School Committee (SC) held the required hearing on the School Budget for FY19 on April 2nd. The proposed FY19 budget of $33,118,735 has a shortfall of $173,257 to include the new positions requested by the leadership team. The loss of revenues is a significant issue for the schools but the SC voted to re-open school choice in Grades 1, 6 and 9th providing $5,000 per student. The schools are actively exploring two opportunities for international students at the high school level generating full tuition of $18,000 per student.
City FY19 Budget: The federal mandate on Stormwater MS4, will kick in on July 1st and to minimally meet these standards we need to establish a new Department and utility- Stormwater. We have been working on these requirements for years under the first three permits but this level requires additional staff and equipment at the very minimum of $190,000. This is the funding we need to balance the budget.
We are working with the PEC on health insurance. MIIA presented an initial increase of 6.5%, an increase of $556,678 to our annual premium to $9.1M for the HMO for approximately 453 subscribers and $2.9 for PPO for 121 subscribers. The average municipal increase across the State is 4.6% and we need a lower rate closer to the state average to reduce these costs.
Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG): The Board of Health passed new regulations in 2012 regarding the management of FOG particularly in restaurants including grease traps, monthly grease hauler disposal and documentation. FOG is a very serious concern due to the costly impact on our infrastructure where the fats solidify and clog pipes. The Health and Sewer Departments are working in collaboration and held mandated education regarding these regulations last year; all restaurants attended and received documentation notebooks. In addition, the city has developed a mobile app with assistance from the MVPC to document inspections and compliance. Currently we continue to see a large percentage of poor compliance either from grease haulers not documenting removal, lack of compliance in removal or missing documentation/notebooks. A follow up mandatory meeting is scheduled with all restaurants who will receive their report card. Fines will begin being issued after this meeting with $1,000 for first infraction post-training.
Paid Parking: Following the presentation and review of our consultant John Burke’s comprehensive report on the status of our paid parking program after 7 years, the City and the Parking Advisory Committee reviewed the recommendations presented. The report may be found in the Planning Department website under projects: cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/uploads/newburyport_parking_program_review_update_final_report.pdf
The initial proposal for residential parking stickers was $50 and $25 for seniors, but as it was a new program, so stickers were set at $5 and free for seniors. We have reached a juncture where over 9,000 permits have been issued, more than in comparable cities (many that have street meters) and are limited lots cannot support this level of free parking. The revenue from visitors is needed to continue to upgrade downtown needs and support the garage bond. Please see Ethan Manning, Finance Director’s Pro Forma report posted on the city website in the Finance Department for details on the parking revenues: www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/uploads/paid_parking_pro-forma_4.2.18.pdf
Schools: We anticipate final negotiations with Sean Gallagher regarding the superintendent’s position this week.
I had the opportunity to tour the high school science labs with Principal Mike Parent, incoming Principal Andrew Wulf, and Steve Bergholm, Facilities Manager. We agreed that the best approach would be to establish an ad hoc committee to begin working on a plan to upgrade the science labs. City Councilors should have received the STEM and Science lab report from Superintendent Viccaro.
Newburyport Redevelopment Authority: As is well known, years of work has brought us to this juncture of building consensus to dissolve the NRA and convey their lands. We are working with legal and identified that under state law, the NRA must create a plan that is approved by the City Council and Mayor before land may be conveyed. A premature conveyance to the CHMM occurred at the NRA’s last meeting and needs to be resolved. The City Council will be addressing an order to submit a Home Rule Petition to the state legislature to dissolve the NRA; this as well as the current status of our work will be further vetted in committee.
Plum Island: between the new survey of the sand that has accreted at the point and the funds donated by the residents, 1500 cubic yards of sand should be in play to create a new berm on the edge of Reservation Ter. this week. Thank you to the residents for their donations and to all who assisted in the clean ups to get the site ready. We are working with the state on the need for a bird monitor and have requested an extension of our emergency certification from the Conservation Commission.
Mass Housing Partnerships: We met with staff from MHP and have submitted a grant proposal for technical assistance for the adaptive reuse of the Brown School. We anticipate a 6-8 week turnaround.
National Grid & Business Park: The follow up meeting with a team from NG was held at Rochester Electronics on March 30th to discuss electrical distribution, business issues, and short term and long term solutions. The need for better communication was a major point of discussion. Additional follow up will occur with individual businesses and another business park meeting will be scheduled in 6 months.
Legislative Caucus: MVPC hosted a legislative caucus last Friday with MV municipal leaders. A range of topics were activity discussed including storm clean up, power outages, budgets, schools and special education.
Municipal Vulnerability Workshop: Ellie Baker, Senior Environmental Planner from Horsley & Whitten coordinated a full day workshop for key stakeholders to work on the city’s vulnerabilities and action steps. Additional information will be provided on the findings shortly.
Jennie Geiger Crisis Center: celebrated their 35th anniversary and the annual White Ribbon Breakfast at the Georgetown Country Club. Student groups from Amesbury presented their program where they are actively engage in working on responses to violence and bullying. I was also honored with an award as one of the 35 pillars in the 35 year history of the center in addressing domestic violence.
Yankee Homecoming: Maureen Ryan is this year’s Chairperson with the theme Celebrate Seaport Pride. We had a productive meeting last week and I am requesting if City Councilors have ideas, suggestions or concerns, please send them to me.