By Cary Shuman
Interim Town Manager Larry Holmes talked about the town’s current financial status and the May 19 Proposition 2 1/2 override referendum during a guest appearance at the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast Monday at the Winthrop Arms Restaurant.
Paul Leavy, president of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, praised Holmes for his leadership in his introductory remarks, saying the people of Winthrop have a lot of confidence in the interim town manager.
“I haven’t heard one bad word said about our town manager, which is kind of unusual for Winthrop,” said Leavy, drawing a chuckle from the audience. “I think we should be really happy that Larry came along when he did. He has a tough job, and I’m sure it’s a thankless job, but it’s a very important job.”
Holmes drew a warm ovation as he stood behind the podium, telling the gathering that he was a member of the Chamber of Commerce when he owned a restaurant in town.
Holmes said the town’s ongoing financial crisis is “one of revenue”.
“We just don’t have enough revenue,” said Holmes. “People think most of our revenue is derived from property taxes, and that’s only half the story. “Only half of our money is derived from property. We get $10 million from state aid. We get local revenues from building permits and things of that nature that amount to $3-4 million. The reason we’ve had the crisis is that Governor Patrick, in the last eight months, has reduced our state aid by over $800,000, necessitating some very serious cuts in some of the town services we provide.”
Holmes said he had the unfortunate task of having to lay off the town’s police chief due to the budget situation. “He was a very decent man and did a fine job, but it was something that had to be done,” said Holmes.
The town manager addressed the topic of the Proposition 2 1/2 override referendum that Winthrop voters will decide on Tuesday, May 19, at the polls.
“The override will decide the direction of the town for fiscal year 2010,” said Holmes. “It’s a very difficult thing to do, to educate people that it’s in their best interests to give themselves a substantial tax increase. It’s very hard to do because none of us want to pay more taxes.”
Holmes said town government is running leaner and meaner than it ever has. “If you look back 10 years at any town department, I’ll guarantee that you will see a 30 to 40 percent decrease in the number of people that are working in those departments,” he said. “There are no extravagant expenditures or programs that can be cut are wasteful.
“It is just a tool used by people who don’t want to pay more taxes, and I understand that,” he added. “I’m not speaking to those that don’t want to pay more taxes and can’t afford to. I’m speaking to those who can afford to, but choose not to. Because to choose not to is where the problem comes in. It’s really shortsighted because if you own real estate in this town or send children or grandchildren to the town’s school system, then it’s in your interest that we have the best and finest school system that we can afford.
“It’s really time to bite the bullet and spend the extra money so we can have the town that we all want to be proud of,” he concluded. “It’s money well spent. It’s an investment in your future. It’s an investment in your town, and it’s one that will pay off big time dividends.”
Holmes noted during the question-and-answer period that he is sending out a request for proposals (RFP) for the development of the Dalrymple School property. “Hopefully, we’ll get some good bids for that property and have it developed into something that will be nice there. That’s a beautiful piece of property up there,” he said.