By Mayor Brian Arrigo
The fundamental changes that we put in place at the outset of my Administration have guided our budgetary practices to a point where today, this City occupies probably the strongest financial position in its history.
Don’t just take my word for it. Last year Revere earned its highest bond rating in the City’s history when Standard and Poors assigned the city an AA rating, indicating the strong investment quality of bonds issued by Revere.
The bond rating is analogous to your personal credit score. It probably is the most indicative measurement of the City’s financial health since it is established by a totally objective observer whose only concern is the quality of Revere’s ability to meet its obligations.
Or, as Standard and Poors said when issuing the rating: “We believe Revere’s budgetary flexibility will likely remain very strong with management’s continuous efforts to reduce overspending and tighten expenditure control.”
How did we get to this point? A first step took place in 2016 when a comprehensive review of the city’s finances eventually cleaned up the city’s balance sheets—and discovered 2.2 million in unused and inactive accounts. From there, we established financial policies and procedures to uniformly record and track all financial transactions that involve public money.
What else impressed Standard and Poors? We stopped wasting money. We discontinued accounts that were paying for phone and data lines that no one was using. We stopped paying for software packages that were unused and unnecessary.
At the same time, we generated money by moving the City’s trust accounts into interest-bearing accounts that have more than doubled our return on investment.
As with any budget, it’s important to set aside money for emergencies and unexpected expenses. In terms of municipal finance, we call those “stabilization accounts,” which are used when the municipality confronts extraordinary or unforeseen events that might otherwise have adverse effect on taxpayers. Revere’s “rainy day” fund today is nearly $8.5 million, having increased by almost $3 million in the past four years. This helps the City fend off the consequences of, for example, reduced state assistance or other emergency.
Meanwhile, three years ago I established a separate stabilization account specifically for capital improvements. Today that account balance is over $1 million, which funds capital projects in concert with our capital improvement plans, as well as financial security if we face major unexpected expenses.
It is particularly telling that the Department of Revenue has certified record amounts of “free cash” for Revere the past two fiscal years. This indicates our conservative revenue estimates, solid collection systems, and sound budget practices. Thanks to these measures, Revere has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association.
The demands on a municipality are broad and imperative to a strong community. Public safety in a modernized world compels that our fire and police departments are fully staffed and equipped. Public education is a priority, and that means well-staffed schools with up-to-date teaching tools. Well-rounded education means costs for athletic teams and a multitude of extra-curricular activities. The City also removes trash with curbside collections throughout the city. And don’t overlook the costs incurred when a municipality plows snow, repairs sewer and drain lines, holds elections, conducts health and safety inspections, maintains the records of births, deaths, and marriages…
High quality government requires adequate staffing and functioning equipment so that our employees can do the jobs that are expected of them.
And the list doesn’t stop there. The city’s quest to elevate the quality of life for every resident means providing a services and conveniences that raise the standards of health, comfort, and convenience to make a city more livable. These include expanding recreational programs through our Parks Department and our Library, building and improving playgrounds across the City, providing consumer protection assistance, operating the Senior Shuttle and providing programs for elder residents, monitoring the community’s health needs, providing assistance to veterans, holding community events like the Fall Festival, movie nights during the summer, Mobile City Hall, and installing the systems that make it easier for people to interact with City Hall through the convenience of internet transactions—just to name a few. These all involve the cost of the service, as well as the staff necessary to implement the service. All are worthwhile expenses that make our City a wonderful place to call “home.”
Thanks to Revere’s financial stability, the city is keeping pace with the region’s strong economy. Property values are at an all-time high. Meanwhile, after decades of talk and broken promises, well-planned development has changed empty, unproductive swaths of land into attractive mixed-use development projects that expand the City’s tax base and further strengthen our financial situation.
Because of this, our current residential tax rate of $12.11 per $1000 of property value is lower than the current residential tax rate in neighboring communities such as Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Saugus, Wakefield and Winthrop. Simple translation: the tax bill you receive for your residential real estate in Revere is lower than the bill for an equally-assessed property in any of our neighboring communities.
As commercial development expands in the city, and the first phases of the development at Suffolk Downs trigger a new era of commercial, residential, and open space prospects in our city, we will continue along the road of fiscal strength that will promote Revere’s emergence as one of the leading municipalities in the Commonwealth.Brian Arrigo is the Mayor of the City of Revere.