Dear voters of Melrose,
Join me at the Special Election on Tuesday, April 2 to vote yes for the override. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our community values. I value excellent schools and city services. I value well-cared for facilities and infrastructure. I value environmental stewardship. I value living in a welcoming and inclusive community. I am deeply grateful to the folks who work in our schools at at our city facilities, and I believe we should always strive towards making the Melrose Schools and the City of Melrose great places to work. I am also deeply grateful to the work of volunteers on our city boards, commissions, and committees, who advance these community values with innovative initiatives, supportive services, and many community events that bring us together. I have always seen Melrose as a leader among communities in Greater Boston, and I hope we will continue to lead.
I believe you share this commitment to our city and share my love of Melrose. Let’s invest in our future.
The Mayor and Superintendent have released budget proposals for our city operations and schools, one set based on a successful override and the other based on the failure of an override. If the override fails, we will face devastating cuts that will impact us immediately.
Classrooms will be more crowded, our already underpaid teachers will be asked to do more with less support and fewer opportunities for professional development, and students will have fewer opportunities to have a well-rounded 21st century education, as resources for technology and software, curriculum materials, sports, music, drama, and foreign languages are cut. Across all grade levels, students that would benefit from extra support will be less likely to receive it.
There will be no afternoon programs at the Milano Center and transportation provided by the Council on Aging will be cut significantly, impacting seniors and elderly residents of our community.
Our library would be open for fewer hours and closed on Sundays, likely lose accreditation which would mean loss of interlibrary loans and online services, and would lose its place in line for a significant grant for much-needed renovations. Most library programs would be eliminated and the Children’s Library would only be open for one evening a week.
Public health could take a hit with the elimination of our Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator position, contract with mental health counseling services, Drug Task Force Officer, hall monitors at the high school, and reduction of other programs and staff positions.
We will all feel the impacts of cuts in our schools, senior center, recreation programs, library, and community support programs, but those already vulnerable will be even more at risk.
The visual markers of community pride and the events we talk about all year will be eliminated or suffer considerably.
Partnerships we have had with the Melrose Chamber of Commerce, such as the Main Street Hanging Flower Baskets program and other beautification programs, along with Department of Public Works support for the Victorian Fair, Summer Stroll, and Home for the Holidays would be eliminated. Our street sweeping contract will be canceled, landscaping would be reduced, our baseball and softball infields would not be kept up, mowing will be reduced, playground equipment won’t get replaced or repaired, and fewer sidewalks and roads will be repaired.
Memorial Hall will be available for fewer events and this repairs to this historic building will be suspended. Events such as Kindergarten Welcome Night, Healthy Melrose, the Intergenerational Spring Fling, and the Memorial Day Parade may not happen next year. Police details for community events such as the Mother’s Day Race and Memorial Day Parade will not be supported. The Melrose Human Rights Commission budget, Commission on Women budget, and the Messina Cultural Grants Program will all be eliminated, which will result in these groups providing fewer opportunities to host events and address important community issues. Staff for the DPW Facilities Division will be cut, making city and school facilities less available for community events.
We’ll halt progress on environmental initiatives, with the elimination of our Recycling Coordinator and suspension of specialized engineering projects.
Our local economy will slow down, as fewer building, plumbing, and electrical inspectors will be available and online permitting services are canceled.
With all these cuts, Melrose city government will not be able to be responsive to community needs.
I’m worried not only about the immediate impact of these cuts, but the long term impacts as well. While our city departments have been operating with at times uncomfortably lean budgets, we have still managed to retain city employees who are dedicated to public service, many of which are regarded as leaders in their fields. I want the City of Melrose and the Melrose Public Schools to continue to be regarded as great employers -- because ultimately, taking care of these stewards of our city will pays dividends for us in terms of having a great community that we’re proud to live in.
The crossroads we’re at gives new meaning to the phrase “bedroom community” -- will we continue to be a true community, or will we just be a collection of bedrooms? I can’t imagine Melrose without the commitment to excellence that attracted me to move here in the first place. Our city budget should represent our priorities and reflect our values. The override presents an opportunity for us to demonstrate that we’re committed to being a community.
"What do you love about Melrose?" word cloud image above is from Melrose Forward: A Community Vision and Master Plan, page 3. The words shown in larger print are those that respondents included more frequently.