This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trash Vote Disintegrates

Following the budget vote (see post below), the vote to reduce the trash fee, which was on again and off again during the meeting, appeared to be on again before disintegrating into chaos.

The prior debate seemed to indicate that there were not enough votes to pass the reduction. Maureen Troubetaris, who would have been the deciding vote, said she would vote against the proposal, stating that "The people in my ward care more about their children, than they do about $20."

Troubetaris asked City Finance Director John Dunn what a reduction would mean to the sustainability of the school plan, and Dunn answered "if you reduce it [the fee], you make it less sustainable."

But when time came to vote, the Council couldn't agree on what the vote coming out of last night's Financial Committee meeting was (see here for the answer), then couldn't agree on what the process for tonight's vote should be. Don Martin walked off the stage at one point to talk with Dunn, forcing a recess, but when all returned, the process was still muddled.

Wes Slate blasted Martin, saying that if you want an illustration of why people have no faith in their government, this is it, and stating "I don't understand how the chairman of a committee doesn't understand the vote that came out of his own committee."

In the end there was a vote, and the fee reduction appeared to fail, but because of some procedural maneuvering by John Burke, it seems like the vote didn't count, and/or will need to be revisited, most likely on Monday night.

From our understanding, there is a "sunset clause" in the trash fee, that causes it to expire at the end of the fiscal year (which would be Monday), if it is not renewed.

6/27 UPDATE: Friday's Salem News clarifies some of what went on in the chaotic final moments of last night's meeting, as well as the anti-climactic final vote on the budget:

The Council did vote down the trash fee reduction, but "Burke invoked a provision that allows councilors to hold a vote, meaning the council will have to do it again at its meeting Monday. Burke said he held the vote because there was confusion over the outcome of the vote in the finance subcommittee."

The News further describes the confusion:

Councilors argued back and forth about the procedural matters, with the discussion getting heated at times. Slate objected to some councilors holding a side meeting with Finance Director John Dunn during a recess.

"If you want an example of why people voted strongly that they were dissatisfied with how government operates, this is it," Slate said.

"It's a great speech, but spare us," Martin answered.

At one point, City Council President Tim Flaherty pounded his gavel and said, "I'm stopping this. This is ridiculous."

After that, for those watching at home on BevCam, the screen went blank.

2:00 pm UPDATE: The Citizen has some further explanation of last night's trash fee follies, and the potential for more political gamesmanship with the vote on Monday night.