Published February 15, 2019


MELROSE — The city’s typical annual budget timeline calls for me to send a complete budget proposal to the Board of Aldermen in May. While this year will be no exception, we have been asked for information from elected officials and residents about what city services would have to be eliminated or reduced in the event of a failed tax override in April.

Outlined further in this article are options to be considered in that event.

In the absence of new revenue from a successful override, the city faces a total shortfall of close to $3 million (this includes both school and city departments).

Currently, the School Department faces a projected shortfall of $1.6 million to $2 million. The city faces an additional shortfall of $600,000 to $1 million. These are ranges because certain cost drivers remain unknown and out of our control and we will not know the exact amounts until closer to May (e.g. the amount of special education cost increases, vocational school assessments, health insurance, etc.).

This shortfall does not take into account addressing our significant increase in student enrollment by adding teachers, classroom space, materials or supplies.

Contributing to our shortfall this year, is a significant increase in health insurance rates, which stayed flat last year, as well as proposed state aid that is less than half of what we received last fiscal year. As school enrollment numbers continue to increase, we are also mindful that the state’s required minimum contribution to our local public schools may increase as well. If we are unable to meet this minimum with the current proposals, we will have to cut from additional city departments until the minimum spending limit is met.

Please note that these proposed options are in addition to the options recently proposed by the School Department to address their department’s significant shortfall.

It should be noted that the total of these proposed non-school options is $881,000.

In the event of a failed override, we will have to cut some, all, or even more than the options outlined. This will be unavoidable, as I have a responsibility to send a balanced budget to the Board of Aldermen.



Department of Public Works 

Total: -$303,500

Proposed Eliminations:

• Staff Position: Park & Forestry Division

• Staff Position: Recycling Coordinator Position • Staff Position: Facilities Division • Cancel Saturday Hours at the City Yard • Cancel Contractual Street Sweeping • Cancel School Outreach Program • Eliminate Main Street Hanging Flower Baskets & Other Beautification Programs

Proposed Reductions:

• Cut Highway/Road Repairs by 50% — Essential Repairs Only • Cut Sidewalk Repairs budget by 50% — Essential Repairs Only • Limit Overtime Budget to Essential Staffing Needs Only (eg. only snow removal) (Eliminate support of special events: Summer Stroll, Victorian Fair, Home for the Holidays) • Cut Mowing/Maintenance of Fields by 40% (Specifically reduce frequency of mowing by 50% and eliminate upkeep of the baseball and softball infields at multiple locations) • Suspend Playground repairs and equipment replacement • Reduce Landscape Supply Budget by 30% • Suspend Specialized Engineering Projects

City Hall Departments

Proposed Eliminations:

Total: -$164,978

• Staff Position: Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator • Contract with Riverside/Mental Health Counseling Services • Eliminate Budgets for Human Rights Commission & Women’s Commission • Eliminate Messina Cultural Grants Program • Cancel Online Permitting for Inspectional Services

Proposed Reductions: • Suspend Mayor’s Community Events Budget ( Kindergarten Welcome Night, Healthy Melrose, Intergenerational Spring Fling, Memorial Day Parade) • Reduce Hours of Building, Plumbing and Electrical Inspectors • Close Inspectional Services Office on Fridays

Council on Aging

Total: -$48,214

Proposed Reductions:

• Limit Milano Center Hours to 8am-1pm (no afternoon programs) • Cut COA Minibus Transportation by 70% • Reduce Volunteer Coordinator Hours to 2 hours/wk.

Melrose Public Library

Total: -$163,310

NOTE: These cuts are expected to result in loss of accreditation. Without Accreditation, MPL will not be able to participate in the NOBLE network– eliminating intralibrary loans, and disrupting all online and electronic services. Currently only six public libraries in Massachusetts are not accredited.

Proposed Eliminations:

• Staff Positions: Eliminate Page program (11 part-time pages, mostly high school students) • Close Library on Sundays Year Round

Proposed Reductions: • Limit Children’s Library Evening Hours to 1 night per/week • Cut Programs budget by 70% • Cut Dues, Memberships, and Services Budget by 66% (includes museum passes, subscriptions to periodicals and databases, new book purchases)

• Suspend Professional Development Budget

Melrose Police Department

Total: -138,000

Proposed Eliminations:

• Staff Position: School Resource Officer at MVMMS* • Staff Position: Detective Position* • Staff Position: Drug Task Force Officer* • Staff Position: 1 Full-time Police Officer  

• Eliminate Police Details for Community Events (Mother’s Day Race, Memorial Day Parade, etc.)

* Officers would be reassigned back to Patrol — reducing overtime costs

Memorial Hall

Total: -$62,954

Proposed Eliminations:

• Eliminate All Fee Waivers for Community Organizations • Eliminate Non-profit and multi-rental discounts Proposed Reductions:

• Remain Open Only on Weekends (Eliminate Monday-Thursday rentals)

• Cut Cleaning & Maintenance Supply budget by 50% • Limit Office Hours to two days/ week • Suspend All Building Repairs


Non-School Total: -$880,956

Total Reductions City: $600,000 to $1million

Total Reductions School: $1.6 million to $2 million 

Total Shortfall Range: $2.2 million to $3 million