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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Councilors Delay Vote on Meals Tax

The City Council last night put off a vote on a proposal that would have raised an estimated $425,000 per year, by increasing the local tax on restaurant meals and hotel stays.

With the city and schools facing a nearly $3 budget gap for FY11, any proposal for additional revenue or cost savings is something that all school advocates should be paying attention to.

Today's Salem News has details of the meeting, and the public hearing that preceded it:

[Mayor] Scanlon said there is certain to be layoffs when the new fiscal year starts in July, regardless of whether the City Council approves the new taxes. But the extra money generated by the taxes would save "seven or eight $50,000-to-$60,000-per-year jobs," he said.

"Some of that could have a very deleterious effect on our city, especially if it affects the schools," Scanlon said.

"If people stop coming to our city, it will affect the value of homes. People are going to lose 100 times what they're going to pay on this relatively modest tax."

Speaking at the hearing in favor of the tax was Todd Rotondo, the owner of Cafe Salerno on Cabot Street, who said the increase would not stop his customers from eating out.

"I've asked them about it and you know what they say? They say, 'It's 75 cents.'"

Speaking against the proposal were many of the usual suspects, including Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility head Elliott Margolis.

The tax would add 15 cents to a $20 meal, according to Scanlon, who proposed the tax increase as have leaders of many neighboring cities and towns.

The option of an added local tax was made possible by an act of the state legislature last year.

The News reports that City Council President Mike Cahill and Judith Cronin voted in favor of the tax in a committee vote, while Pat Grimes voted against it, saying more information is needed.

Councilor Maureen Troubetaris stated "I'm not voting for this under any circumstance, I'm voting, 'Enough is enough.'" But Councilor James Latter penned a letter in today's Salem News, where he appeared to support the measure, while suggesting other cost cutting measures as well.

The Council ultimately put off the vote by sending it back to commitee, after earlier deadlocking 4-4 on a motion by Pat Grimes to indefinitely table the measure until they had more information on the upcoming budget.

The ninth Councilor, Paul Guanci recused himself from the vote, as he is a restaurant owner.

With the Council apparently divided over the matter, hearing the views of constituents who favor the measure could make a difference. We urge you to contact your ward and at-large councilors in support of this matter. Their contact info can be found here.

2/24 UPDATE: A special City Council meeting has been scheduled for this Friday at 6:30 PM to vote on the tax proposal. Council President Mike Cahill said the meeting was scheduled in order to meet a Monday deadline for the Department of Revenue to certify the tax increase, if it does pass, according to a post on the Salem News' "Heard in Beverly" blog.

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