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Financial news and information related to the town and schools in Arlington, Mass. The sources are official and unofficial. Links to sources that include opinion are marked as such.

Resumes of finalists for assessment director released

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The town manager's office has released for publication the resumes of the three finalists for the full-time assessment-director position. Deputy Town Manager Andrew Flanagan sent the resumes to YourArlington and Chris Loreti after both had objected to an expected release Friday, July 18.

YourArlington had filed a public-records request July 8 after the initial announcement that the resumes would be released July 21, the day of an expected decision about the job by the Board of Assessors. It has also called for more openness in the process.

Meanwhile, YourArlington received over the weekend the resume of one of the finalists, Jean-Paul Plouffe. The website left phone messages for Thaddeus "Ted" J. Jankowski, Jr. and James F. Doherty, but neither responded.

YourArlington has asked Flanagan why the resumes were released earlier than expected, but he did not respond.

The release of the resumes came about three hours after, Loreti, a former member of the Redevelopment Board, wrote to Flanagan, citing YourArlington's commentary. He wrote:

"In particular, I want you to be aware that your comment to the effect that the resumes may not be released until the last day allowed under the state's Public Records law is inconsistent with the vote of 2011 Town Meeting under Article 24. I have copied the relevant text of that article, a resolution I sponsored, below. As you can see, the vote commits the town to responding to records requests as soon as practicable and not waiting until the 10 days allowed under state law. Certainly, if the town can provide copies of three resumes on Friday, it can do so today.
"I realize Article 24 may have been adopted before you came to town. And I realize you may simply be following the lead of the Board of Assessors, who have demonstrated a complete lack of respect for open government in their handling of departure of the town's former Director of Assessment and their hiring of a new one. Their behavior is indicative of a dysfunctional organization, much like we see at the state level ....
"I don't expect the Board of Assessors to change its ways. I believe, however, that the resumes at issue were submitted to the town's Human Resources Department. As the records custodian, the town's professional staff need not follow the Board of Assessor's unprofessional conduct. Rather than compounding the damage the Board of Assessors has done to the town, I call on you to release the resumes of the Director of Assessments finalists immediately to anyone who has asked for them, consistent with the will expressed by the town's legislative body three years ago."

His email quotes the text of Article 24, a Town Meeting resolution passed at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting:

"WHEREAS: The Town is committed to responding to requests for public records as soon as practicable, using the maximum of ten calendar days allowed under the Public Records Law to respond only when absolutely necessary; and

"WHEREAS: The Town is committed to compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the Public Records Law ...."

Background to the story

Doherty, the longtime member of the Board of Assessors, resigned without explanation May 21.

Fourteen had applied for position, which became vacant April 18, when John B. Speidel resigned.

The names were provided in a memo Tuesday, July 8, to the Board of Assessors from Flanagan, who is acting director of human resources while Caryn Molloy is on vacation.

The memo says that the screening committee interviewed candidates for the position on July 1 and 2.

The three finalists were recommended based on the interview process and the qualifications and experience of the candidates the memo says.

The Board of Assessors plans to interview the finalists Monday, July 21, in open session subject to full board approval, board Chairman Kevin Feeley wrote July 8 in response to questions from YourArlington.

Feeley noted that five of the 14 candidates were interviewed before deciding on three finalists.

Asked to provide the resumes of the finalists for publication, Flanagan wrote July 8: "The Town is not going to release the resumes until they officially become part of the Board's meeting materials. This is consistent with past practice."

He wrote that he would be happy to release the resumes on the day of the meeting.

On June 26, Chris Loreti, a former member of the Redevelopment Board, filed an appeal seeking to learn more about the April resignation.

"The actions of the Board [of Assessors] were taken in total secrecy," Loreti wrote to Shawn A. Williams, supervisor of the state records office. "The Board held no public meetings (in either open or executive session) related to ending Mr. Speidel’s employment.

"It made no public announcement that Mr. Speidel had ceased to be employed by the town, and it has refused requests by the press to explain why he is no longer a town employee. Mr. Speidel was simply disappeared by the Board of Assessors."

The town has 10 business days to respond to the complaint.

On Tuesday, July 1, the assessors and selectmen chose a new representative on the Board of Assessors from five candidates. He was Robert Greeley. The opening occurred May 21, when longtime member Jim Doherty resigned. It has not been been made public whether Doherty is among the candidates for the director position.


Opinion, July 11, 2014: Let's be more open

June 28, 2014: Secrecy alleged in director resignation


This story was published Monday, July 14, 2014.

3 finalists for director of assessments include Doherty

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Candidates face July 21 board decision

The three finalists for the full-time position of director of assessments include James F. Doherty, the longtime member of the Board of Assessors who resigned without explanation May 21.

The other two are Thaddeus "Ted" J. Jankowski Jr. and Jean-Paul Plouffe. Fourteen had applied for position, which became vacant April 18, when John B. Speidel resigned.

The names were provided in a memo Tuesday, July 8, to the Board of Assessors from Andrew P. Flanagan, the deputy town manager who is acting director of human resources while Caryn Molloy is on vacation.

The memo says that the screening committee interviewed candidates for the position on July 1 and 2.

The three finalists were recommended based on the interview process and the qualifications and experience of the candidates the memo says.

The Board of Assessors plans to interview the finalists Monday, July 21, in open session subject to full board approval, board Chairman Kevin Feeley wrote July 8 in response to questions from YourArlington.

Feeley noted that five of the 14 candidates were interviewed before deciding on three finalists.

Asked to provide the resumes of the finalists for publication, Flanagan wrote July 8: "The Town is not going to release the resumes until they officially become part of the Board's meeting materials. This is consistent with past practice."

He wrote that he would be happy to release the resumes on the day of the meeting.

Molloy wrote Thursday, July 3: "We should have a confirmed list of names that have agreed to move on to the next step in the process by end of business Monday." That did not turn out to be the case. Flanagan said July 7: "We are in the process of finalizing the list of candidates that will be interviewed by the Board of Assessors. I hope to be able to release the names of the finalists tomorrow."

Asked for the names of the candidates June 25, she declined at the time, writing that the screening committee could recommend five people and one might decline a public interview. "I would just want the candidates to confirm and be clear about agreeing to a public interview before I release their names," she wrote.

On the screening committee are town Treasurer Stephen Gilligan, Board of Assessors' Chairman Kevin Feeley, Flanagan and Molloy. They met the week of June 23 to review resumes and were to conduct interviews the week of June 30 and after, she wrote.

Asked July 3 about the how the screening committee was devised, Molloy wrote that it was formed under Feeley's leadership but with her consultation. She said the discussions about the makeup of the committee were not done in a public meeting.

The position opened up April 18, when John B. Speidel, director since September 2011, resigned. YourArlington learned about the opening May 13; at the time, the opening was posted on the town's website, a notice that remained until May 28.

On June 26, Chris Loreti, a former member of the Redevelopment Board, filed an appeal seeking to learn more about the April resignation.

"The actions of the Board [of Assessors] were taken in total secrecy," Loreti wrote to Shawn A. Williams, supervisor of the state records office. "The Board held no public meetings (in either open or executive session) related to ending Mr. Speidel’s employment.

"It made no public announcement that Mr. Speidel had ceased to be employed by the town, and it has refused requests by the press to explain why he is no longer a town employee. Mr. Speidel was simply disappeared by the Board of Assessors."

The town has 10 business days to respond to the complaint.

On Tuesday, July 1, the assessors and selectmen chose a new representative on the Board of Assessors from five candidates. He was Robert Greeley. The opening occurred May 21, when longtime member Jim Doherty resigned. It has not been been made public whether Doherty is among the candidates for the director position.


June 28, 2014: Secrecy alleged in director resignation


This story was published Sunday, July 6, 2014, and updated July 8.

5 vie for assessor board, including selectmen's brother

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UPDATED, July 2: Five candidates have applied for the open position on the Board of Assessors. Among the four YourArlington can identify, one is Robert Greeley, a brother of a selectman and director of assessments for the town for 24 years until he retired in April 2011. The others are:

-- Patrick J. Quinn, who owns the Quinn Group Insurance Agency;

-- Stephen P. Reynolds, an attorney who works as a real-estate appraiser; and

-- Michael Stern, publisher of information about venture capital and the private-equity industry.


June 11: Background behind assessor openings


June 23 deadline to apply

Marie Krepelka, board administrator for the selectmen, declined to name the fifth candidate. She said if Bob Greeley remains a candidate at the time of the board vote, Kevin would have to recuse himself.

Selectmen Chairman Steve Byrne announced June 23 that a joint meeting of selectmen and assessors is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, to name the choice for Board of Assessors.

Filling the board vacancy, which occurred when longtime member Jim Doherty resigned May 21, is a step that is expected to take place before the board chooses a director of assessments. That full-time position opened up April 18, when Speidel resigned. An agreement with the town says the reason should not be disclosed.

As of June 20, 14 had applied. Caryn Molloy, town human resources director, wrote June 19: "The pool remains confidential at this point. I would expect next week I will be able to provide a clearer projection on a timeline for the process."
 
The four Board of Assessor candidates who have been identified were asked to comment by Sunday, June 22. Statements by those who have responded as well as their resumes are provided below.

Loreti seeks minutes; some are posted

Meanwhile, in a related issue, Chris Loreti, a former Redevelopment Board member, filed an Open Meeting Law complaint on June 2, seeking seven sets minutes of Board of Assessors' meetings from 2014 as well as any draft minutes. The dates are Jan. 27, Feb. 10, March 10, April 7 and 28, May 12 and 19.

By Thursday, June 19, four sets of the requested minutes had been posted on the town's website. In one case, the meeting of April 28, the meeting was canceled. See them here and note the date posted >>

Loreti said June 24 that he had received the minutes he had requested.

Asked why he seeks those minutes, Loreti wrote June 19: "I wanted to find out if the minutes of the Board of Assessors shed any light on John Speidel's departure. At the time I made my request at the beginning of June, only two sets of minutes had been posted for all of 2014. I requested the minutes for all of the other 2014 meetings, in either draft or approved form, but didn't receive any response."

A review of the newly posted minutes makes no reference to Speidel's leaving.

How names were reported

As to how candidates for the Board of Assessors came to light, the first three names were posted June 9 to a "Town Square" board on Patch written by "Stephen." Read it here >>

The post does not cite the source for the information. The post's time was 2:18 p.m., hours before that evening's selectmen's meeting.

Krepelka agreed the three names were included in the selectmen's packet for the June 9 meeting, and thus were public information, but said June 20 that she does not recall anyone requesting the packet. Stern applied later.

One of four contacted responds

As of 9:25 p.m. p.m. Sunday, June 22, one of four candidates for the Board of Assessors had responded to a request for comment. Further responses will be added if candidates repond.

Candidates were asked why they are seeking the position and how they believe they could improve the board.

Stern wrote:

"The Board of Assessors' opening represents an extraordinary opportunity to bring a new leader to an important Town Office. As a 14-year resident of Arlington and Town Meeting member, I am deeply committed to the town, its current success and future growth.

"As a former stockbroker, I have substantial experience working with complex financial data. And as a current publisher of information on the venture capital and private-equity industry, I have a history of working with data, and transforming it for professional consumption.

"Research I have contributed to the Vision 2020 Fiscal Resources Task Group shows that commercial land values swing wildly from one contiguous property to another. As an Assessor I will bring a new level of transparency to the office, as well as apply greater scrutiny to our field assessment vendor and the methodologies they employ to determine fair market values for commercial properties."

Background of four candidates

Here are the resumes of four of five candidates, submitted to the selectmen's office, in alphabetical order:

Robert E. Greeley

Master of Business Administration, Babson College, 1976

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (accounting), Babson College, 1972

Associate Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Mass Bay Community College, 1970

MILITARY Medical Corps -- U.S. Air Force Reserve, 1967-1974

ASSESSING EXPERIENCE

Former Director of Assessments, Town of Arlington 1987-2011

Former member Board of Assessors, Town of Arlington 1985-1987

Former Chairman Board of Assessors, Town of Arlington 1986-1987

Former member Board of Assessors, City of Somerville, 1988-2003

Assessing Consultant, City of Everett 1995-1997, 2002-2004

Assessing Consultant, Town of Framingham 1991-1992

Assessing Consultant, Town of Natick 1993-1994

Qualified as an expert witness before the Appellate Tax Board

REAL ESTATE AND APPRAISAL EXPERIENCE

Laverty Associates, Cambridge: Appraiser, experience in the appraisal of residential, commercial and industrial real estate throughout Eastern Massachusetts.

R.E. Greeley Associates: Appraisals, residential, commercial and industrial real estate

Real Estate Databases, Arlington: Computer property data for all properties in MA, Rl, CT and NH

Homesteaders Real Estate Inc., Belmont: Sales and rentals of all types of Real Estate.

BUSINESS EXPERIENCE

Marketing Rep: Southwestern Publishing Co., Cincinnati, OH New England Regional Manager

Owner and Treasurer: The Flower Cart, Retail Florist Shop, Arlington

Financial Consultant: Business Telecommunications Inc., Stoneham

ACCOUNTING AND REAL ESTATE TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Instructor, full-time, Massachusetts Bay Community College, 1974-1977

Part-time, Massachusetts Bay Community College, 1978-1990

Quincy Junior College, 1980-1986

American Institute of Banking, 1982-1987

Polaroid Corporation, 1982-1987

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

Arlington Town Meeting, 1993-2011

Arlington Alcohol Education Committee, 1968

Capital Budgeting Committee

Arlington Touchdown Club

Arlington Irish American Club

Selectmen’s Advisory Committee for Arlington Cable Television

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

International Association of Assessing Officers

Massachusetts Assessor’s Association

Middlesex County Assessor's Association

Patrick J. Quinn

EXPERIENCE:

2001 to present: Quinn Group Insurance Agency, Arlington, president:
    Responsible for day-to-day operations, prepare financial and tax reports, coordinated employee benefits packages, assist clients with complex insurance issues, supervised staff of 15 employees, managed sales staff, grew agency 1,200 percent over 13-year period

1998-2000: Insurance Management Consultants, Cambridge: commercial insurance

    Personal, health and dental insurance
1991-1995: United States Marine Corps, honorably discharged

BOARDS & COMMITTEES:

Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors

Winchester Chamber of Commerce, prior Board of Directors

Insurance Library of Boston, trustee

Commonwealth Automobile Reinsurers, MAIP Steering Committee

Griffin Photography Museum, board member

Massachusetts Association of Independent Insurance Agents, legislative committee

Member of the Rotary Club of Winchester

Board member, treasurer, NEMLEC (Northeast Law Enforcement Council)

EDUCATION: University of Massachusetts, criminal justice

Stephen P. Reynolds

MA Certified General R.E. Appraiser #3929

Reynolds Company of Quincy, real estate appraisers and consultants

CURRICULUM VITAE

Massachusetts-certified general real estate appraiser, license No. 3929

Member of the Appraisal Institute

Present Position: Reynolds Company, Quincy, Massachusetts

Real Estate Appraiser participating in all phases of fee appraisal work, including research, inspection, client liaison, report generation and review.

Academic Background:

Northeastern University School of Law - Boston, Massachusetts

Awarded Doctor of Law degree (current member of Massachusetts Bar)

Colgate University, Bachelor of Arts degree, concentration in philosophy

Thayer Academy, Braintree, graduated Cum Laude

Consulting and Valuation Assignments:

Hazardous Materials Contamination: Estimated effect on post remediation market value
(a k a stigma) resulting from spills of home heating oil, mold contamination, lead paint, etc.

Detrimental Conditions: Estimated effect on market value resulting from such issues as increased driveway slope, road proximity, and deed restrictions.

Historical Designation: Estimated effect on market value resulting from commercial property being designated a local historic landmark.

Mediation: Reviewed appraisals of a leased property, and mediated as third party between two differing appraisers in a divorce proceeding.

Tax Abatement: Consulted on all aspects of abatement work including analysis of
Assessor's methods and likelihood of success of abatement requests.

Easement Analysis: Gave advice to taking authorities concerning types of takings appropriate for various situations and impact therefrom.

Representative Assignments: Government/Private Partnership

Valuation of abandoned rail corridors and other linear parcels for conversion to alternate uses such as rail trials or transmission lines.

Appraised hundreds of takings for Bechtel Parsons Brinckerhoff in connection with Boston's "Big Dig" project, from such properties as World Trade Center, Federal Reserve Bank, Minot Station Steam Plant, plus many other buildings and parcels of vacant land.

Appraised parcels for Jay Cashman, Inc./Balfour Betty Construction, Inc. in connection with MBTA Greenbush line construction. Properties included residential, retail & industrial buildings, and vacant land.

Attorneys and Law Firms -

Appraisal of assorted buildings and vacant land throughout eastern Massachusetts. Analysis of breach of contract in regard to land value.

Valuation for tax purposes - federal (IRS standards) and local real estate taxes.

Litigation assignments related to hazardous materials contamination. Appraisal review.

Urban Redevelopment

Boston Redevelopment Authority - Takings for the Boston Convention Center Project. Properties included office buildings. Industrial space, vacant land, and parking lots.

Eminent domain

Massachusetts Attorney General's Office - Appraisals of various properties for eminent domain trials, including permanent and temporary easements, and issues of severance and consequential damages.

Conservation

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources - Appraised farms throughout the state in connection with the Commonwealth's Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. Appraisals performed to rigorous federal "yellow book" standards.

Other Activities:

- Member of Arlington Land Trust and Friends of Spy Pond Park.

- Developed software application for residential sub-division analysis.

- Author of article on appraiser liability, published in The Appraiser's Edge.

- Town of Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals (Alternate Member 2000-2004).

- School Council Member - Hardy Elementary School - Arlington, MA.

- Mock Trial Judge at Tufts University Mock Trial Competition.

Professional Education selected listing:

Appraisal Institute -
USPAP Update (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013)

Applications in Litigation Valuation (2013) IRS Valuation (2012)

Effects of Environmental Contamination (2011)

Massachusetts Board of Real Estate Appraisers

- GIS in Massachusetts (2013)
Appraisal Scope of Work (2006) USPAP Full Course (2003)

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy -
Theory & Practice of Land Valuation (2004)

Other seminars and classes, including

Federal Hwy, Admin. Appraisal Workshop (2014) Economic Outlook and Real Estate Trends (2014) Valuation of Conservation Easements (2013) Capital Markets and Econ. Insights (2013) Appraisal Best Practices (2013)

Michael W. Stern

EXPERIENCE:

Founder and CEO of Massinvestor, Inc. 1998 to Present

-- Created business publishing firm focused on venture capital and private equity, which is a core product for professional services firms, entrepreneurs and business schools across the U.S.

-- Hired and supervised freelance research editors, creative contributors and database architects.

-- Developed marketing materials for Web site, Email campaigns and trade advertising.

-- Developed partnerships with Venture Capital and Private Equity Forums across the country.

Technology Specialist, Fidelity Investments 1996-1998

-- Key member of Technology team for the FESCO division of Fidelity Investments.

-- Key application troubleshooter for FEN, Fidelity's internal employment network.

-- Assisted LAN/ Desktop support team in troubleshooting wide range of internal applications.

Financial Consultant, Merrill Lynch 1994-1996

-- Stockbroker for country's largest Private Wealth Asset Management Firm.

-- Holder of Series 7, 63 and 65 financial licenses.

-- Managed in aggregate seven figure financial accounts for businesses and individuals.

EDUCATION:

University of Texas, Austin, 1983-1987, BA in psychology


PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

-- Member of the Advisory Committee of the 128 Innovation Capital Group

-- Creator of WhoOwnsFacebook.com, the definitive who's who guide to Facebook wealth. The site was featured in New York Magazine, BusinessWeek, NPR Radio, Boston Business Journal and a CBS local TV newscast.`


This story was published Sunday, June 22, 2014, and updated July 2.

orrection: YourArlington previously reported a total of seven candidates for the Board of Assessors. There were five.

Secrecy alleged in director resignation

Redacted page from Speidel agreementRedacted page from Speidel agreement

UPDATED, July 3: As Arlington moved toward filling open positions among those who decide property assessments, a former Redevelopment Board member seeking better transparency in town government has filed a further complaint alleging secrecy.

Chris Loreti filed an appeal on June 26 seeking to learn more about the April resignation of John B. Speidel, the director of assessments since 2011.

"The actions of the Board [of Assessors] were taken in total secrecy," Loreti wrote to Shawn A. Williams, supervisor of the state records office. "The Board held no public meetings (in either open or executive session) related to ending Mr. Speidel’s employment.

"It made no public announcement that Mr. Speidel had ceased to be employed by the town, and it has refused requests by the press to explain why he is no longer a town employee. Mr. Speidel was simply disappeared by the Board of Assessors."

On Tuesday, July 1, the assessors and selectmen chose a new representative on the Board of Assessors from five candidates. He was Robert Greeley. The opening occurred May 21, when longtime member Jim Doherty resigned.

Finalists for director down to 3

On Thursday, July 3, Caryn Molloy, town personnel director, said the screening committee has recommended three of the 14 candidates for interview by the full Board of Assessors in public session.

"We should have a confirmed list of names that have agreed to move on to the next step in the process by end of business Monday," she wrote.

Andrew Flanagan, the deputy town manager, will be coordinating the final details.

She wrote June 25 that the screening committee might recommend five people and then one might decline a public interview. "I would just want the candidates to confirm and be clear about agreeing to a public interview before I release their names," she wrote.

On the screening committee are town Treasurer Stephen Gilligan, Deputy Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, Board of Assessors' Chairman Kevin Feeley and Molloy. "We met earlier this week to review resumes and will be conducting interviews next week [June 30 and after]," she wrote.

Asked July 3 about the how the screening committee was devised, she wrote that it was formed under Feeley's leadership but with her consultation.  She said the discussions about the makeup of the committee were not done in a public meeting.

Earlier, she declined to comment about Loreti's Open Meeting Law complaints, deferring to Feeley. He has not responded to a request for comment about that issue, but Town Doug Heim has.

Town counsel comments on one complaint

Heim responded June 25, before Loreti had filed his latest complaint, alleging secrecy. He is commenting with respect to earlier complaints about the Board of Assessors' alleged failure to post many sets of meeting minutes this year.

"Without addressing the substance of this particular complaint, I note that the Board of Assessors has fourteen (14) business days to examine the allegations made by Mr. Loreti, determine whether remedial actions, if any, are appropriate, and provide a response to the allegations both to Mr. Loreti and the Division of Open Government. Hence, the Board and its office will take a look and a response will be issued accordingly."

The same rules would apply to the complaint filed June 26, which is detailed below.

Meanwhile, when selectmen and assessors meet July 1, they are expected to vote on one candidate among five under consideration for the open Board of Assessors' seat. YourArlington can identify four of the candidates. They are:

    -- Robert Greeley, brother of Selectman Kevin Greeley and director of assessments for the town for 24 years until he retired in April 2011:

    -- Patrick J. Quinn, who owns the Quinn Group Insurance Agency;

    -- Stephen P. Reynolds, an attorney who works as a real-estate appraiser; and

    -- Michael Stern, publisher of information about venture capital and the private-equity industry.

Marie Krepelka, board administrator for the selectmen, has declined to name the other three candidates. Krepelka has said that if Bob Greeley remains a candidate at the time of the board vote, Kevin would have to recuse himself.

Only one candidate for board responds at length

The four YourArlington can identify were asked for comment, but only Stern has responded at length. Reynolds wrote June 30 that he had been on vacation and that his candidacy was acknowledged just that day.

Loreti said June 24 that he had received the Board of Assessors' minutes he had requested June 2.

Asked why he seeks those minutes, Loreti wrote June 19: "I wanted to find out if the minutes of the Board of Assessors shed any light on John Speidel's departure. At the time I made my request at the beginning of June, only two sets of minutes had been posted for all of 2014. I requested the minutes for all of the other 2014 meetings, in either draft or approved form, but didn't receive any response."

Text of latest complaint

Finding nothing about the Speidel resignation in the newly posted minutes, Loreti filed a new complaint June 26. It says:

"I am writing to request that the office of the Supervisor of Records open an appeal of the response I received to the public records request I made to the Town of Arlington Board of Assessors and Arlington’s Director of Human Resources on June 2, 2014. Copies of that records request, which, I made via email and the response I received to it on June 5, 2014 (from the Director of Human Resources) are attached to this letter. While I appreciate the timely response to my request, the liberal interpretation of what constituted a responsive record, and the waiver of any fees, I am making this request because I believe the redactions in the document provided are excessive and inconsistent with the Public Records Law.

"I believe it is important for you to understand the context of my records request in order to appreciate the need for you to act on my appeal. The Arlington Board of Assessors is a three-member elected board which is responsible for hiring a full-time Director of Assessments for the town.  On April 16 of this year, the Board Chair signed a separation agreement Mr. John Speidel, who was then the Director of Assessments.

"The actions of the Board were taken in total secrecy. The Board held no public meetings (in either open or executive session) related to ending Mr. Speidel’s employment. It made no public announcement that Mr. Speidel had ceased to be employed by the town, and it has refused requests by the press to explain why he is no longer a town employee. Mr. Speidel was simply disappeared by the Board of Assessors.

"Indeed, it was not until June 11 and June 12, almost two months after his departure, that the local press even reported that Mr. Speidel was gone."

[A footnotes cites stories by YourArlington and WickedLocal. The WickedLocal story was published first, in the June 5 Advocate.]

Claims 'sharp contrast'

"The information provided by the town in this case is in sharp contrast to that provided in the past. When the Board of Selectmen ended the employment of a past Town Manager, it was made public that his termination was as a result of his misuse of a town computer. When the Superintendent of School ended the employment of a teacher and principal, the reasons given for their termination were also made public. Thus the claimed need to protect Mr. Speidel’s privacy put forth by town officials appears to be specious.

"I believe the excessive redactions in the document provided are more likely an attempt to protect the Board of Assessors from public scrutiny than to protect Mr. Speidel’s privacy interests.

"For example, Paragraph 7 of the responsive document makes reference to a 'disciplinary proceeding' described in Paragraph 2, which is entirely redacted. Any such proceeding would have had to have taken place in accordance with the state’s Open Meeting Law."

[A footnote at this point says: "It is recognized that enforcement of the Open Meeting Law is the responsibility of the Attorney General and not the Supervisor of Records. For that reason I have filed and Open Meeting Law complaint against the Board of Assessors for acting outside of public meetings to end Mr. Speidel’s employment, and I would be happy to provide a copy to you. I do request, however, that the Supervisor of Records not allow the town to hide any evidence of an Open Meeting Law violation in any of the redactions in the document provided."]

"By redacting this paragraph in its entirety, the public cannot tell when this proceeding took place, and who among the Board of Assessors attended, or if that information is even in the paragraph.  If it is, revealing this sort of administrative information in no way compromises Mr. Speidel’s privacy interests. Redacting it, however, potentially shields the Board of Assessors from claims that they did not act in accordance with the law.  Clearly, that is not the purpose of the Public Records Law exemption cited by the town.

"It is also possible that the excessive redactions in the responsive document are an attempt to shield the members of Board of Assessors from potential claims of acting with a conflict of interest or with the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"Following the termination of Mr. Speidel’s employment, and during the period in which the town was accepting applications for his replacement, one of the members of Board of Assessors resigned.  Both of the news stories cited above raised the question of whether this Board member resigned so that he could apply for position formerly held by Mr. Speidel. (And both news reports indicate that this former Board member refuses to speak to them to confirm or deny whether he applied for the position.)

"It should be no surprise that the intentions of the former Board member are a matter of intense public interest. If he did in fact resign in order to be hired by his former Board colleagues (possibly along with a newly appointed Board member), then both his role in ending Mr. Speidel’s employment and that of his personal attorney, who is also a member of the Board of Assessors, are legitimate matters for public disclosure, which again in no way compromise Mr. Speidel’s privacy interests.  The town should not be allowed to hide any information related to these questions by abusing the privacy exemption of the Public Records law.

"I hope I have made clear in this letter that it is not my intention to in any way compromise Mr. Speidel’s privacy.  At the same time, I believe it essential that the public be able to have confidence that members of public bodies are acting with integrity and in full accordance with the law.  In order to ensure that that is the case with Arlington’s Board of Assessors, I respectfully request that your office conduct an in camera review of an unredacted copy the document provided in response to my public records request and then to order the town to remove the redactions to the maximum extent possible under the law while protecting Mr. Speidel’s interests."

Loreti has filed complaints under the Open Meeting Law, the first seeking minutes and a second complaint regarding the Speidel agreement.

He has also filed an appeal with the Supervisor of Records office, asking to review the settlement agreement Speidel.


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June 22: 7 vie for assessor board, including selectmen's brother

 June 11: Background behind assessor openings


This story was published Saturday, June 28, 2014, and updated July 3.

Correction: YourArlington previously reported a total of seven candidates for the Board of Assessors. There were five.

Bob Greeley named to Board of Assessors seat

Bob Greeley at the door to the Board of Assessors office, April 2011.
Bob Greeley in April 2011.

Robert Greeley, the longtime former assessments director for the town, was unanimously voted on Tuesday, July 1, to a seat on the Board of Assessors. Serving until the next town election, he is filling the unexpired term of Jim Doherty, who resigned in May.

The candidates for the seat who appeared at Town Hall for the vote were:

-- Robert Greeley, brother of Selectman Kevin Greeley and director of assessments for the town for 24 years until he retired in April 2011:

-- Patrick J. Quinn, who owns the Quinn Group Insurance Agency;

-- Joseph Bastardi, who said he was a former Town Meeting member; and

-- Michael Stern, publisher of information about venture capital and the private-equity industry.

A fifth candidate, Stephen P. Reynolds, an attorney who works as a real-estate appraiser, was not present.

Four selectmen and two members of the Board  of Assessors were present. Kevin Greeley, Bob's brother, was not present.

20-minute proceeding

The 20-minute joint meeting got underway at 7:10 p.m. with guidance from Town Counsel Doug Heim, based on Chapter 41 of Mass. General Laws and past practice.

Each of the four candidates present was asked to offer statements about their candidacy, to last no longer than three minutes.

All did. Bastardi spoke briefly. Greeley cited his long record with the town as assessments director as well as his 15 years on the Somerville Board of Assessors. Quinn, who owns an Arlington insurance agency, emphasized his business experience.

Stern called Greeley the most qualified candidate but asked the boards to "go in a different direction" and consider "new ideas." Stern has compiled a study showing dramatic swings in land valuations in town. He said he thought the board could "apply due diligence" to its vendor, Patriot Properties.

In the first round of voting, Board of Assessors Chairman Kevin Feeley nominated Greeley. Selectman Dan Dunn seconded. The vote for Greeley was 6-0.

In the second round, Selectman Joseph Curro Jr. nominated Stern, and Dunn seconded. The vote for Stern was 6-0.

In a roll-call vote to see which of the two would win, the vote was 5-1 for Greeley, with Curro voting for Stern.

The final roll call was 6-0 for Greeley.

Now with three members, the Board of Assessors plans to decide among 14 candidates for the full-time assessment director position. A clearer picture about who the finalists are is expected Thursday.

Correction

Because of a reporting error, YourArlington previously said a total of seven candidates had applied for the Board of Assessors. The total number was five, the selectmen's office has confirmed. YourArlington regrets this error of fact.


Finance image

June 28: Secrecy alleged in director resignation

 June 11: Background behind assessor openings


This story was published Tuesday, July 1, 2014, and updated the next day.

6 1/2-year Bouris-Coughlin case cost taxpayers $1.4 million

Dollar image

The long-running Bouris-Coughlin lawsuit, settled in December for $250,000, was the endgame in a seven-year story that had a substantial final price tag -- a total of $2.4 million.

Of that amount, $1.4 million was borne by Arlington taxpayers, after deducting the $1 million covered by the schools' insurer, Tudor Insurance.

The case involved Stavroula Bouris and Charles E. Coughlin Jr., the Ottoson principal and teacher who fought their 2007 dismissals following a school investigation.

Manage memo cites numbers

A memo from Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine to the Finance Committee spells out the final price tag. The Fincom reviewed it March 19 and approved a request to transfer of $240,760 to cover remaining legal fees.

In December, Chapdelaine wrote, "The settlement amount and remaining legal fees will be paid through a combination of School Department operating funds previously allocated for legal costs, funds from the School Department's insurance policy, and if necessary funds from the town's operating reserve fund will be requested."

Since then, YourArlington has tried to learn how the settlement was paid. Chapdelaine's March 18 memo says:

    "I am writing to you today to request a reserve fund transfer to the town’s legal expense budget in the amount of $240,760 to cover costs associated with remaining legal fees relating to the Bouris - Coughlin lawsuit.

    "As discussed with the committee earlier this year, these fees are related to the legal representation of the defendants in the lawsuit. By combination of contract provisions, insurance provisions, and town bylaws, each individually named defendant in this matter was and is entitled to indemnification from the town and to have the cost of their civil defense paid by the town. As you may recall, the $7,000,000 lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs was settled in late 2013 for $250,000.

Financial exposure called 'significant'

    "At the time of the settlement, the town’s financial exposure had been analyzed as potentially very significant. The attorneys’ fees cost alone were running at approximately $24,000 per day. There were 10 days of trial remaining at a projected cost of $240,000.

    "This figure did not include expert witness fees or other costs projected to be approximately $10-$15,000; nor did it include the approximately $475,000 in unpaid legal fees that had already been incurred.

    "Up until the date of settlement, the Plaintiffs had at all-times been demanding $7,000,000 in the aggregate to resolve their two cases. There is no way to predict what amount the jury would have awarded (if any) upon rendering its damages verdict. Regardless of the outcome, the losing side would have most certainly appealed.

    "Based upon the length of the trial and the amount of legal issues presented in this case, it is fair to assume that the appellate attorneys’ fees alone would run approximately $100,000 for all three defendants. There would also be transcript and related appellate costs averaging approximately $5,000. Based upon the outcome and the Appeals Court decision, any further appellate review would have similar costs and expenses.

    "At the time of settlement, it was determined that the School Department’s portion of the $250,000 agreement would be $52,117.20, the remainder being covered by the School Department’s insurance policy.

    "Also, after working with the defendants' attorneys, we learned that the amount of legal fees due in excess of the School Department's insurance policy was $477,435.67. After negotiating with the defendants' attorneys, the Legal Department was successful at reducing that amount by 18% to $390,760.

    "The School Department’s legal budget is able to cover $150,000 of these costs, and the balance of $240,760 is what is being requested as a reserve fund transfer.

    "When this matter was discussed with the Finance Committee earlier this year, several members of the committee requested information regarding total expenditures to date related to the Bouris - Coughlin matter. The table below contains all prior costs and the costs related to the remaining legal fees discussed in the memorandum."

School Department Costs Related to Bouris-Coughlin Suit

FY 08: $192,674.24

FY 09: $152,289.49

FY 10: $221,785.82

FY 11: $225,691.75

FY 12: $114,382

FY 13: $50,863

FY 14: $41,142

Total: $998,828.30

Remaining Legal Fees

FY 14 School Legal Appropriation: $150,000

FY 14 Reserve Fund Request: $240,760

FY 14 Total: $390,760.00

School Department Portion of Settlement

FY 14: $52,117.20

Total All Town/School Costs – Bouris - Coughlin Suit

$1,441,705.50

In December, Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf said in U.S. District Court in Boston, according to a transcript:

"Over the years I've encouraged you to attempt to settle this case, in part because of the nature of the allegations and events. When cases are settled usually nobody is completely happy with the terms. It's in the nature of a settlement.

"But I think every one of the parties have good reason not to want to testify or testify further. You've been embroiled in this dispute for more than six years and I hope that this resolution will let each of you get on with your personal and professional lives and that in your future professional lives whatever you learned from this will give some redeeming value to an experience that I'm confident has been painful to every single one of you."

The federal trial, filed in 2010, began Dec. 2, after a number of delays, and settlement occurred Dec. 10.

One impetus for the lawsuit dates to July 2007, when YourArlington published a report that Bouris and Coughlin were under investigation for "potential inappropriate conduct" involving a series of emails written on the schools' computer system. Other media reports followed. Bouris and Coughlin were fired the next month, and a systems technician was cleared.

The plaintiffs and their attorney were scheduled to be paid $250,000 on or before March 31.


This story was published Wednesday, March 26, 2014, and updated the next day.

Long-term budget squeeze hits home

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Rising debt, pension, health costs in Arlington

Revenues for Massachusetts municipalities have risen a bit as the recession eases. Even so, cities and towns, including Arlington, face what a state taxpayer group calls a long-term budget squeeze.

Why? Because the costs for pensions, employee and retiree health care, and debt service are rising faster than revenues, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation’s 43rd annual Municipal Finance Data report says.

In response to a news release reporting the numbers, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine provided YourArlington with those for the town.

Statewide, total municipal revenues and expenditures grew by 3.7 percent, to $23.4 billion, in fiscal 2013, an improvement over the slim growth during the recession but well under the average annual growth of 5.2 percent between 1982 and 2009, the foundation said.

The fiscal pressure has led to the elimination of more than 15,500 full-time positions, or 6 percent of the statewide municipal workforce, since 2007 (see Table 1).

The global recession and state fiscal crisis are partly responsible for these layoffs, but the larger and more permanent cause is the escalating spending on pensions, health care, and debt service. Spending on these three categories grew 23 percent between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2012, while all other spending grew just 10 percent.

"Spending on employee and retiree benefits will consume an ever larger share of municipal budgets for the foreseeable future as municipalities face nearly $45 billion in unfunded liabilities," said MTF President Michael J. Widmer. "With modest revenue growth at best, funding for schools, public safety, and other services will be sacrificed in order to pay for the unaffordable obligations taken on by cities and towns over the past decades."

Table 1: Municipal Spending and Full-Time Employment007       FY 2012

( $ billions)     ($ billions)     Growth

Total Spending

19.9

22.6

13%

Debt Service1

1.8

2.3

23%

Pensions

1.0

1.3

30%

Health Care

1.9

2.2

19%

All Other

15.2

16.8

10%

Full-Time Positions

265,042

249,472

-6%

For comparison, Chapdelaine reported the following budgeted numbers in each category for Arlington:

Table 2: Arlington Budget Amounts (in millions)
 
 

FY07

FY12

%Change

Total

105.3

120.5

14.43%

Debt Service

7

8

14.29%

Pensions

6.4

7.3

14.06%

Health Insurance

14

16.4

17.14%

All Other

77.9

88.8

13.99%

Full-Time Equivalent Positions

370

353

-4.59%

The report also said:

    * Pension costs grew nearly three times as fast as other municipal spending between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2012 and more than twice as fast as revenue growth. In fiscal 2012, pension contributions totaled more than $1.3 billion, a 30-percent increase from the $1 billion in 2007.

    * Like pensions, spending on health care for employees and retirees grew much faster than revenues between 2007 and 2011. The widespread adoption of municipal health reform in 2012 reduced costs by $30 million, but health care still accounts for nearly 10 percent of municipal budgets.

Spending will continue to climb because, in addition to the generous health care benefits for active employees, municipalities face an overwhelming $30 billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care. Even if cities and towns continue to ignore the liability, they cannot avoid the escalating costs: spending on retiree health care is projected to jump from $800 million in 2012 to more than $1 billion within five years and $1.5 billion in 10 years.2

    * Debt service costs, the amount municipalities must pay annually in interest and principal for money they have borrowed, grew by 23 percent between fiscal 2007 and 2012, reaching a total of $2.26 billion in 2012, 10 percent of municipal spending.3

On the revenue side, growth was driven largely by an increase in state aid which, combined with a small improvement in local receipts, offset the weakest growth in property taxes in nearly three decades.

    * After three consecutive years of cuts, state aid to municipalities rose to $4.8 billion in fiscal
2013, a 3.0 percent increase over the $4.7 billion in fiscal 2012. Virtually all of the increase in state aid was dedicated to Chapter 70 funding, which climbed by 4.8 percent or $160 million to $3.52 billion in 2013 from $3.36 billion in 2012. For the third consecutive year, unrestricted aid was funded at $899 million.

    * Local receipts, such as motor vehicle excise taxes, meals and hotel taxes, building permits, and charges for services, grew by 3.3 percent in fiscal 2013 to $4.2 billion.

    * Despite upticks in state aid and local receipts, overall revenue growth was constrained because property taxes, which account for half of all municipal revenues, grew at their slowest since 1985, increasing by 3.6 percent, from $13 billion in 2012 to $13.4 billion in 2013. By contrast, between 1985 and 2012, property taxes rose an average of 5.4 percent annually.

The 43rd edition of Municipal Financial Data is supported by a grant from First Southwest Co.

In addition to the analysis of overall trends in local finances, the report provides a series of statistical tables that detail basic financial information for each of the state’s 351 cities and towns. The report also includes comparisons of average residential tax bills; percent of low-income students; and per capita expenditures, income and equalized values.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is a nationally recognized, independent, nonprofit research organization whose purpose is to promote the most effective use of tax dollars, improve the operations of state and local governments, and foster positive economic policies.

Over the past 15 years the Foundation has won 16 national awards for its work on health care access and costs, transportation reform, business costs, capital spending, state finances, MBTA restructuring, state government reform, and municipal health reform.


Read the full report here >>


 Footnotes:

1 Debt exclusions, which are included in the total for debt service, account for only a small share of debt service costs.

2 The health-care figure in Table 1 is from data that is self-reported by municipalities. Some municipalities do not include the costs of their contributions to supplemental Medicare plans in that total. As a result, annual health-care costs for municipal employees and retirees are likely higher than the reported figure.

3 The state limits its borrowing so that annual debt service is no more than eight percent of that year’s total revenues.


This story was published Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2104.

Start-up, town move toward an online budget vision

Screen shot from Arlington Visual BudgetScreen shot from Arlington's Visual Budget.

Termed a first of its kind

What if Arlington taxpayers could see online, in real time, how the town spends their money?
A start-up company nearly across from Town Hall is on its way to realizing that dream.

The effort by Involution Studios, at 661 Mass. Ave., and the town remains a work in progress, but it is far enough along for the public to see it -- and for the town to announce it. That occurred Monday, Oct. 7, when Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and analyst Michael Bouton described it publicly to the Board of Selectmen.

Chapdelaine says it is the first known visual representation of a municipal budget of this kind.

"Increasing transparency and accessibility to financial information has long been a goal for the town," Chapdelaine said. "We hope this new feature will encourage users to learn more about Town finances and be more engaged in the annual budget discourse."

First public demo on Town Day

The first public glimpse occurred on Town Day, Sept. 21. In a dark Town Hall Auditorium that day, former Selectwoman Annie LaCourt sat at a laptop. Projected on the screen were pages from what those involved are calling Arlington's Visual Budget. See it here >>

Peter Howard, secretary of the town Finance Committee, asked questions, as Alan Jones, also of the Fincom, looked on.

"Can I see the structural deficit?" Howard asked, referring to an ongoing financial issue the town faces in which amounts paid out eventually outstrip available revenues. Projected figures on that deficit show the town in a $7 million hole in fiscal 2019.

LaCourt clicked through various scenarios as music from the Arlington High School Jazz Band blared from the stage outside. If Howard did not see a graphic representation of the deficit that day, he saw lots of current information that a taxpayer might want to know.

See how your taxes are spent

For example, those at the demonstration saw where their taxes go at the Arlington Visual Budget website. A user enters his or her annual tax bill, and up pops a separate box overlaying the screen saying "See how much you pay for these services" above boxes of various shades for schools, town departments, pensions, etc.

Place a cursor over each box, and in a window is the part of that amount you contribute.

The town's municipal website has published financial information relevant to taxpayers since 1999. For example, you can see the town's fiscal 2014 budget plan here >>

Arlington's Visual Budget adds an interactive dimension. Not just lists of numbers for departments, the presentation lets you see numbers over time as well as what part any taxpayer plays in contributing to a budget.

The current data underlying the site covers fiscal 2008 to 2018.

Effort began last March

LaCourt said she got involved with the project last March, when she discovered that Involution could work on site a website -- and do the work gratis.

Juhan Sonin, Involution creative director, said in a town news release: "We were intrigued by the challenge of this project and, being from Arlington, very excited to work with the town.

"We’re pleased with the results so far and look forward to how residents use the feature," said the Arlington resident. See his resume here >>

Selectmen welcomed the project with enthusiasm.

"Totally awesome," said Chairman Dan Dunn, who works at an IT start-up. Selectmen Joseph Curro Jr., who also works in IT, called the effort "award-winning."

The board voted, 5-0, on a motion by Selectman Kevin Greeley to send a letter of strong thanks to Involution and invite its principals to a future meeting.

What about school finances?

Selectwoman Diane Mahon suggested letting school administrators know about the visual budget and wondered whether school finances could be included in the future.

In introducing the presentation, Chapdelaine said the visual budget "is the brainchild of man." He cited Town Meeting member Gordon Jamieson and the members of Vision 2020's fiscal resources task group.

Involved since then was Bouton, a management analyst the town hired in January. He works mainly for Andrew P. Flanagan, deputy town manager, as well as annual budget work for Chapdelaine.

Previously employed by the Boston Bar Association, Bouton is the guy who feeds town data into the Involution database that underlies the visual budget.

He said he is happy to be part of such a project, because it is "part of the manager's push for transparency," Bouton said.

LaCourt said the Town Day demo was a soft launch, and she sees "hard work in the next couple of months" before is linked to the town's website.

Last year the town conducted a public survey about how it communicates financial information. Residents overwhelmingly desired more concise, online information, Chapdelaine said in a news release.

The visual budget gives residents a fresh way to consider Arlington’s budget, and it provides definitions and explanations for some of the more complex municipal budgetary concepts, such as "Override Stabilization Fund" and "MWRA Debt Shift."

Arlington Visual Budget will continue to develop. Still to be developed is a daily, real-time connection to town finances, as money flows in and bills are paid -- a feature the Fincom's Jones said he would like to see.

The town welcomes feedback from users. To do so, email arlington-internal at goinvo.com.

For more town financial information, visit arlingtonma.gov/budget.


This story was published at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013.

 

D.C. gridlock doesn't extend to Arlington

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Town's community-development funds come in a bit higher

The Town of Arlington had expected a 5-percent reduction in federal community-development funds, but the amount the town received came in slightly higher than last year's amount.

"That allowed us to restore funding to public-service programs as well as increase funding in the various other categories, wrote Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine on Friday, June 21.

Read more ...

Town Hall hearing held on state budget

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The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means plans to hold a hearing on the governor's fiscal 2014 budget proposal at Town Hall on Monday, March 4, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This hearing will be chaired by Representative Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The hearing, to focus on the governor’s health and human services plans, is to receive testimony from members of the Patrick administration.

Members of the public are welcome to attend but will not be allowed to deliver spoken testimony. They will be able to submit written testimony to the committee, or testify at a public hearing on the budget at 10 a.m. Friday, March 8, at Gardner Auditorium in the State House.


How will plan affect you? Governor announces tool


Town continues AAA bond rating

Money imageThe Town of Arlington has received competitive bids from bond and note underwriters for a $12,692,000 20-year Series A bond issue, a $2,205,000 Series B refunding bond issue and a $2,426,329 1-year bond anticipation note issue, Town Treasurer Stephen Gilligan has reported.J.P. Morgan Securities was the winning bidder on the Series A Bonds, with an average interest rate of 2.08 percent. PNC Capital Markets was the winner on the Series B Bonds, with an average interest rate of 1.28 percent. Last, TD Securities was the winning bidder on the notes, with an interest rate of 0.28 percent.

The Series A Bond proceeds will be used to finance various municipal purposes, while the Series B Bonds will refinance bonds of the town originally issued Aug. 15, 2003, and the notes will be used to finance a portion of the Thompson School.

The town received eight bids on the Series A Bonds, six bids on the Series B Bonds and four bids on the notes.  

The refunding bonds will generate total savings for the town of $253,075.

The town will share a portion of these savings with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as the debt being refinanced is currently receiving 63-percent reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The net savings to the town over the life of the bonds is $249,714.

Before the sale, Standard & Poor's Ratings Group, a municipal-bond credit-rating agency, affirmed the town's bond rating of AAA, the highest rating attainable and assigned a SP-1+ to the note issue. The rating agency cited the town's low debt burden, very strong household income, and good management policies as positive credit factors.

The bids for the bonds and notes were accepted at the offices of the town's financial advisor, First Southwest Co., at 54 Canal St., Boston.

State budget gives key boosts to Arlington's aid

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The $32.5 million state budget has "a direct, positive effect on Arlington," Sen. Ken Donnelly wrote in a response to questions from YourArlington. Gov. Patrick signed the fiscal 2013 spending measure on July 8.

Chapter 70 and direct local aid "saw a significant increase" in the fiscal 2013 budget, he said. "Equally important, more money will come to the town through the special-education circuit breaker, which will also help our schools ensure that all our children receive quality educational services.

Donnelly provided no specific numbers, but Rep. Will Brownsberger has done so in his blog June 28

Under the Senate Ways and Means budget for fiscal 2013, Chapter 70 funds are at $8,109,496. That compares to $6,880,580 in fiscal 2012.


Fiscal 2013 "cherry sheets" (.PDF)


 Unrestricted government aid in the Senate budget is $6,424,188 for fiscal 2012, and total Section 3 aid is $14,533,684.

The House for fiscal 2012 has budgeted Chapter 70 at $8,102,943, unrestricted government aid at $6,416,909 and total Section 3 aid at $14,519,852.

The change from the governor's FY13 proposed (House 2) budget was $463,939.

The governor's proposed (House 2) budget for fiscal 2013 puts Chapter 70 at $8,102,943, unrestricted government aid at $5,952,940 and total Section 3 aid at $14,055,883.

The change from the amount budget in fiscal 2012 is 9.5 percent

Under the fiscal 2012 budgeted, Chapter 70 was at $6,880,580, unrestricted government aid at $5,952,940, total Section 3 aid at $12,833,520. Additional local aid of $463,969 was distributed last Oct. 31.

As for the amount of the special-education circuit breaker, Brownsberger wrote: "Note that in addition to improving somewhat on the Chapter 70 and UGGA numbers, the Senate budget increased the special-education circuit breaker to full funding at the 75% level." The specific amount could not yet be learned.

Donnelly he wrote in a statement Tuesday, July 3: "I'm very pleased with what we were able to do in bringing additional money to our town to fund critical local services."

A news release from Donnelly's office issued June 29 said in part:

"The spending plan [for fiscal 2013] prioritizes funding for cities and towns, and commitments to reform and job creation. The budget does not contain any new taxes and uses a combination of ongoing revenue initiatives, one-time resources and spending reductions to close a $1.4 billion budget gap, the smallest budget gap the state has had since FY08.

"'Massachusetts is still recovering from the economic storm of 2007-2008,' Donnelly, Democrat of Arlington, said in the release when asked by his office about this year’s budget.

"'But the cautious spending efforts we have made during these past five years are now being reflected in the additional funds we were able to allocate to local cities, towns, and school districts in the FY13 budget.'

"The budget represents the Legislature’s continuing commitment to cities and towns, boosting investments in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), Chapter 70, and the Special Education Circuit Breaker –- the three largest sources of direct state aid to municipalities and school districts.

"The budget increases funding for local aid by $288.9 million over FY12 projected spending, including $899 million for unrestricted local aid. Chapter 70 funding is increased to $4.17 billion, ensuring that all school districts receive at least an additional $40 per pupil in aid. Regional School Transportation is also increased by $2 million to $45.52 million.

"Additionally, the budget fully funds the state’s obligation for the Special Education Circuit Breaker at $242 million for first time since FY08, ensuring that students with special needs receive the services and education they deserve.

"In another effort to aid cities and towns, the budget directs $25 million from the state’s FY13 budget surplus to the state’s community preservation trust fund. This is in addition to language that strengthens the Community Preservation Act (CPA), by expanding the use of funds to rehabilitate and support existing outdoor parks, recreational centers and affordable housing.

"The budget restores some painful cuts from previous years and makes new targeted investments, leaving the state’s rainy day fund at $1.2 billion which, along with the Legislature’s prudent reforms and fiscal decisions in previous years, is responsible for the Commonwealth’s highest bond rating in history."


This story was published Friday, July 6, 2012, and updated two days later, after the governor signed the fiscal 2013 budget, as well July 9, when links to "cherry sheets" were added.

Key factors behind the new teachers' contract -- override, GIC in 2011

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Salary restructuring explained; study group points the way

The new, three-year teachers' contract, signaling a welcome measure of labor peace, came about after two significant factors in 2011 -- voters supported a $6.5 million override and union members voted to join state GIC health insurance, a move they earlier rejected. Joining the GIC has meant a savings of $3.8 million in the current fiscal year.

News analysis logoHistorically, the pay for Arlington teachers has long been low compared to similar communities. The new accord is in part a step to make up for the past, particularly under longtime Town Manager Don Marquis, who kept salaries lower while allowing for more generous health insurance.

The new contract -- calling for percentage increases of 2.5, 2 and 2 in the next three years starting in September -- includes a restructured salary table. The June 4 memo that led to the approved contract includes that table.

You may compare those scales to the ones in the existing contracts, the links to which are here >> 

How salary plan was restructured

Siobhan Foley, negotiations chair and first vice president for the Arlington Education Association (AEA), explained the salary restructuring June 23:

The salary table changes only in the first year, which calls for a 2.5-percent increase, she said. The second and third years are straight 2-percent increases at each level of the salary table.

Here is how the restructuring took place:

  • A new step was created at 3-percent higher than the previous top step.
  • The first step was then eliminated, and all steps were renumbered in order to retain a 12-step salary scale.
  • New steps 1-10 got a 2.5-percent increase, and new step 11 was frozen for one year to take care of a disproportionate jump between the previous step and that step.

"The restructured salary table was a solution to two problems," she wrote.

One was the disproportionate increase from our old step 11 to the old step 12 cited above.

The second was the fact that teachers on the last step have received minimal to no pay increases in the last several contracts. By restructuring the table and freezing one step, the higher-percentage jump was smoothed over, and the final step was increased slightly more than the rest of the steps, leaving an overall 2.5-percent increase in the first year.

To go beyond the news release issued by the administration and the AEA on June 21, YourArlington made a public-records request for the new contract a day later. Robert Spiegel, the human-resources officer for the schools, responded the same day. He provided a number of helpful documents, including the June 4 memo, but said the contract itself is not yet in one integrated document.

Public raises questions, gets answers

After publication of the news release, issued to all media outlets simultaneously, as per a recently adopted school policy, some members of the public began questioning the published information.

Former Selectman Annie LaCourt addressed some of the issues raised in a June 24 post to the Arlington email list, quoted here with permission. LaCourt, teacher and AEA rep Linda Hanson and School Committee Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe are part of an ongoing school-town committee studying compensation.

As to the relationship between the teachers' new contract and the town budget, LaCourt wrote, "No matter what the new teachers' contract costs, the general education budget for the town will not increase more that 3.5% in FY13, FY14 and FY15. The special education budget will not increase more than 7% during that same time."

With regard to Arlington teachers' salaries relative to other towns, she wrote, "a team of people looked at Arlington teachers’ total compensation including health benefits compared to other towns. As part of the study, we also compared academic performance measured by standardized tests ... and Arlington performs better than many towns spending more money."

Teacfher salary gap documented in 2010

As to the long-standing salary gap between Arlington and other towns -- which is documented in this 2010 YourArlington new analysis of teacher pay -- LaCourt wrote: "You cannot make the comparison on average salary if you don't know the longevity of the teacher population.

"When we looked at this, we [found the] gap is different depending on where in the scale a teacher is. There is also a big gap after a teacher reaches the top step and lane. At that point the gap grows larger faster than elsewhere in the scale every time the standard raise is less generous than surrounding communities.

"The result can lead to loss of good current staff, and it can also mean that young teachers won't start here, because they see where they might end up."

"Town and school employees ultimately helped us get into the GIC
and saved the town 3 million dollars in this fiscal year alone.
Some of that money has to go to close our structural deficit.
But some of it will be needed to close that salary gap."
-- Annie LaCourt 

LaCourt emphasized this: "Town and school employees ultimately helped us get into the GIC and saved the town 3 million dollars in this fiscal year alone. Some of that money has to go to close our structural deficit. But some of it will be needed to close that salary gap."

An accounting of savings via GIC

Hanson provided specific numbers about savings related to joining the GIC, and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, who chairs the salary study committee, confirmed them.

Hanson wrote June 25 that the town's health-insurance appropriation for fiscal 2012 without any changes would have been $19,183,674.

With the move to the GIC, employees choosing lower-cost plans, and the very low 1.43-percent increase in GIC plans for fiscal 2013, the cost to the town totaled $15,375,426.

The difference of $3,808,248 is amount saved.

Hanson explained how those savings were allocated:

$1 million in assumed savings was used to lower the overall override amount;

$1,383,681 was put into the override stabilization fund;

$1,283,131 was set aside to pay for cost-of-living salary increases for employees; and

$141,437 went to the fiscal 2012 tax recap.

Salary Study Group eyes report next spring

The panel that produced these numbers is called the Salary Study Group. Included on it are the deputy town manager, the school's HR director, a selectman and representatives from each of the unions in town.

The goal is to come up with a way of accurately measuring the wage structures and salary tables in Arlington and comparing them against similar communities. The group will work together to agree on criteria that needs to be considered when choosing the communities we compare ourselves to, as well as the job specific factors that need to be included to insure we are comparing similar job responsibilities. The group has met twice.

The group is not far enough along in the process to set an expected study completion date, but members hope to report next spring to Town Meeting, the Finance Committee, the selectmen and the School Committee, Chapdelaine confirmed.

The final vote by AEA members on Monday, June 18, at Arlington High School was 153-4-1, according to the tally on the union's website. The 158 who voted compares with a total of about 387 members in the bargaining unit, Spiegel wrote. This includes teachers, nurses, related service providers (speech, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, social workers and some other classifications.


 Union salary scales, 2008-2012 | Current contracts (those in effect before Sept. 1, 2012)


This story was published Tuesday, June 22, 2012.

2.5% increase in 1st year of new 3-year teachers' contract

Money logoA new three-year contract for Arlington public-school teachers calls for an overall increase of 2.5 percent, with a restructuring of the salary table in the first year, and 2-percent increases in the second and third years.

The new pact was announced Thursday, June 21, in a joint news release from the union and administration, three days after union members ratified it.

School Committee Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe and Siobhan Foley, AEA negotiations chair and first vice president, announced that the Arlington Education Association (AEA) and the School Committee had come to an agreement on a contract, which will begin Sept. 1. The two parties met over the course of three months with the shared goal of achieving an agreement before the close of the school year.

The final vote by AEA members on Monday, June 18, at Arlington High School was 153-4-1, according to the tally on the union's website

By the following day, at least one union leader and a member of the administration declined to comment, saying the union and administration had agreed to a joint news release.

The two bodies also agreed to form two joint committees: one committee will negotiate the provisions of the new educator evaluation regulations for implementation in September 2013, and the other committee will review and analyze data on the workload, caseload, roles, and responsibilities of Special Educators and Related Service Providers.

Following a trend in many area towns, the new agreement will see the school year starting a bit earlier for both teachers and students. Beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, the two teacher days before the opening of school for pupils will be the Wednesday and Thursday immediately prior to Labor Day. The first day of school for students will then move to the Tuesday after Labor Day, except for Kindergarten. This will give the District more flexibility in meeting the state required number of school days in years with multiple snow days or other weather related closings.

The joint news release said the contract was made possible by the June 2011 tax override and the positive financial impact of the Town and School employees moving to the GIC for health insurance.

"The entire school community expresses its appreciation for the contributions of the town’s residents and employees," the release said, "contributions which have enabled the schools to maintain current services and to begin restoring some essential positions that were cut in previous years."

Representatives of the administration and union have been asked to comment about how the new contract benefits employees.

Allison-Ampe was among those and said in a statement June 21:

"Speaking for the School Committee, we are very happy to have reached this agreement. The process was very collaborative, it followed the timeline that was set, and within that timeline, there was great discussion on multiple issues of importance to both sides. We were able to address pay scales, calendar issues and other aspects which have been sticking points in the past. It created new Joint committees to work out teacher evaluations and for special education caseloads and responsibilities.

"To me, these joint committees are indicative of the best part of this contract and its process: how this contract begins an era of School Committee members, teachers, and administration working collaboratively together for good of our students and the improvement of the schools."

Foley, an AEA first vice president, wrote June 21:

"After the last contract, we [the School Committee and the union] made a promise to come up with a contract by June of 2012. We did it.  The process was a good one.  There was respect, civil argument, and a mutual commitment to try and honor the excellent performance of Arlington teachers."

AEA President Ron Colosi Jr. has not responded. He has not done so since October 2010.


 Union salary scales, 2008-2012 | Current contracts (those in effect before Sept. 1, 2012)


This story was published at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21, 2012, and updated the next day. It was also updated June 24 to clarify the copy and headline, to report that the 2.5-percent increase was in the first year of the contract, not overall.

Treasurer, school budget analyst rap consolidation report

The town treasurer and a longtime school business employee have issued their own critiques of the state Department of Revenue report outlining steps toward consolidation of town/school financial operations.

Town Treasurer Stephen Gilligan, in a Feb. 12 Boston Globe story, calls the state report a "one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach for both its analysis and recommendations."

The state report has suggested considering an appointed treasurer rather than an elected one. Gilligan, treasurer since 2006, told The Globe that the state treasurer is elected and that the election of a treasurer without the needed financial qualifications "would be a stretch."

The other Arlington employee unhappy with the DoR report is Janet Collins, the school budget analyst, who records staff absences and hiring of substitutes. The report says:


Feb. 7: Selectmen move forward with consolidation


"Currently, the school budget analyst spends as many as three hours per day to complete these tasks using a manual system. We don’t believe that these responsibilities represent the best use of time for the second highest paid and longest serving person in the school business office."

In a statement that was part of the School Committee's packet received at the Feb. 9 meeting, Collins wrote:

"The first thing I wish to bring up concerning my substitute position in the Department of Revenue's report is that is it incorrectly reported. I think the Department of Revenue personnel misunderstood the process that is used for this position.

"I do NOT handle substituting work three hours in the office. I work from home.

"The pay was based on approximately three hours of work home. I at tend to call between 8 and 10 at night and then proceed to pick it up at 5:30 to 6:45 in the morning.

"At 7:15 call each school to report to them the absences in the school for the day. The only process I do in work is when I come to work in the morning, call my I sub line to see who called in after 7:30 in the morning so I can add them to the list which turn I in to the various departments in the school department who need them.

"I interview the substitutes on my own time after work at4:15, 4:30 etc.

"I have asked different departments to please refer substitutes to go online and print out the application in order to fill it out, and not have them come up to see me. I then ask them to call me to make an appointment for an interview. I turn away substitutes who walk in and relate the process they should be following.

"The interviewing and putting together the substitute list originally was done by the CFO's secretary. However, when that position was riffed a few years ago, all the business office personnel assumed some part of her duties, and I took on the part of interviewing the subs and maintaining the list.

"Because am I so busy during the day in the office, I do not see substitutes during the day as previously was done by the CFO's secretary.

"I have been calling substitutes for over 25 years. No backup has ever been provided. However, I have managed to miss only one day to call substitutes and that was due to a serious illness at home that I had to take care of. When go I on vacation, I still do the calling from wherever I am and fax the list into the Superintendent's Office when completed.

"I would like this clarified in the report and corrected."

Selectmen Chair Clarissa Rowe said the state recommendations must go before Town Meeting and Arlington voters for approval before they can be put into effect.

Town Manager Brian Sullivan is accepting comments on the state’s recommendations until Feb. 22, the day before he retires, before a report for Town Meeting is put together this spring. Learn how to comment here >> 

 


Feb. 3: State suggestions to consolidate finances include appointed treasurer, assessors

Read the complete state report here >> (.PDF) 


This story was first reported Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. 

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Don Seltzer For town housing, move beyond critique to solutions
24 January 2022
Grant, up until your final snide comment I am in general agreement with you. Impact of new housing upon public school enrollment is highly dependent on the type of housing. And that is why I fault t...
Grant Cook For town housing, move beyond critique to solutions
24 January 2022
I will point out Don that your own math around school enrollment that really don't justify the hyperbole of claiming that a new elementary is around the corner. Your calculation around housing units ...
Steve Berczuk For town housing, move beyond critique to solutions
23 January 2022
Also: I was reacting to the comment that I made an incorrect "accusation" which I take seriously. Looking at the two articles again, my "facts straight" comment was about this sentence "This draft rep...

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