit of less than $ 1.7 million
Working together, look where we are today. Eleven weeks ago,
our budget deficit was $4.2 million. Today, that deficit stands
at less than $1.7 million.
To the council and the State
legislators who worked with us to help make this possible, thank
The progress we have made,
and the steps that remain, call to mind the words of Winston
This is not the end,
this is not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps, this
is the end of the beginning
D) Efforts to improve the
quality of government service
But the budget cutting is not enough. Our job isnt to deliver
the least government possible; it is to deliver the best government
affordable. Make no mistake about it, just because we were spending
less does not mean we are doing less. We are all working hard
to deliver the services that our customers deserve and by and
large we are succeeding.
Here at city hall, we used
business techniques to measure customer satisfaction rates and
to make certain that the people we service are getting what they
deserve: good service. We asked our understaffed and overworked
staff to do the best that they could.
I am happy to report to you
that our employees have risen to the challenge. Our customer
survey forms are in, and over 98% of our customers feel that
the service they received was excellent.
Many of our customers went
out of their way to praise our city hall employees, and to tell
us that our employees have gone the extra mile to deliver top
Here are some of the comments
- When Sam, a real estate broker
went into the assessors office, he wrote: I have
been in many assessors offices. The fantastic expertise
in this office is awesome.
- When Steve went to the building
inspectors office, he wrote, Sandy was very helpful
and walked me through all of the procedures. She is a great and
- When an attorney from Lowell
went to the tax collectors office, he wrote, Everyone
was friendly, capable and ready to assist.
I want all of you to know
that the people who are working at city hall are giving it their
all under very trying circumstances and I am very proud to be
Our outside of city hall services
are also working hard to deliver good customer service. Our police
department is overworked and understaffed, but I am pleased to
report to you that in the first three months of this year crime
is down 2.5%. We are going to work as hard as we can to keep
that trend going.
There is so much more good
news that I do not have the time to report it all. Our retirement
system had another fabulous year and last year their investments
rose over 20% in value. Our city treasurer is working hard to
deliver better customer service and to speed up the collections
of the receivables owed to us. Our assessors office has
privitizied one of the assessors positions to give better
service at lower value.
E) The use of volunteers and
Our top flight team at city hall has been aided by a top flight
team of ordinary citizens who have done something extra ordinarythey
have volunteered their time, day after day, at city hall to help
their city. They have answered the phones, done the research,
met the constituents and made the Mayors office a joy to
work in. The conference we will hold later this week on rezoning
was done entirely by volunteers. In the city clerks office,
volunteers have handled the census, and the voter list. For the
first time in many years, the information booth at city hall
is open and staffed with volunteers. This volunteer team is the
greatest, many of the volunteers and interns are here today,
and I ask them to stand and be recognized.
II) The Road aheada
Roadmap to Fiscal Stability
A) The scope of the problem
But if we have started the journey -- and we have -- this only
shows how far we have to go.
It was difficult to get from
a $4.2 million deficit to a deficit of $1.7 million million.
To get from a $1.7 million deficit to the balanced budget we
are required to produce will require more painful and difficult
To see how difficult, let
us go back one year. My predecessor, after making millions of
dollars in budget cuts, was still faced with a $1.1 million deficit.
To meet that deficit, he had to close the library, and was able
to save it only when the Quorum lawsuit settled.
Our deficit is even greater,
and we have no rabbit we can pull out of the hat, no Quorum lawsuit
to settle. Our challenge is great, but our determination to save
our city is even greater.
Tonight, I outline two plans
to meet the challengea plan for today and a plan for tomorrow.
The basics are simple. It is the same plan that you would use
if you had a deficit in your own household budget: you would
spend less and try to bring in more.
B) Spending reductions
1) Reorganize Government
To spend less, we need to complete the job we started in January
to reorganize city hall. Next month I will present you with a
plan to merge departments, cut the number of city owned vehicles,
cut and then cut again.
Some of these cuts will be
painful. But our responsibility is to present a balanced budget
and our responsibility is to lead. This is our challenge.
2) Health Care reform
Of all the expenses we need to cut, the largest and most important
is the cost of health insurance for city employees. To cut the
cost of health insurance, we need to consolidate the number of
health care plans, and become a self-funded health care plan.
We are working with our unions and our insurance advisory committee,
a committee that has done some great work, we are moving in the
But, real health care reform
can only be achieved if we work with our unions.
When times were good, we tried
to be good to our employees.
Now our employees, who have
the challenge of working for the city, must be asked to meet
a challenge once more. The unions must work with us to save the
city and to save their jobs.
I ask the unions to meet the
challenge and to work with us.
C) Bring in new revenues--
the key to long term stability
But making cuts is not enough. There are only so many cuts that
we can make; there are only so many positions that can be eliminated.
You can save a lot of money on a car if you park it in the garage
and never use it, but our goal as a city is to get the car moving
again and provide the services people need. Once again, we need
to search for new revenues.
The first stop on our search has to be the parking lots in Haverhill
For decades, we have pretended
that parking is free, but we all know better. We all know that
someone is paying to pave the parking lots, someone is paying
to plow them, someone is paying to light them and someone is
paying to sweep them. That someone is the taxpayers of this city.
We all know that economist Robert A. Heinlein was right when
he said there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Each year, thousands of people
arrive for business at the courthouse or to park in our commuter
lots by the train station. If they go to a courthouse in Salem
, or Lawrence or Lowell , they are charged. In Haverhill are
they not. If they park in the commuter lot maintained by the
MBTA, they are charged. If they park in the lots owned by the
city, our taxpayers are charged.
It really comes down to this:
Free parking isnt free. Someone is paying and that someone
is you. Free parking forces us to lay police officers and firefighters.
Free parking is too expensive. It is time we joined with nearly
every other city in the area and charged for parking. We have
talked about this for years; we have stalled it for years. It
is time for action.
2) Charges for services
Sometimes, our search to save a city service means that we have
to charge for that service. To save our leaf disposal service,
we need to charge for that service, and I will present to the
council a plan to do so.
Then we have to examine every
other possible source of revenue. In the short run, some of this
will be unpopular, but in the long run, the most unpopular thing
we can do is to do nothing. I know that any new charges, any
new fees are distasteful, but in the long run, nothing is so
distasteful, nothing is so unpopular as filthy streets and rising
crime. Our job is to protect the public, I intend to do just
I am hopeful that we can get
through this without the unpopular move of charging for another
service, for trash collection, but if that becomes required then
we have to face it. I make you this pledge. Before I go down
that road, and before I ask the taxpayers to dig deeper, I will
look down every other road first.
3) Public Private Partnerships
To look at other roads, and
to save other services, we need to study the best practices of
cities throughout the country and we need to copy their successes.
Let me tell you about a few of them.
- When Washington , DC found
itself with an old and crumbling stadium they sold naming rights
to that stadium.
- When Braintree , Massachusetts
found it had a shortage of money in its school budget, they sold
advertising on their school buses.
- When Oakland , California
found it could not pay for recreation services, they sold advertising
on their ball fields and stadiums.
In the next few weeks, I will
file and ordinance to allow us to sell advertising on city owned
ball land and to engage in public partnerships throughout the
city. This is not a panacea, but we need to try everything.
But not even all of this,
not even all that I have proposed will be enough to close the
gap. In the end, we can only meet our budget gap if we have a
permanent stream of new revenues. Tonight I will lay out our
permanent long term solutionbut it will take several years
before it reaches its potential. A long term solution will not
close our short term budget gap. We need a gap solution until
our long term plans can kick in.
4) Pension Deferralsa
short term solution
The legislature gave us that gap solution when they unanimously
passed last years Municipal Relief package: they called
it pension deferrals. Pension deferrals do not affect the pensions
of our retirees.
I know that some of the councilors
are strongly opposed to pension deferrals. I will work with the
Council and with our legislative delegation to come up with another
solutionand we are working on that solution with the Department
But if it comes to deferring
the pension contribution to our system or laying off our policemen
and firemen, if it comes to pension deferrals or closing our
great public library, then the choice is clear: we need to go
for pension deferrals. The city council in Methuen was deeply
divided, and deeply divided in their feelings to the Mayor. They
put aside their differences to vote unanimously for pension deferrals
to save vital services in Methuen . I am hopeful that this council
will do the same.
III) The Plan for TomorrowGrowth
in the Urban Core to Bring in new Tax Dollars
The task of meeting a $1.7 million budget deficit seems insurmountable.
But Eleven weeks ago, that deficit stood at over double this
amount. If we take the bold actions I have outlined, we can meet
that challenge and we can balance this budget and we can scrape
by for yet another year.
But is that really what we
want? None of us ran for office to scrape by.
We ran to make this the great
city that we know we can be. Balancing our budget is where we
must start, but surely, it can not be where we end.
To make Haverhill great again,
we need to tackle the long term infrastructure problems that
have put off for far too long. In addition to the plan for today,
we need a plan for tomorrow.
Our plan for tomorrow is centered
on the old shoe shops and tanneries that still exist in downtown
A) Transit Oriented Design:
Haverhill Can be the leader
I am happy to report that our plan for tomorrow started today.
Already, numerous developers and building owners in the old shoe
district have already expressed interest in turning those old
buildings into housing and tax dollars.
Next week, I will ask the
council to take the first step to turn that interest into reality:
I will present to the council an ordinance to start the process
of rezoning downtown. Our goal is to bring to Haverhill young
consumers, not as tourists, not as visitors, but to live and
to work downtown in what planners call a live work district.
Our goal is centered around old factory buildings and around
the train station downtown.
The most exciting part of
this is that the Romney administration has exactly the same goal.
They are looking for cities that have old factory buildings downtown,
and have train stations near those old buildings. Their plan
is called transit oriented design and it fits exactly together
with our plan.
On March 26th, we will bring
together those developers together with officials from the Romney
administration to speak about the new incentives available to
revitalize old industry areas.
Our goal is to be the prototype
of transit oriented design, to be the city that the Romney administration
can point to and say, here, we did it. Our vision is to become
a consumer city, a city where young families are attracted not
by the quality of the factories but by the quality of life. To
do this, we need a vibrant downtownand we already have
the beginnings of one in the Wingate Street Art and restaurant
district. This summer, I will ask the merchants and building
owners downtown to take the next step and to become a Business
Improvement District. Youll hear more about this.
B) Attracting Consumers with
To attract those young people to Haverhill , we need to have
good schools. In the Eleven weeks I have been in office, I have
established a dropout commission to study ways to we can help
our poorest performing children. I have established the Mayors
Excellence in Education awards to reward the best performing
IV) Fixing Our High School
Now its time to tackle the most important education job
of all: fixing Haverhill High school .
After decades of talk we have
made some progress and there is, finally, a slight glimmer of
hope. That glimmer of hope comes because our legislative delegation
got us approved to be on the State building assistance board
funding list and I thank them for it.
This summer we will stop talking
about fixing our high school and we will start fixing itthe
handicapped elevator will go in this summer. Next summer, we
will put in new windows and begin to reverse decades of neglect.
But once again, our greatest
challenges lie ahead. We have to find a way to pay for high school
fix up until 2009 when the increased state funding will kick
in. We may have to ask our citizens for more to pay more, but
before we do, we need to look down every other road we can.
A) Selling off city owned
land to front load the high school project
The first place we need to look is at vacant land and the first
land we need to look at is The Ornstein Heal Property in Bradford
This land sits between the
railroad tracks and the river and is valued at over $2 million.
Our only hope of preserving public access to the river, is if
we partner with someone else to develop this land. The council
has had this property in committee to study it since Mayor Rurak
was in office. Now it is time to act.
In the next few months, I
will present the council more property to sell more property
and to front load the repair of our high school.
We have two choices ahead of us. We can put our own self-interest
as elected officials ahead of the interests of our citizens and
ignore the problems that face us. Or, we can do what leaders
are paid to do: we can lead. That is our challenge. I know that
this council is up to the challenge.
President Kennedy once said:
all this will not be completed in the first one hundred
.but let us begin. I say to you tonight, all
has not been completed in the first 10 weeks, we have made great
strides but let us continue, let us begin, let us work together
to build a new Haverhill and let us complete our journey.
Haverhill can be and it will
be, great once again. With your help, we will arrive at our destination.
Thank you and good evening.
*Source: Mayor Jim Fiorentini's
Home Page: www.jimfiorentini.com 3-23-04