“The salary growth in the public sector is why municipalities are tax-strapped. It’s all putting pressure on the taxpayers.”

Massachusetts city, town employee wages grew 40 percent in 10 years
Joe Dwinell Wednesday, May 09, 2018
tax dollar stretch

The Bay State’s soaring local government employee pay has eclipsed the national average in what one fiscal watchdog is calling a “warning sign” to city and town leaders that taxpayers may not always be able to pick up the tab.

In the past decade, wages for cops, firefighters, teachers and City Hall employees went up nearly 24 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Massachusetts during the same period, from 2007 to 2017, wages for those city and town employees rose by 40 percent, the statistics show.

That rate was about 5 points higher in Essex and Middlesex counties, where Lowell and Lawrence sit.

“This data is a warning sign,” said Greg Sullivan, research director at the Pioneer Institute nonprofit think tank. “Massachusetts far exceeds the rest of the country in total wages.”

He said the high cost of health insurance and unfunded pension liabilities are also “worrisome” as municipal leaders struggle to balance the books.

“It’s a looming problem going forward,” Sullivan, the state’s former inspector general, added.

The public sector — including federal employees — makes up more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy, according to federal labor statistics.

In Massachusetts, those state and federal employees make up about 13 percent of the workforce, state economic officials say.

Job growth in the public sector remains mostly flat — but it’s the bump in salaries that has economists sounding caution.

Sullivan said county figures show steady growth in public sector salaries, according to labor statistics he studied:

• Essex County has seen local government salaries grow by 145 percent in the past decade. Yet the number of employees has kept about the same at 30,000.

• Middlesex County pay has jumped by almost the same percentage for its 62,000-plus municipal hires.

• Suffolk County has seen fewer employees over the past decade, but pay has grown for those 26,000-plus still on the books.

• Statewide, the number of local government employees has climbed to 271,000 as their pay has kept pace with others.

• In the private sector over the same decade studied, job growth has climbed and pay as well, but at a slightly slower rate at 134 percent.

This all comes as unemployment nationwide has dipped to 3.9 percent as of April.

“Federal databases don’t lie,” said Pioneer’s Sullivan. “The salary growth in the public sector is why municipalities are tax-strapped. It’s all putting pressure on the taxpayers.”

Multiple-hands-stretching-dollar

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Lynnfield/Wakefield Co-Funding Social Media Position?

Road Warriors Rule At Wakefield Town Meeting
Budgets approved on night one, but the talk of the town focused on the roads.
By Bob Holmes, Patch Staff | May 1, 2018 12:06 am ET
When Town Administrator Stephen Maio used lyrics from a Florida Georgia Line song in his opening remarks at the Wakefield Town Meeting, he had the right idea. But it was the wrong song. Given what happened the next three hours at the Galvin Middle School, Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again would have been far more appropriate.
With 25 articles in the warrant, Monday’s opening night only made it through No. 2. Though the subject was money, the conditions of Wakefield’s roads were front and center to the voting citizens and no matter what the topic, from social media to public works, it didn’t take much to nudge the discussion back on the road(s) again … and again. The scary thing is that article 15, the article the deals with roadway improvements, is still a long way off.
With Moderator Bill Carroll running the show, the discussion started with the General Government budget. Maio and the Town Council had submitted a budget that included $55,000 for a social media position. That individual would be shared with Lynnfield, which would pay an additional $30,000 toward the individual’s salary. He/she would be responsible for overseeing a major upgrade of the town website, something most felt was needed. But the Finance Committee didn’t endorse the position, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere. That opened the door for the town’s road warriors and most of the remaining first hour was spent debating social media vs. the need to fix the town’s horrible roads.
Town Councilor’s Julie Smith-Galvin and Ann Santos both spoke in support of the social media position and the need for the town to plan ahead. “I’m not comfortable taking a step backward,” said Santos.
Finally the matter was put to a vote and the social media position was approved,
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but the road warriors were just getting started. After approving Police and Fire, along with Human Services, Public Works was next up and it was Director Richard Stinson’s turn to face the town’s frustrated drivers.
After describing the three times a year his crew uses street sweepers in town, a question was asked about doing it just once and using the money to fix the roads instead of clean them. The answer was no. Resident Dan Lieber then asked if the $132,500 budgeted for roadway maintenance was enough. “Short answer, no,” said Stinson. In response, Lieber made a motion to add $100,000 to the Public Works budget with the money targeted for road repairs. Debate continued with some in the auditorium reminding their neighbors that it was more appropriate to deal with the roads when Article 15 rolled along. A hand vote on Lieber’s motion showed it was to close to call, even for Carroll. So hands were raised and this time counted and Lieber’s motion lost 119-99.
With Public Works approved, the School Department, Library, Vocational School, Unclassified, and Benefits and Administration budgets were all approved. Along the way, School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith presented her last budget before she retires, a $40,143,324 budget that still earned her a round of applause for her 32 years of service.
With a last bit of energy, Town Meeting moved to Article 2 and capital outlays. Among the items, there was a 20-year-old lawn mower that needed to be replaced along with three police cruisers, windows at the high school, and cemetery roadway improvements totaling $40,000. Meaning … it was resident Christine Defelice’s turn. Defelice made a motion that the $40,000 should be removed from the capital outlay budget and added to the $350,000 in Article 15 because the cemetery roads were in far better shape than other town roads. Many agreed with her comments but at this point the room decided to wait until Article 15 to make their stand and her motion was defeated.
With that, the meeting was adjourned for the night with round 2 next Monday back at Galvin.
“Maybe some roadway talk then, if you know what I’m saying,” said Carroll.
Photo by Bob Holmes

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Golf Enterprise Account

To better inform you on Lynnfield’s Golf Enterprise Account, the following information is provided below.

Lynnfield Golf Enterprise Account
Total Revenue Total Expenses Profit/Loss
*FY07 $542,019 $826,296 ($284,277)
*FY08 $693,183 $1,479,362 ($786,179)
*FY09 $922,230 $732,775 $189,455
*FY10 $970,061 $859,156 $110,905
*FY11 $897,258 $892,665 $4,593
*FY12 $701,534 $656,841 $44,693
*FY13 $513,496 $571,635 ($58,139)
*FY14 $515,321 $577,058 ($61,737)
*FY15 $536,369 $759,411 ($223,042)
*FY16 $740,998 $846,331 ($105,333)
**FY17 $878,951 $905,994 ($27,043)
*Numbers from Massachusetts State DOR website.
**The annual Town Report 2017.

According to Mass State DOR numbers, our Golf Enterprise Account has incurred a loss of approximately $1.2M over the past 10 years.

I hope you have found this information useful.

Regards,
Katy Shea

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Should Lynnfield Be Investing In Golf Courses?

During Lynnfield’s Town Meeiting on Monday, April 30th, you will be asked to invest in King Rail Golf Course. Below is an interesting perspective on the golf industry.

Katy Shea

Golf Course
Golf has landed in the deep rough locally and nationwide
• By MIKE KIRBY sports@thesunchronicle.com

• Mar 23, 2018

Bob Gay sees it every June when he stands on the balcony of Chemawa Golf Course in North Attleboro.
Gay and Bob Beach, co-presidents of the Attleboro Area Golf Association, use the elevated setting to address the participants in the AAGA Senior Championship before they tee off.
With the exception of the AAGA Championship — commonly called the “City Open” and the only four-day, four-venue golf tournament in Massachusetts — the competition for age 50-plus players is by far the most popular event the organization puts on each year.
Gay estimates the senior tourney annually attracts 100-110 players. The AAGA Junior Championship, meanwhile, draws about 30 participants. It’s been years since there was enough participation for the AAGA to hold a women’s championship.
“You look out and you see a lot of guys who have been playing for a long time, guys who once played in the City Open and now play in the Senior,” Gay said. “They still love the game. But you just don’t see as many younger players with the same enthusiasm.”
That, say those in the local golf industry, sums up the problem: The game, still loved by millions, is failing to attract a younger audience or women. Young adults strapped by student debt don’t have the time, the money or the focus to invest in a sport that can easily consume half a day — not counting the 19th hole.
Participation in the sport is down from its peak of about 12 years ago, and golf course closings, nationally and locally, are on the rise.
Both have occurred in the Attleboro area.
Local golf courses are not nearly as full as they once were. At many local public courses, players can walk up at many hours of the day, pay their greens fee and tee off — unheard of 15 years ago.
Local private clubs have all stepped up membership drives, particularly hoping to attract younger players and families.
The City Open was, in Gay’s view, “the biggest sporting event in town next to the Thanksgiving Day football game.” In its heyday, roughly 250 competitors would try to qualify for the tournament, forcing the AAGA to hold morning and afternoon sessions for competitors to play their way in.
“There were big crowds around the scoreboard, everybody trying to see who got in,” Gay said.
Now, the qualifier attracts a little more than 100 players.
But the biggest impact in the area is the golf course closings.
In 2015, Willowdale Golf Course, a tiny, nine-hole, par-30 layout nestled in a Mansfield neighborhood, closed. It is now a housing subdivision.
In 2016, Locust Valley Country Club, a nine-hole public course in Attleboro beloved by players for its funky layout, abruptly closed. Owner David Bourque
In 2017, the owners of Heather Hill Country Club in Plainville, a 27-hole public course first established after World War II, announced they planned to turn the vast tract of land into 55-plus housing. That closing would hinge on the developer securing permits, a task that is probably several years from completion if it is done at all.
The real shocker came in January when the board of directors of Highland Country Club filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Established in 1901, Highland is the granddaddy of local golf courses and one of the oldest clubs in Massachusetts.
Long considered the gathering place of Attleboro’s moneyed elite, Highland got weighed down by debt and, like much of the golfing industry, failed to grow its membership. Stung by frequent assessments added to their dues and attracted by offers from other private clubs in the area, dozens of Highland members quit the club this winter, leaving the board little choice but to seek bankruptcy protection under the section that does not allow for reorganization.
Highland may, in fact, still operate as early as this year. Many members told The Sun Chronicle they have heard of several parties interested in buying the club and operating it as a golf course. That would have to happen very quickly, however, for the nine-hole layout near Mechanics Pond to be ready for the traditional start of the season at the beginning of April.
“What a shame,” said Gay, a longtime member.
It’s a phrase echoed by nearly everyone interviewed for this story.
Jesse Menachem is among them. He was somewhat surprised by the bankruptcy filing, but he sees a bigger picture when it comes to golf.
Menachem is the executive director of Mass Golf, the Norton-based organization that oversees the sport in the Bay State. Golf is a game, he said, but it’s also a business, one that he believes is now coming out of an upheaval.
Golf peaked around 2006 when, according to the National Golf Foundation, more than 30 million Americans considered themselves golfers and 550 million rounds were played on U.S. Golf courses, many of them nestled in expensive housing developments that popped up across the country.
Economic times were good. And golf had a charismatic, biracial superstar in Tiger Woods who many investors expected would attract players of all colors.
The Tiger Boom, as it was called, spurred the construction of long, challenging golf courses that demanded exorbitant greens fees to play. Many took up the sport, found it too difficult or too expensive or too time-consuming to play, and gave up.
The number of players fell by 20 percent, leveling off to about 25 million and 455 rounds over the last five years.
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It was inevitable that some courses would close due to the over-expansion, says a report by the National Golf Foundation, which adds that more courses are likely to close in the years ahead.
“Although there will be excellent new golf courses being built in the future, the gradual market correction is expected to continue for the next few years,” the report said.
“It’s a simple matter of supply and demand,” Menachem said.

Some private clubs may have to change their business model, Menachem said, and that may have contributed to Highland’s difficulties. Many clubs like Highland that are owned and managed by members have struggled, he said, while clubs operated by companies have been more successful.
Norton Country Club, for example, is owned by the Jan Companies. Besides a handful of other golf clubs in Massachusetts, it owns several Burger King franchises and other restaurants and can bring management expertise and economies of scale to a course.
Golf, Menachem believes, is still a strong business in Massachusetts. With more than 350 member courses, Mass Golf is the nation’s seventh largest golf association. Golf generates employment for 25,000 workers in Massachusetts and raises $74 million for local charities.
The sport does face challenges, he acknowledged.
“We’ve got to break down the barriers that golf is an elitist, male-dominated game,” Menachem said.
One way to do that is to attract more women. That’s one of the reasons that the Massachusetts Golf Association merged with the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts at the start of this year to form Mass Golf.
That organization is now offering more competition for the state’s top female players. It is also working with member clubs to attract more women, who are outnumbered 7 to 2 nationally in the sport.
Among those incentives are shorter, more playable layouts, nine-hole or even six-hole events and child care, so Mom can play with Dad or with her friends.
“If your gym can offer it, why can’t we?” Menachem said.
Nationally, the United States Golf Association has been pushing a Play 9 initiative, seeking to overcome the notion that only 18 holes of golf is legitimate.
The other big challenge is getting younger people to play. Many in the industry are concerned that attracting millennials to an expensive game that takes a long time to play and isn’t prone to instant gratification will be next to impossible.
However, two efforts right here in the Attleboro area (see accompanying story) make the case that young people will grow to love the game. You just have to put clubs in their hands.
The Barend family of North Attleboro has founded the Girls Independent Golf League — GIGL for short — with the idea of letting girls play and have fun without the potentially intimidating presence of boys. The league and a pair of daylong clinics draw 500 players from Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It’s being used as a model for similar programs across the United States and even into Australia.
Mike Michel of North Attleboro began 24 Hours of Golf, where he and a buddy play around the clock to raise funds. The Mike Michel Golf Fund has raised more than $100,000 in just a few years, supplying clubs, memberships and lessons to any youngster who wants to play the game but can’t afford it.
Menachem says golf needs to escape the idea that the game is something men use to escape for long hours on the weekend.
“We need more flexibility to the needs of golfers,” he said. “We need to be more family-oriented. This is a game that Dad can play with Mom and the kids. It’s a game you can play your whole life. What other sport can say that?”
Golf Picture

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Theater Design – Market Street Meeting Thursday, April 26

Please see the attached agenda for the upcoming Market Street meeting. At this meeting the following information will be presented: design, experience and financial impact. Parking plans and the potential parking structure will also be reviewed. The meeting will be held Thursday, April 26 at 7:30, in the Merritt Center.

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“none of us can possibly know what we all know”

Citizen-Participation-Image-2070045525.Dear Editor, Readers, Neighbors and Friends
Denying open meeting participation is the wrong approach as, “none of us can possibly know what we all know”.
Last Wednesday, April 4th, was a first. Having attended nearly all of the past Market Street Advisory Committee (MSAC) meetings, on this evening I respectfully waited for the public participation opportunity at the close of the committee’s agenda. I rose to be recognized and was dismissively told that “at the discretion of the Chair” there would be no public participation.
For the first time in my 25 years of citizen participation I saw the closure of a public meeting, to which citizens are encouraged to attend, take place without allowing time for any participation. This is particularly concerning, because the MSAC’s “Mission” is to provide for “effective and ongoing communication for Lynnfield residents, Town of Lynnfield Representatives and WS Development and National Development.”
At all previous MSAC meetings, the agendas have allowed limited public participation; restricted to “2 minutes per attendee” in the interest of reaching their targeted 8:30PM adjournment.
It is noteworthy that on this evening, the meeting agenda – which included a discussion of the topics/issues that MSAC intends to evaluate in conjunction with National Development’s most recent 800 seat cineplex proposal – ended around 8:10PM, well before the regular 8:30PM deadline. Yet when I asked to be recognized to offer a clarifying remark on topics raised during the meeting, given that there was ample time for public comment, I was summarily denied this established opportunity and the meeting was abruptly adjourned.
Lynnfield is a town of volunteers. Like many others, I have volunteered time to our community, highlighted for me by service on the Town Finance Committee and in particular as the Fin Com liaison to the School Building Committee. This effort lead to Lynnfield being the very first community to take advantage of new State legislation for financing the backlog of unfunded school projects. Recently I served as one of several volunteers on the search committee for a new Town Manager.
So this sad act of denial will not dissuade me from attending and participating in the remaining meetings of the MSAC or any other meeting where I believe there are perspectives that should be weighed when it concerns my family, my neighbors and my town.
David Basile

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Voting Today Lynnfield High School 7am -8pm

vote_today

Town elections are today and your vote is important. Please follow ballot instructions and cast your vote.

Have a great day!
Katy Shea

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