Tag Archives: taxes

High grades in Year 1 for Mayor Bettencourt

28 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Among Mayor Bettencourt's accomplishments was the approval of a new middle school

Among Mayor Bettencourt’s accomplishments in his first year was the approval of a new middle school

There are challenges yet to come, but as we prepare for the ball to drop in Peabody Square in a few days (OK, not really), we pause to assess the rookie year for Mayor Ted Bettencourt.  

From where I sit as a taxpayer, I’d sum up the Mayor’s first year performance this way:

It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been very good.

Not an A-plus, but certainly a very high B, bordering on an A-minus. Look folks, even Ted, we feel, would appreciate it if we left in some room here for growth.

So here goes … a look at what just one taxpayer, this taxpayer thinks of Year 1 of the Bettencourt Administration. These are what I feel were his three best and biggest accomplishments:

1. Passing an early challenge on healthcare

With the city stuck in neutral when it comes to revenue growth, the Mayor gets an A-plus for his leadership when it came to reaching an agreement in June with the city’s unions to enter the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Going the GIC route could end up saving the city between $10 and $15 million over the next four years.

Just months into his first term, it took guts for this rookie mayor to first draw a line in the sand, and then bring all of the city’s unions to the table to work out a smart, commonsense solution. But some of the credit also goes to the unions too. In these days when stories abound about the greediness of some union leaders, Peabody’s unions proved that collective bargaining can be a wonderful thing when neither side acts exclusively in their own self interests.

2.  The Education Mayor

Bettencourt showed leadership again in the spring, getting unanimous support from both the city council and school committee on the construction of a new Higgins Middle School, as the city scraped its original plan for renovating the existing, dilapidated, sprawling facility.  The new school will cost Peabody taxpayers about $45 million after state reimbursement, but it’s definitely much-needed, and for Bettencourt—a young mayor with a young family—it shows that he is intent on becoming the Education Mayor.

Getting new schools built in Peabody the past 20 years has been a huge struggle, but somehow this one seemed easy, and it came with almost universal acceptance from taxpayers. I know it wasn’t all Ted’s doing, but he deserves a lot of the credit here.

 3. The Pro Business Mayor  

Understanding right from the start that Peabody has a revenue problem, Bettencourt made good on a campaign promise to make the city more business friendly in an effort to expand our commercial tax base. If we’re going to get the money we need to pay existing and upcoming bills, and also improve infrastructure and schools, the burden can’t keep landing on residential taxpayers. More businesses, mean more tax dollars. So, with that in mind, Bettencourt did the following in Year 1:

  • Made it known (and even cleaned house somewhat) that he wants those city departments that deal with businesses to make the process for setting up and maintaining shop a lot easier. In 2013 he is also establishing a business liaison position.  to assist businesses in this regard.
  • Established the Economic Development Council, which is looking at bringing business back to Peabody Square and Centennial Park.
  • Got city council approval on a 1.60 tax classification for businesses, meaning businesses will only pay 1.6 times higher than the residential tax rate. In many surrounding communities it’s 1.75.

As for Year 2 …

Not that he’s taking advice from me, but if I were Ted Bettencourt I’d start leveraging some of my “political capital” in 2013, something that I feel will make him unbeatable when it comes to re-election next fall.

What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes I get the impression that the Mayor doesn’t fully realize that there is power in his popularity. We saw this during the spring when he sat on the sidelines during the special election to replace Senator Fred Berry. Meanwhile, Mayor Kim Driscoll got every Salem elected official on board behind Joan Lovely, who is now our State Senator. Suddenly, when it comes to that very influential seat, the power has shifted to Salem.

Love him or not, you have to respect how former Mayor Peter Torigian would have anointed one of the two Peabody candidates, either John Slattery or Mary Ellen Manning, and strongly insisted that every city councilor, every school committee member, light commissioner and library trustee support that candidate to ensure we didn’t lose that seat to Salem.

Ted Bettencourt has earned some tremendous “juice” in Year 1. He is popular in Peabody, and has done the job. Now, will he use that “juice” to take it to the next level, and wield the type of regional clout we saw in the past from politically powerful Mayors Nick Mavroules and Peter Torigian?

Want to let us know how you feel Mayor Bettencourt has fared in his first year? Let us know by taking our poll.

Check out your Peabody property valuation here

1 Dec

By Eye on Peabody

Although they still need to be certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the Peabody property valuations are posted on the city’s website.

Here’s how to check out your home’s valuation, which will be the basis for your 2013 Peabody property tax bill:

To look up by name, click here.

To look up by Peabody property address, click here.

For concerns or more info, you can contact the Peabody Assessor’s Office at 978-538-5716.

Poll: Tell us what you think about the city hiring just one person to handle HR

26 Nov

By Eye on Peabody

There are pros. There are cons. Is it worth it to save the taxpayers $70-$85k per year? Or, is it too big of a job for just one person?

Recently, Mayor Ted Bettencourt decided to combine the human resources department for Peabody, tapping Karen Budrow to handle all of the hiring and other HR duties for the entire city. Previously, there were two HR directors, one for the schools, and one for the rest of the city.

EOP would like to know in today’s poll what you think of this consolidation.  Here are the details of Budrow’s hiring from the Peabody Patch. 

PMLP management, employees union work together on sane contract

19 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It seems that We The People spend a lot of time chastising our elected officials and public service employees.  So, it’s only fair and important that we point out when they work together and in the best interest of the taxpayers.

I refer to the recently agreed to contract between Peabody Municipal Light Plant management, and the light plant employees’ union. Both sides got something, and in the end, they all took into account the need to not slam the ratepayers. The PMLP has taken it on the chin lately for some employee issues, but all that aside, it remains the best run government entity in Peabody.

The reason it is so well run is the fact that the light plant is a little beyond the reach of government. The PMLP is run like a business, and it’s run very well. It’s run by a competent plant manager and overseen by a separate elected board of light commissioners.

So, this week, when we learned that management and the union had taken a commonsense and sane approach to a new contract for employees, we weren’t surprised.

The new 4-year deal includes a modest 1.75% raise, but it’s also retroactive, which is a good thing for employees.  In these days of economic malaise, where taxpayers who work in the private sector aren’t getting any raises, it was a nice compromise, especially after the 11% raise the PLMP employees got with the last contract.

“This is a fair agreement for both the ratepayers and employees,”  said PMLP Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley in a statement.

Hats off too to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, State Council 93, Local 364. PMLP serves both Peabody and South Lynnfield.

Read the full story here in the Peabody Patch.