Inside Stories

Saturday Morning Council Mtg. Recap: March 25, 2023

…the Lowell City Council: our heroes painted themselves into a corner with an agenda that would take well over 3 and 1/2 hours to complete. As such, they voted to continue the meeting to a Saturday. You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

I’ll try to keep it brief as I’ve already outdone myself this week and, frankly, I’m sick of my own nonsense.

1. Cultural and Event ARPA Spending

Peter Crewe of Director of Cultural Affairs & Special Events on hand to provide info on Cultural and Event ARPA Spending Proposal. Check it out.

2. Cambodia Town

Absolutely incredible report by DPD on Cambodia Town. This is exactly the type of placemaking that creates attractions people want to visit. I also like how the objectives of the project tie-in to the objectives of various long-term plans.

Finally, it’s fun to note the contrast between the excitement and vibrancy of someplace like Cambodia Town and someplace like the HCD. Cambodia Town has largely evolved organically and incrementally from the ground up. The HCD is a large-scale top-down development. We have room for both, of course, but I wish we put more emphasis facilitating the former, rather than the latter. For example, I lose my mind when we give a cozy tax break to an out-of-town developer as a bet on a mega project – but someone running a small, award-winning restaurant in Cambodia Town gets no such gift. This proposal helps level that playing field.

Councilor Nuon praised the report and recommended that the report be shared widely with the community and moved to refer the report to sub-committee. Councilor Yem also offered praise and suggested information be posted at Clemente Park.

P.S. I hope “separate” bike lanes means protected bike lanes. Paint is not meaningful infrastructure. A nice system of protected bike lanes in Cambodia Town could serve as a case-study for feasibility in the rest of the city. Indeed many of the ideas in this project can be exported to other areas of the city.

3. FY24 Budget Preview

That feeling when the CFO Baldwin starts explaining dry financial shit and you just know that you’re in for an ordeal:

From the report:

As of the date of this memo, all Departments Heads in the city have submitted their FY2024 budget request. Based on a preliminary analysis of estimated revenues for FY2024, including local receipts, indirect revenues from the enterprise funds, and a projected 2.5% increase to the tax levy along with new growth, the estimated deficit based currently stands at approximately $20.1 million.

To close the entire deficit using the tax levy would require a total tax increase for FY2024 of 12.26%. This, however, is not consistent with the city’s tax policy. To bring the budget in balance within a reasonable increase to taxes will require a multi-faceted strategy to reduce requested expenditures and to reexamine the local tax-levy appropriation to the School Department. The City exceed the net school spending requirement again in FY2022 by approximately $8.6 million and some reduction would ease the burden on the city-side in FY2024.

Councilor Gitschier noted that these numbers don’t provide much clarity as there is little detail in the report and the figures presented represent “shock factor” rather than the actual budget that will be voted on. The administration defended the report as a early snapshot of a long process that will close some gaps. The report was referred to the Finance Subcommittee for more discussion.

4. The Rest

Get out there and enjoy the weekend. Bruins play at 1:00 p.m., and yard waste removal has begun. Grab a rake, the yard looks terrible.

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