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Should $40 Million In Unused Snow Budget Go To MBTA Deficit?

Should the money the state hasn't had to spend on snow removal this year go to the MBTA as the Governor proposes, or do you have other ideas for it?

With a winter of record high temperatures at least partially behind us, the state government has only used about $10 million of the $50 million set aside for snow and ice removal, according to a Fox News article.

Governor Deval Patrick has stated on record he'd like to give that money to the MBTA. As he says in this Patriot-Ledger article, "We’ve had a good and calm and relatively snow-free winter so far. If the winter continues as it has been, there will be unspent snow and ice budget. That may be part of the one-year fix."

The fix he is referring to is the MBTA's estimated $161 million projected budget deficit for fiscal year 2013, but we at Patch are wondering if you see other things that need fixing. Education? Local aid? Small business?

Where do you think the money saved this year should go, and why?  Leave a comment and let us know.

Editorial note: this article and comments section is shared across the Reading, Stoneham, and Wakefield Patch.com sites. 

Jeanne E. Craigie February 24, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Perhaps he should give it to Education Committee to help fix Chapter 70 inequities. The T made their own problem cities and Towns are the victims in both cases.
AnonLikeU February 24, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Good question for the BOS candidates.
Andrew Jeromski February 24, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Don't forget, forward-funding has a lot to do with why the T is in this position as well. The state does have a certain degree of fault here.
Reading girl February 24, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I recommend the MBTA cut some of their payroll & wasteful spending before getting more funds it can waste.
Reading girl February 24, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Why can we not SAVE the snow $ until next year? Why does it have to be "use it or lose it?" This typical type of budgeting does not encourage fiscal responsibility.
Nadine Houston Dalo February 25, 2012 at 12:39 AM
How about a cool million to save the meals on wheels cuts, for over 242,000 seniors in the State!
Reading girl February 25, 2012 at 01:08 PM
How about two million for Meals on Wheels for seniors cuz, while this may be all the senior has to eat for the day, the dinners could be improved greatly.
Raymie Parker February 25, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Smells like a bailout to me. The T will still mismanage themselves. I say save it for next year or spend it on the kids!
LeanstoRight February 25, 2012 at 04:28 PM
The T does need some additional revenue, even one-time "shot in the arms" like this would be. But they also need reforms to make its management and unions more efficient and to eliminate waste. How about some real reforms in exchange for this windfall? Assuming the funds are still available in the spring, why not get management, the unions, the Governor, and the Legislature to hammer out a quick agreement? Doing that would really send a message to taxpayers/riders that everyone involved with running the T is really trying to do their jobs for the citizens.
Stephen February 25, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Given the availability of ~$40 MM thru the fortuitous circumstance of the lightest winter in over 30 years (9.0" '36-'37; 10.3" '72-'73; & 12.7" '79-'80) and and a debt of ~$161 MM it would be insane to NOT use the money to pay down 1/4 of the debt. Yes, next winter will -- as nearly certainly as it is possible to be -- prove to be much closer to the average, and could possibility significantly exceed average. These snows will have to be dealt with when the time comes, but to continue paying interest on $40 MM in debt now, because less than absolutely certain future operating costs will accrue make no sense whatsoever. That done, reform of the structural and the funding problems that placed the MBTA in this position still ABSOLUTELY needs to be addressed. We should count ourselves lucky indeed to have been given (barring a late storm of epic proportion) a second bite of the apple. Following year's winters will be what they will be, whether we are $121 MM or $161 MM in the hole.
Reading girl February 25, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Very well said but nothing that involves the unions & government happens quick!
mark patterson February 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Jeannie,nothing against the schools,but,they already get the lions share of local revenue and Ch.70 on top of that.The money should go to the general funds of cities and towns (like Stoneham) who get shafted by the local aid formula.Here in Stoneham we've built 4 new elementary schools and are about to add to Central and make it into a new middle school.It's not all about the schools.The Stoneham Fire Department has been undermanned for decades.It's about time they add at least eight positions to the ranks.I'm absolutely amazed at the job these guys do with the limited hands available at a fire.Eight more firefighters would still not be adequate but it would help.Currently they have about 2/3 of the recommended manpower per NFPA standards for a structure fire.
Jeanne E. Craigie February 26, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Mark--no offense taken--You are however incorrect with your facts.The School Dept. gets it fair share of revenue by virtue of the Budget agreement we get 44% of the Budget. We also employ the most people-and we are in no way over staffed by any means. My point in my remark was simply the Chapter 70 Formula is flawed and has been for many many years--Stoneham is harmed because of our population and growth. I believe the voters made that decision to build the new schools and hopefully will vote to support a new MS. I support any funding that would bring local aid up for all of government --I certainly would want more in local aid to assist our town--As a member of this SC it is my duty to advocate for the schools, however I also understand the fairness of all Town Departments--I never said it should all be about the schools....you did. Perhaps that is a cause and something you can advocate for rather than accuse me of something that is untrue. I am totally against bailing out the T--let them make the cuts we have had to for 15 years!!
David Whelan February 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Mark: Ch 70 aid is unrestricted local aid used to fund police, fire, libraries, and schools. To the extent that you lose ch 70 aid, your community's ability to fund its fire department is compromised. And if 44% of the communities budget is used to fund schools, consider yourself living in a well run community. 44% is low. David Whelan davidwhelanjr@gmail.com
mark patterson February 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Jeannie,I never said the schools were overstaffed.I simply said that with new schools being built maybe it's time to think about other areas that need improvement.The fire dept.has been understaffed for years.I am all for the schools and will be even when my child is gone off to college.Of course the schools employ more people.It's the greatest number of employees in most cities and towns.I didn't mean to imply that YOU specifically said it was all about the schools;only that it is my perception that most of the Stonehamites would advocate for anything to do with the education system before any other needs.I should have been more specific.I don't know if you are aware of this or not,but,about seven years ago there were NO 20 MPH lights operating in any of the elementary school zones.I did the leg work and pushed the safety officer,town manager and Rep.Casey to either get the lights installed or I would petition the Governor and Legislature to withhold the Ch.70 funds.We got the lights.I am for everyones public safety.It's just that it seems the fire dept.is always last when it comes to adequate funding.
mark patterson February 27, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Dave,check Mass.gov. Ch.70 is SCHOOL FUNDING. It is separate from the so-called 'Cherry Sheet' which is the unrestricted local aid.Ch.70 is for schools only.The 44% may be low compared to other cities and towns but I think Stoneham schools and the teachers are great.I just think that other area are important also.You can't adequately fight a structure fire with 6 or 8 men when you should have 12. The reason it's 'only' 44% is that we pay for sports and school supplies and have no buses. We pay $300 per sport per student.How much would it cost if we had buses? How much would be added if the kids payed,say, $100 per sport per student?
David Whelan February 27, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Line 1 on the so-called "cherry sheet" is chapter 70. BTW, I think putting out fires is a good thing. So is open libraries and trash removal. Enjoy the day.
mark patterson February 27, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Dave,yeah,line 1 is part of the cherry sheet.That was the point I was trying to make.Chapter 70 is NOT unrestricted funding.It is earmarked for schools and schools alone.I guess we'll just have to continue subsidizing the Lawrences,Lowells,and other big cities while we work even harder to give our kids the education that they deserve.
Nadine Houston Dalo February 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Jeanne, I don't understand how anyone can say that "Stoneham is HARMED because of population growth". I would imagine that would be a good thing when the population grows in a community as it shows more people are coming into the Town, not leaving. Stoneham has a very low population for 6+ square miles. Compare it to Brookline which is the same size..............60,000+ population -Stoneham about 22000+ , but Brookline however has great revenue coming into the town and a fantastic educational system, 6 fire stations and 150 member PD........More families moving into Stoneham is a good thing in my opinion..I agree that the schools can always use more money and a new MS would be key as the current one looks like something out of a slum, sadly.
Jeanne E. Craigie February 28, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Nadine-What I perhaps should have said was --we have little or no new growth--when the formula was established all those years ago .Our Town is not experiencing any change over of homes with young families and our number of school age children is down.In this economy --houses are not turning over. The more children we have that are school age would indeed help us. Also Stoneham has very little buildable land!
Nadine Houston Dalo February 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Oh I see what you meant! I do agree the T is the last place any extra funding should go............The schools, the FD - Why so little building space- Start using Redstone- It's half empty-Sorry- LOL!
Reading girl February 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM
@Nadine..I disagree that a town cannot be harmed by increased population. They are harmed by lack of open space. They are harmed by traffic jams & extra pollution. They are harmed by school overcrowding & on & on. When a town allows every piece of land to be built on the resident lose.
Jeanne E. Craigie February 28, 2012 at 10:41 PM
We have little or no buildable land in Stoneham(House Lots) Unicorn and Pomeworth are Chapter 97 Land and can never be built on. The DCR own all the land in the South of town--it is all conservation land and they control it even though we swend our fire trucks and police there to take care of it-- Fallon Road area-BMRC- and now the North School are the only places that have substantial areas to build. The Town cannot build on Redstone it is privately owned.Even when we redistrict and build a new MS (if it passes) we still have capacity to grow with new students. Hope this helps!
Nadine Houston Dalo February 29, 2012 at 06:54 AM
@Reading girl............I understand that excessive over-population can diminish a town's appeal and desirability, but having so many gas stations on one street (Main St.)can be just as hazardous to the environment. I don't think that all the green space is utilized to the fullest in the town, sadly.(I personally love as much open space as I can get). I think if the problem is money (revenue) then one must think about their options. When I mentioned Redstone it was facetious. I do think in any area you live your priorities should be 1. education, 2. public safety, 3. the infrastructure of the town...........

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