Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo criticized a 5.6 percent increase in the Revere operating budget for the coming fiscal year during remarks following the Council meeting and in a town hall broadcast on Facebook Monday night.
Mayor Brian Arrigo was quick to dispute Rizzo’s remarks about the budget and his other declarations in what political observers are calling the first round in the fight for the corner office in the 2019 election.
Rizzo, who is a candidate for mayor, voted against approving the budget of $203.1 million at the Council meeting. He noted the total of all expenditures ($207,053,143) was $10 million greater than last year’s figure.
“This budget represents a $10 million increase,” said Rizzo. “That totals $50 million over the last four years. That to me is unacceptable. Our budget is tied to our taxes. The budget determines what your property taxes are and that’s why I am so adamant about trying to keep spending [from getting] out of control.”
Rizzo said Revere residents have been hit with 20 percent tax increases on average, “all of this while out-of-town developers continue to get benefits by way of variances and special permits. It’s not right and it has to stop.”
Rizzo also said that the number of Revere city employees increased by 50 during the past year. He also inferred that the hiring of additional teachers could be attributed to the large number of developments in the city, resulting in many more children attending Revere schools and creating an overcrowded situation in some classrooms. Rizzo also stated that the city has increased vehicular traffic on its roadways.
Rizzo compared Revere’s operating budget to that of the neighboring city of Malden, stating that Revere’s budget is considerably larger despite the fact that Malden has a larger population than Revere by approximately 10,000 residents.
Mayor Arrigo defended the budget, stating that the city has provided excellent services to its residents.
“Monday night we heard, in my opinion, a lot of what we’ve worked hard to do, which is provide great services and make sure that the taxpayers get every bit of their dollars’ worth out of the city and the employees of the city,” said Arrigo.
Arrigo said residents commented favorably during previous meetings about the budget, noting “how professional the services are, how efficient things have been, how lean the budget is.”
The mayor conceded that the budget has increased for the coming year. He said there are “fixed costs” within the budget that the city must pay for, including pensions, health insurance, and the schools (an amount of funding that is mandated by state law). He said the city increased its school budget by approximately $5 million and this year’s budget included “all of the collective bargaining agreement pay raises” for the various unions.
He addressed the increase in the number of city employees.
“The vast majority of employees that have been added to the city are teachers, police officers, firefighters, and DPW employees,” said Arrigo. “These are people that educating our children, making sure that our streets are safe, and making sure that our streets are clean.
“Shame on the people who want to play politics with the budget, especially when the people we’re talking about are improving the quality of life of our residents and making sure our kids are getting educated and making sure our streets are safe,” said Arrigo.
The mayor seemed particularly perturbed by Rizzo’s budget comparisons to the city of Malden, saying that Rizzo has been “a wealth of misinformation and he has failed to do his homework, much like his four years in the mayor’s office.
“He threw out a number about Malden’s budget at $179 million – if you look at our [Revere’s] general fund expenses for Fiscal Year 2020, it’s $173 million,” said Arrigo. “Our numbers are actually lower than Malden – he didn’t include a $30 million water and sewer enterprise fund, when you factor that in, Malden’s number goes up to $209 million – and it’s actually higher than that because there are other enterprise fund-related expenses that they have.”
Arrigo said Revere has been recognized nationally as “a standout school district.”
“We get some of the best results in the state at the least cost,” said Arrigo. “We’re held up as a standard bearer as school district. The money that gets spent in education is being well spent. We have seen a certain amount of demand by people who want to live in a city that a great school district – and there’s no doubt that the population of the schools has increased – while the average city and town has seen a decline in their enrollments. We’re an attractive destination partially because of our school district.
“The insinuation that the
[increased student enrollment]
is correlated to either buildings that have not been built yet or proposals for buildings that have not been built yet, or even some of the building that have not generated any additional children in the school district – is blatantly false,” said Arrigo. With no Council meeting scheduled until July 29, Rizzo and Arrigo will likely be taking their messages about the budget door to door. Both candidates and their respective campaign teams have begun conducting door-to-door visits with residents and after this week’s exchanges about the budget – it’s clear that the race for mayor is heating up – and summer doesn’t officially begun until Friday.