Methuen Tax Rate Approved by State, mayor sends out property tax bills

Mayor Bill Manzi Attacks Tribune for “misleading reporting”

By: Tom Duggan – January, 2010

Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi
Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has certified the City of Methuen’s tax rate as voted on by the city council last week. Mayor Bill Manzi told the Valley Patriot that he was excited to be able to send out the property tax bills on time given the heated discussion and debate regarding the city’s pension fund contributions and the budget being “technically out of balance”.

Manzi also took the Eagle Tribune to task on his website saying that the story they printed was inaccurate.

“Today’s Tribune has a story on pension funding by the City of Methuen. The online version has a headline which reads “Mayor says City not able to pay pension money today”, which is not what I said. I said that we would not make the payment today, because it would be financially imprudent to do so. We could make the payment if we had to.”

Manzi says he can make the payments but refuses to. “Getting the D.O.R. certification was made difficult by the refusal of the City Council to fund the pension obligation, which put our budget technically out of balance (an “appropriations deficit”). The finance team worked very hard on this for two days, and I would like to thank Tom Kelly and Ann Guastafero for their hard work.”

“Whatever your thoughts on the City Council tax vote I think all sides agreed that getting a tax bill out on time was critically important to Methuen, and in light of that importance everyone should know that the certification has occurred.”

Manzi also attacked the Eagle Tribune (which is headquartered in Alabama) for misleading their readers about a Methuen budget “deficit”.

“Contrary to the Tribune editorial this is not a budget “shortfall” but rather a problem of tax collections being pushed further into the future, leaving the City unable to meet payroll or honor its other obligations,” Manzi wrote on his website.

“Under those conditions I have said that I would have to consider furloughing employees, not to solve a budget problem but rather because the City would not be able to fund payroll. Such an action could be construed as a violation of our one year labor agreements and subject the City to having to repay the ten percent given back by our employees, or $1.9 million dollars.”

“The additional suggestion, that employees be furloughed to reduce City expenses, would be a clear violation of those agreements, since we have furloughed ten percent of their wage base already. That tea would be very bitter and expensive for the taxpayers of Methuen.”

“As far as the Tribune editorial of December 23 goes,” Manzi continued, “it cites a non-existent budget “shortfall” of $12 million dollars. That is the number I cited as a cash flow deficiency in the event a tax bill is not sent. It is not a budget shortfall. The budget itself is balanced, and setting the classification factor is simply an outgrowth of the budget that was adopted. Why the reference to a budget shortfall keeps occurring is a mystery to me. It is interesting to note that Haverhill and Andover have both set factors, and both raised the average residential tax bill. I must have missed those editorials. And although the Tribune rightly notes that taxpayers are paying for snow removal and trash collection it would be nice to point out that we charge no fees for school athletics or school busing.

We provide city wide recycling, and our negotiations for trash tipping fees have resulted in a huge decrease in those costs this year. I have been a careful steward of the public dollar and I have fully participated in the wage cuts that helped us to a budget where we had no layoffs, no service cuts, an increased allocation to our library, and a protection of the services we provide to seniors, as well as being under the Prop 2.5 levy limit by over a million dollars. The budget, and the values that are reflected in that budget, are good values and represent fairly what I campaigned on.”