The final of six public information meetings about Tuesday's vote on proposition 2 1/2 drew a small crowd.
Editor's Note: Mayor Alcombright has informed us that NBCTV encountered difficulties taping Friday night's override session. It was discovered this morning that the audio did not tape. The station will instead rebroadcast just the override presentation the mayor gave at the City Council meeting several weeks ago. The air times are Sunday, June 19, at 9 a.m., and 3 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., all on Channel 17.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The proposition 2 1/2 public information meetings came to a close Friday night at Greylock School and the decision is now in the hands of the voters.
"I thought the process went very, very well," Mayor Richard Alcombright said of the meeting. "At the first meeting there was this aura of skepticism...Now I see people and they have a focused questions and that's what we're trying to do. People began to understand."
Alcombright hosted six meetings across the city to discuss the override vote on Tuesday. Friday's meeting was the most sparsely attended - drawing a crowd of only a few dozen. Alcombright said he hopes the meetings encouraged residents to vote in favor of the proposition. However, he said he tried to remain relatively neutral – only slightly nudging in favor of the vote – during the meetings to encourage dialogue.
"I really would like people to know that I am available, that the city counselors are available. I wanted people to come out and share their opinions and not be judged," Alcombright said. "I think people, hopefully, see the need for this."
About a dozen people spoke at Greylock School and they were all in favor of the proposition except for Robert Cardimino, who continued his campaign advocating for additional cuts rather than raising taxes. Most who spoke centered around funding for the schools.
"Something has to be done for the long-term goals," Drury High School teacher Melissa Quirk said. "If we continue to think short-term, we will never be able to grow to the potential that this community has to offer. We need to be thinking long-term and in order to do that we all need to make as much as an investment as we can in this community."
City councilor Michael Bloom said that this budget was "unlike" any budget he has seen before and encouraged people to vote in favor of the override.
"There is too much negativity. There are no hidden accounts. There is no hidden agenda," Bloom said. "If you want to make further cuts and take step backwards, you can vote no on this. If you are look to build the community you will vote yes."
Cardimino, however, said the schools will survive without the override vote and said Alcombright had not made enough cuts.
"Let the mayor get out his scalpel and make some cuts," Cardimino said.
Now there is nothing left for the city to do to inform residents about the vote and the city's next steps lay in the hands of the voters.
"I'm hopefully optimistic. I'm hoping, beyond hope, that people rally around this," Alcombright said. "Whether you are for it or against it, vote."
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The one thing I can say about Bob is that is not a nameless coward like 98% of us here. Aside from that...
The city will survive with or without the override, but if we should vote it down, it will send a message that we don't give a darn and would rather get a welfare/ssa/disability check than pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. This is about paying our own way into the 21st century. We are not the helpless little laid-off mill workers that we've been portrayed as for the last 25 years. We are the proud city of North Adams, Massachusetts and it's about G.. D... time we stopped whining and started acting like the take-no-guff city that we are.
Thank you Mayor Alcombright for taking the many hours of your time to explain to the citizens of North Adams what we can expect from a Proposition 2 1/2 Override. Whether you are for or against it is each person's decision. I truly believe that we need to vote YES in order to continue to move our City forward. All of our services are very much needed as is the quality of our schools. Let's move forward together with a YES vote on Tuesday the 21st.
If people vote "YES", there better be some stronger oversight the next couple of years. Dept's need to be evaluated, overtime may need to be cut back, raises (if any) really need to be justified, our streets better be street swept (hasnt happened in my neighborhood yet and its almost July), an evaluation of how we attract business to the city needs to improve (love the arts but come on, it doesnt pay most people high paying jobs.....we need MANUFACTURING here to keep the taxes low), the city council needs to improve communication, etc, etc, etc. I have to say, I give credit to the teachers and schools, they seem to be the only ones sacrificing raises and I applaud them. Too bad other dept's in the city didnt follow their lead. The schools are the ONLY reason why Im voting YES at this time.
What a surprise teachers speaking up for the override. Are you kindding me? They are only about themselves not the school or the kids. The mayor loaded up the meeting . Someone would have to be stupid if they can not see that. It is time for his dog and pony show to stop along with his uncontrolled spending !!!! What are the people who are using the slogan ( save the school ) going to say in two weeks when the mayor askes for another 11m save the school AGAIN ??? STOP THE LIES AND B.S. VOTE NO !!!!
You keep whining about "uncontrolled spending", yet the budget even with the override is less than last years. YOU need to get a clue, and pay your fair share. It's not LIES and BS. It's people like you being to cheap to help the city when it's needed.
D I do not mind paying my fair share. What I do mind is someone giving taxpayer money !! If you and guy have money you would like to give away may I suggest The Wounded Warrior Foundation . I do not hate teachers just greedy people.
It is obvios that you and guy are living off the tax payers and feel you should not help the rest of the taxpayers. So take cuts like the rest of have or keep whinning about how underpaid you are . The only one that is listing to you is the mayor who thinks has the city purse strings. VOTE NO !!!
Editor: I want everyone to stop with the ridiculous claims about who works harder and who is "obviously" living on taxpayer money. It's silly and childish and adds nothing to the debate. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
You don't want to pay your tax rate in North Adams move to Pittsfield. We just raised our taxes to $16.18 per 1000. The average home pays a little under $3000 here. Pittsfield rates are killing me. My grandfather commuted from North Adams all his life to GE. Now I know why he didn't live here. Even with prop 2 1/2 your taxes are a lot lower. You think you have issues in North Adams schools stand in Pittsfield schools for a day. Be grateful you got what you have and pay the rates you do.
Like so many of us, I have lived in Berkshire County all my life. I was born in Pittsfield, and raised in Hancock and Williamstown. With the love and support of my family, I left the Berkshires and graduated from Paul Smith's College as one of only two women in my Forestry major. But I'm not writing this as a "forester" or as a "college graduate" or even as a woman who has broken through several gender barriers. I am writing this as a mother. Because when it came time for me to raise my own family, I chose to do so in North Adams. I could have settled down anywhere in the world, but I chose the Berkshires because I believe in this community. No matter what side of this issue you represent, we all showed up for the public meetings for the same reason- because we believe in what our communities can accomplish. We believe in our children, in our city workers, and in ourselves.
There were many figures and percentages tossed around over the past few weeks, but there is one very important factor that cannot be demonstrated with numbers. And that is what our children might accomplish if we gave them the support and nurturing they deserve.
We have had two very important opportunities during this process. The first is to show our children how to respect and listen to people who have differing opinions. We had a chance to show them that someone who has invested over 30 years in Drury Highschool, but who happens to live in Williamstown, is just as much a part of our community as any of us and deserves our respect and admiration. And the second is to prove to them how committed we are to their success and growth.
My daughter is an amazing individual. She is bright, kind, intuitive, insightful, passionate, and funny. Not one of us, even under the best of circumstances, wants to part with our money. But I am asking all of us to invest in our children, invest in our city, and invest in ourselves. I want my daughter to be as proud of being a North Adams native, as I am of my decision to raise her here.
Here's my dilemma: I am a homeowner in North Adams. I attended one of the forums held on 2 1/2, and have been reading the news coverage, facebook posts, etc.
I absolutely agree with every single call for a "yes" vote. I am extremely disappointed that I haven't heard any concrete proposals from the "no" side about what can be cut, and that there was, therefore, essentially no debate.
However, I have been out of work for two years, and have been living off savings, but this can't last forever. I have been applying for jobs and cold-calling, but get no response. The unemployment rate is 9%, and they say that including people who have dropped out of the labor force/have given up looking/don't show in the statistics (I'm one of these, BTW, because I was formerly self-employed) the rate is 15.6%. No way this rate isn't higher in North Adams. I'm sure of that.
So, I believe in investing in our City's future. I don't hear compelling arguments for not doing so. But how do I justify voting to pay more tax when I have no income and no prospects?
Even the no-voters talk about the elderly and those on "fixed incomes". I'd love to have a fixed income! I worked hard, for many years, and due to what's happened since 2008, I've found myself in this awful situation. I'm educated and experienced, with lots of potentially transferrable skills that I just can't get any prospective employers to "see". Perhaps they're all hiring interns and kids out of school. I'm not the kind of person you'd think would be in this situation. I bet there are a lot more people just like me in North Adams. It's embarrassing to talk about, which is why I reluctantly need to post anonymously.
Anyway, how do I, and other people in my situation justify voting yes and making this investment which supports other people and their jobs, when we are out of work for so very long?
I can't say that I feel for anybody who says they haven't had a raise in X number of years, or who gave back their raise. This is the new reality of the job market, and please, just be thankful you have a job. The alternative is worse than you can imagine. I wish that City salaries could just be cut by 1.2million, or at least enough to make up half that amount, so at least the pain was being shared with those of us who really have no income. But I suppose that union contracts prevent this.
I was born in N.A. and have lived here my whole life. I don't think about it enough but it truly is a great place to live. However I will be voting no on Tuesday. We all have strong feelings in regards to the override. The great thing about a democracy is that we all have the opportunity to vote on this matter. Regardless of the outcome there will be no "winners" or "losers". If the people continue to be involved and communicate their feelings to their elected officials, then North Adams will be just fine.
If the override fails I will be happy to volunteer at the cemetery, Windsor Lake or any other city department that needs assistance. There are other ways to offset the city's budget problems than to raise taxes. Before the days of budget crushing entitlements, people banded together to help those in need. So my wish for the residents of North Adams is to practice some humility. Get off the cell phones and computers and become a community once again. Good luck to all and after Tuesday North Adams needs to move forward.
@MV - I applaud your willingness to volunteer and call for community, but your comment "no "winners" or "losers"" is simply not true. There will be plenty of people affected either way this goes, but ultimately more people will be hurt in a much deeper way and for a longer time if it fails. Moving forward is not something voting no achieves in any way, shape or form. In fact, it sends the exact opposite message.
And while you are upset at "entitlements," you are barking up the wrong tree. Your property taxes do not pay for such things and are actually at historically low levels when compared to household income of previous generations in MA. For that matter, combined taxes as a whole are at their lowest level since the 1950s in the US.
Unfortunately this matter is not as clear cut as many make it out to be. First the facts – there is no doubt that the mayor of North Adams has given in to the special interest groups of North Adams , something many feared he would do and now can directly be attributed to this mess we are in. We keep hearing about how this vote will impact the state of things if it fails, well here are some facts if it passes. Residential tax rates will go up – yes we all know this but when you look closer you see that the average HOMEOWNER in North Adams has an assessment higher then what the mayor says. Mind you there are many dumpy buildings owned by slumlords, and many non-buildable parcels of land that directly impact the reported average tax assessment for the City. So what is the real cost increase to the average homeowner in the City? On average it will be between 380.00 – 565.00. Another point not talked about much is the commercial rate. The commercial tax rate has gone up astronomically over the last year with our new mayor. Why no business coming to the area and job growth? Because of this high tax rate. Why no private development in North Adams ? You got it an outrageous commercial rate. But wait – if the proposition passes you have not seen anything yet. So what will end up happening is commercial landlords will have to pass this new high increase in their tax (mind you they just incurred one in the last year as well as increased water rates and a sewer rate) on to their tenants – many who are no doubt struggling to keep their business above water. Stores WILL go out and jobs will be lost. And the renters of North Adams – think you are safe no way – rents are guaranteed to go up because mind you landlords are being hit on not just the home they own but on all the property they have and unless they have pockets full of cash (which contrary to popular belief they do not) they will hit you with higher rent. But alas we will have teachers getting their raises, a teacher and an aid (never had an aid in my class while in school) in each class room and more pork in this City then has ever been witnessed before. Yes, I was undecided until I took it upon myself to speak to a wide array of people in this City from workers at City Hall, City services, City council and the numerous small business owners, landlords, etc. that make North Adams what it is. Following that my decision was clear. The general consensus reached is that people are mad with the state of this City and I for one agree and will vote NO on Tuesday. Please take the time to make an informed decision and I am sure that you too will agree a NO vote is the right vote for North Adams. P.S. – The schools are not going to close so the kids no longer need to profess “Save our Schools” VOTE NO
Commercial landlords will not be impacted by this vote. Their rate was actually decreased recently. Only those who qualify as residential landlords (3 or fewer units if I recall correctly) will see the new tax rate.
Alcombright has made it clear that the commercial rate will be dropping further in the next couple of years. Under Barrett it was the highest rate in the state and is still almost double the residential.
I don't mean to be uncivil, but please get your facts straight. Your entire argument is based upon a falsehood.
Editor: Both commercial and residential rates will be affected. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
I own a commercial property and I am pretty sure that my commercial taxes have gone up considerably over the last year exceeding double that of my residential. And I agree - you are going to see the commercial rate go up further. How can we trust anything from this administration?
The commercial rate will not go up further. Dick has made it very clear that he considers the current rate oppressive and will be working to lower it. For FY10 it is 31.49, 9th highest in the state.
If anything, the commercial to residential rate ratio is and has been way out of wack. The artificially low residential rate threw everything out of balance. There is a 15 point spread and that's just nuts.
Editor: The mayor has addressed the shift, how much is raised by commercial and how much by residential. The commercial rate will go up but it's been kept high for years to keep the residential side low. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
It is exactly this arrogant attitude by pro overide people that have so many people misinformed about the overide. Now go back to standing at the end of Main St. with the school children impressing upon people that we need to save our schools while we tax payers who will be HURT by this overide try to educate the citizens of North Adams about the facts. Perhaps you are an advisor to the mayor?
I've read many good points on both sides of this override debate. But, this isn't as philosophical as we're making it. It's a simple math question. We are $1M short in balancing the budget. Do we raise the extra money so we can balance it as it currently is or do we cut some services?
Every department has an exact cost associated which can be researched. What I haven't yet heard is what we should cut by $1M to keep from raising our taxes. Where are the ideas? On the "no" side it seems as though the consensus is: it's government, it must have waste, make them find it".
I've paid extremely close attention to every Prop 2 1/2 meeting, every letter to the editor, and every story in the Transcript, WNAW and iBerkshires. I still haven't heard one idea of how to solve the math problem at hand (and that includes Marie Harpin and Ron Boucher who voted against the override resolution). Please, I don't want more taxes either. But, without this answer, there is no choice. Yes to the override.
If the actual commercial rate will rise, rather than just the levy limit, then I apologize. I misunderstood a conversation I had regarding the effect of this on large versus small landlords. Now I am curious and will ask the question directly to someone who would know what the final rates will be.
That said, the larger point is that I have personally heard Dick say that the commercial rate will be lowered more than once. He is quite adamant that it must come down rather dramatically. That much was absolutely crystal clear.
Commercial tax rates have been nearly double residential rates for a long time in North Adams. Under the current formular if residential increases so does commercial rates. Alcombright admits that spread needs to narrow but also knows residential voters wouldn't buy into a larger tax increase to lower business taxes. That's a shame because we want more jobs, but aren't willing to give businesses a break on our dime. More businesses can lower taxes once they are in, but attracting them with high rates is difficult. Low residential taxes and home prices attract those who can't afford anywhere else in the northeast to live. Look at the results that got us the past twenty years.
Editor: Programs and activities will be cut; the list shows which of those could be cut. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
The only thing that will change if the override passes is the amount of money that the mayor can give away to his friends and supporters. He will keep giving tax breaks , and low cost health insurance to the city's richest. Do not forget , when the city had NO money , the mayor gave out raises to supporters . What do you think he will do when he has money?? The way he spends and gives away money it will not be long befor he comes looking for more. LIKE ONLY 11M FOR THE KIDS AGAIN !!! STOP THE SPENDING SPREE NOW !!!
VOTE NO !!!
Editor: You're making allegations again, Wayne. The health insurance for city councilors has been offered for years as part of their stipend, it's not new. What tax breaks for friends? Are you referring to the TIF on the Transcript building that will ensure property taxes will continue to be paid? People may disagree on raises but the fact is the budget is still BELOW this years. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
to Huh? You're correct. The override will not improve the schools. It will keep mostly what is there now besides the cuts they already made this year. It doesn't add anything. If the override fails than programs like preK, full day kindergarten, music, language, arts, sports, after school programs, advanced honors and those types of programs will be cut. Not all of them, but some to start or fees will be added to pay for them. Cities and towns are already charging up to $4000 for full day kindergarten and cutting Pre-K. Why do you think it couldn't happen here? $1 million dollars has to come from somewhere.
Because health insurance has been offered for years does not mean it can not be stopped . We are in a down economy , most tax payers are sufering from it . Stipends should stop until the city is in a better position. VOTE NO !!!
Duh would rather pay $10,000 a year for daycare rather than a $200 tax increase. Good for him. I don't know too many middle income families who want to pay $10k for private daycare if the schools stop offering it. Two kids doubles that figure and than it's not worth working.
So, ugh, if you're correct, and Alcombright has promised to lower the commercial rate, that by definition means the residential rate will have to rise even further. He can't lower the commercial rate unless the residential rate goes up. So now you're advocating that the 85% of us who pay taxes on our homes pay more so that the largest commercial payers - and that would be Time Warner and National Grid - can pay less? Just another reason to vote NO on Tuesday. This Mayor doesn't know when to stop spending my tax money.
Even if the override passes, 8 1/2 teaching positions will be eliminated! Oh well is not the answer to the problem!! The housing stock here consists of mostly crap! Go to realtor.com and look at what is for sale in the city! Why would anyone productive want to relocate here? How will this city grow?
My worry is North Adams will vote yes; and like Pittsfield and New York State...in a few years we'll be screaming for a "cap on property tax" because it became so out of control and so high we can't stay here. It becomes a source for the local Government to turn to each time they NEED MORE $$ for whatever reason.
Wow, guy... you've gone from a $1.2 million override to a state takeover, all in one jump. Talk about scare tactics. North Adams is NOT bankrupt, nor is it nearing bankruptcy. Typical scare talk from someone who likes spending other people's money.
This is only the third time I have ever commented in these forums. Each time my comments were edited or changed. I have never used profanity or called names. These forums seem to be a waste because everything is edited anyway. Unfortunately it seems very biased and at the very least it's frustrating and doesn't seem right. This probably won't make it on either.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.