July-Summer, Budget part 2
Crystal Lake is open, which for me is the real start of summer: purchase your membership for Gath Pool and Crystal lake here.
There are many things that make a Newton summer:
BudgetCouncil was part-way through budget debates when I last sent an update. Here’s the highlights of the rest:
Schools: We voted down the school budget to protest the cutting of resources for middle school students--particularly mental health and academic interventions. Despite this, the mayor did not increase the budget, but did point to new mental health resources outside of the school budget that she was offering all Newton residents.
In the end, the council voted against the entire budget in a way that ensured our vote was symbolic--and Newton still has funds to continue into the next fiscal year. I voted in the minority, for the budget, because it overall is a very good budget--despite the school cuts--and the task ahead is to come together to plan for increases in revenue. This may mean an override campaign.
Besides restoring school cuts, where do you see a need for more funding in the city budget? I have been hearing about speeding cars and the need for more traffic calming.
Police: Chief John Carmichael updated the council on the department’s progress on many fronts--most of them relating to state and local reforms. Read the full report to get a sense of the department’s objectives. I was impressed with the department’s focus on outreach to all sectors of our diverse community, training, mental health, hiring, transparency and more. I look forward to a planned staffing study, which I hope will examine how best to serve Newton resident and officer needs with the resources we have. I was also pleased to see the department purchasing hybrid vehicles, and focusing more on prevention than on rapid response.
Fire: Our Fire Department is one of the few Class 1 departments in the state and Newton has much to be proud of. However, council is concerned about morale and training after two discrimination settlements last year to department employees. At the time of the budget hearings, Newton was still searching for a new chief; in the end Assistant Chief Greg Gentile, who handled the budget hearings, got the job. Both police and fire face a shortage of applicants for entry-level posts, and the result in the fire department is increased overtime. The department is mostly younger men, as older firefighters face mandatory retirement. Diversity and training are also a focus here. Full details are here.
More Short Items:
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Almost every month I write constituents about a topic before the city