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State of the City: Woburn in 2013

Mayor Scott D. Galvin presented the annual State of the City address Wednesday night. Read the complete speech here on Woburn Patch.

 

The following is the complete State of the City address, as presented by Mayor Scott D. Galvin on Jan. 2, 2013:

Good evening Honorable Members of the Woburn City Council, Woburn School Committee, City Board Members, Departments Heads, staff and guests. 

Thank you President Denaro, members of the City Council, Chairman Mulrenan and members of the School Committee, for the opportunity to present “The State of Our City” to your distinguished boards and to the citizens of Our fine City.

As we begin the year 2013, I am pleased to report that we continue to solidify our financial position while still delivering the highest quality services to the residents of Woburn.

We have managed to almost double our free cash over the past three fiscal years—to a balance of $8.8 million, as certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.  At the same time, we have actually lowered the average tax bill for two of the last three years.

In addition, we have accumulated a free cash balance of $6 million in the City’s Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund—while still maintaining affordable rates with no increases over the last three years.  In fact, this City Council actually lowered rates by 5 percent back in 2010 and that rate has remained unchanged.

As of this moment, we have earned a solid Aa2 bond rating from Moody’s—the result of our conservative budgeting and revenue forecasting, strong reserves and free cash balances.

We continue to deliver impressive financial results—thanks in large part to an open and cooperative relationship among my office and the dedicated City Department Heads and their staff members who work tirelessly on behalf of the taxpayers of our City – Thank you.

The City Council’s conservative approach to budgeting and careful review of appropriation requests has contributed positively to the City’s current, strong fiscal position.

In spite of our solid financial position, however, I remain vigilantly cautious as we start this new year. The potential effect of political gridlock in Washington D.C., and the uncertainty surrounding the effects of recent fiscal cliff negotiations is troubling and could have a major effect on our local economy and tax revenues.

At the state level, we were recently notified of 9C cuts to our local aide, and reductions in circuit breaker and reimbursement for homeless transportation that we had planned to receive when we prepared our FY 2013 budget.

These factors, coupled with continuous upward cost pressures related to items including pensions and health insurance, will require My Office, the City Council and School Committee to formulate a conservative spending plan for the FY 2014 budget—one that acknowledges the continued possibility of less local aide and lower tax receipts.

A number of cost-saving initiatives will assist the City in controlling expenditures and strengthening our financial position.  Here are some of those initiatives:

  • Refinancing of Debt – We recently refinanced outstanding debt, which has resulted in the City saving $500,000 in interest payments over the remaining term of the debt.
  • In this low interest rate environment, we will continue to aggressively explore opportunities for significant savings through refinancing any eligible outstanding debt.
  • Energy upgrade investments in City Hall and the Police Station, including lighting, heating and control systems totaling $160,000 will result in an estimated annual energy cost savings of $30,500—that’s good for the taxpayers and the environment.
  • The replacement of 1,200 street lights with LED lighting will save the City approximately $70,000 a year.  This project is currently out for bid, in collaboration with the communities of Chelsea, Arlington and Natick. 
  • Combining our bid with these three communities is a smart approach because it boosts our buying power by procuring larger quantities and together realizing cost savings and discounts.   This work is being partially funded by a grant obtained as a result of attaining “Green Community” status.  We expect the work to be completed by June 1, 2013.
  • In terms of Solar Energy, we are optimistic the City Council’s hopes of installing solar panels on the North Woburn Landfill will be put out to bid by the end of March. The estimated energy savings from a proposed solar installation is projected to be approximately $200,000 per year.
  • Implementation of Our Citi-Stat initiative, which tracks and analyzes data related to how a municipal department operates, and helps identify  areas where they excel along with suggested areas of improvement  started with the Police Department in August

Overall, the implementation of the Citi-Stat program has allowed for a detailed analysis of both expenses and daily operations of the Police Department.  It has allowed implementation of cost-saving efficiencies in some areas, while identifying other areas to adjust, for instance, a patrol deployment plan to more effectively meet the needs of the community—which results in more effective policing.

The ability to combine Citi-Stat with existing crime mapping and crime analysis tools has helped us to police smarter and more proactively in an effort to work on prevention and deterrence rather than a reactive response.

Implementation of monthly Citi-Stat meetings has also allowed for:

  • More effective deployment of manpower based on crime mapping and statistics reviewed monthly;
  • Targeted patrols;
  • Data to support the use of community policing money or Community impact patrols;
  • More efficient use of overtime based on crime trends and call volume;
  • Ability to proactively identify high call volume addresses and deal with issues before they arise to the need of reactive police services.

Meanwhile, we have scheduled our first meeting with the Woburn Fire Department, and will be focusing efforts on the Ambulance operations and the dispatch of Fire calls through the 911 system.

In addition, we will be rolling out The Citizens Connect App program, enabling residents with smart phones to download an application and report, for instance, graffiti, potholes and other problems directly to the appropriate city departments simply by using their mobile phones.

The relevant department will issue a tracking number for each report, and residents will be able to follow the progress of the City’s response through completion.

This free Citi–Stat App is being funded by the State’s Community Innovation Challenge Grant program.  Thirty-five communities were selected among 59 applicants.

We have also taken steps to strengthen our financial position through a more proactive approach to tax collections and the management of our Tax Title properties. 

The City hired the law firm of D’Ambrosio and Brown in November of 2012 with the goal of significantly reducing our Tax Title delinquency list, and Tax Title properties in the possession of the Treasurer.

We believe that our geographic location, commercial zoning, quality schools, housing stock availability, public infrastructure, access to public transportation, and stable tax rate make us the ideal choice for a new business to locate.

However, a new business interested in the 128/93 beltway has numerous attractive options to consider.  In this increasingly competitive environment, we must continue to explore additional ways to attract businesses to locate in our commercial districts, and expand our commercial tax base.

I have scheduled a meeting with Gregory Bialecki, Executive Director of Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development to discuss the agency’s Economic Development Incentive Program – a tax incentive program wherein new companies may receive state and local tax incentives in exchange for creating jobs and stimulating business growth.  I will invite President Denaro, Planning Board Director Ed Tarallo and Woburn Redevelopment Authority members to attend this meeting.

During 2012, the City completed construction of a new Rag Rock water storage facility, commissioned the new water treatment plant addition to remove iron and manganese, and completed Year 6 Cleaning and Lining of the Pearl Street water main, as well as the redevelopment of Well C2 and Well I.

During 2013, the City will prepare a new 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan for the water system and move forward with the removal of the old Rag Rock storage tank, installation of the Route 128/95 water main crossing, and Year 6 Cleaning and Lining along Main Street.

The City continues to make strides in holding down MWRA sewerage costs by removing infiltration and inflow from the system.  We are moving forward with evaluations and designs for sewer improvements on the east side tributary to Main Street to further this goal.  Additionally, there will be a complete rehabilitation of the Dix Road sewage pump station beginning this winter.

Providing Recreational opportunities for the residents of our City has been a common goal we all share.  With strong support from the City Council, we have provided the Recreation Department with a full-time Wellness Coordinator, responsible for developing activities and programs to keep residents of all ages moving. 

We also continue to see strong activity and support for the Woburn Farmers Market at Spence Farm. The Agricultural Committee continues to welcome and develop new community activities being offered at this 7-acre, city-owned gem.

In addition, we have received very competitive bids on the multi-purpose athletic field at Whispering Hill, funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the State and additional funding by the City Council.

We expect to award the contract and begin construction this month, weather-permitting.

As you know, the City hired Municipal Resources to conduct an in-depth study of the operations and infrastructures of the Police and Fire departments.  I plan to present the results and recommendations of the completed study at an upcoming City Council meeting.

Two public safety projects recently funded by the City Council, meanwhile, are near completion.  The Police Station roof, $450,000 funded by the City Council, was completed on time and under budget.  I plan to return the unused balance to the City’s General Fund. 

The state-of-the-art dispatch center, $750,000 funded by City Council, is complete and should be fully operational by the end of this month.   Both of these expenditures demonstrate the City Council’s commitment to public safety and were accomplished without bonding.

The safety of every resident in our City remains a priority of my administration. 

With the support of the City Council, the Police Department consists of more police officers than at any time in the past 20 years.  The members of our Police Department are well-trained and led by a dedicated Chief.

The inexplicable violence and tragic deaths in Newtown, Connecticut, affected every parent and created an atmosphere of uncertainty about the safety of children inside school rooms in cities and towns across the country. 

I would like to take this time to acknowledge the cooperation, leadership and sensitivity of Superintendent Mark Donovan, School Committee Chairman Michael Mulrenan, and Police Chief Robert Ferullo and his entire staff in the aftermath of the inexplicable tragedy in Newtown.

Our City and school leaders’ presence and interaction with teachers, parents and students following this tragic incident sent a strong and reassuring message to everyone about our commitment to the safety of students, teachers and community. 

The School and Police departments have been leaders in the area of school safety and training long before this tragic incident—and will continue to be proactive in protecting our children and teachers in every school building in our City.

At this time, I would also like to take a moment to provide some highlights of the Woburn public school system: 

We are excited to have been invited by the Massachusetts School Building Authority into the eligibility period for a new Wyman/Hurld Elementary School as we continue to rebuild our aging elementary school buildings, and provide educational parity for all of our young students.

I look forward to working with the School Committee, City Council and the School Building Committee—along with assistance and grant funding from the MSBA, to bring the new Wyman/Hurld School to fruition.

The Educational Technology Department continues to institute Edline, an online learning management system designed to increase communication and resources for both children and parents.

The school district continues to provide strong in-house special education programs to educate students with special needs as opposed to sending them to out of district placements.

Woburn Memorial High School’s comprehensive offerings include a rigorous academic program, a strong interscholastic athletic program, a first-class fine arts program and opportunities for students to broaden their learning through a wide range of clubs and activities.

The School Department has noted an increase in performance by middle school students in math as a result of using a math coach.

Forty Joyce Middle School students participated in the “Trends in International Math and Science Study” test, which revealed that Massachusetts 8th grade students scored the highest in the United States, and the 5th highest internationally.

The School Department is engaged in new assessment practices at our elementary schools in reading and math to help provide valuable information on the individual learning needs of each student.

The elementary schools are also moving forward with a focused emphasis on writing.

Particularly important is that our educators have created a learning experience and environment that has encouraged our students to become engaged in the community through numerous events and fundraisers that benefit worthy causes and those in need.

In closing, and as I’ve mentioned before, our hallmark here in Woburn is found in the hard work and leadership of city and school officials, business owners, civic and other organizations who work together to ensure Woburn remains progressive, prosperous, affordable, and dedicated to one another.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present the “State of the City” tonight.

I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year.  Good night.

AJ January 03, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Can the Woburn Patch get those results of the public safety study that the mayor mentioned? I would sure love to see the results on the fire dept end of it. Also, how much cost to the taxpayers did the study cost?
Roth Gill January 03, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Sound/Safety Barriers for 128/93 neighborhoods? Neighborhoods have been waiting way too long for this to become a priority, but yet nothing seems to be happening. We seem to want to invite companies and industry, "new business interested in the 128/93 beltway has numerous attractive options to consider. In this increasingly competitive environment, we must continue to explore additional ways to attract businesses to locate in our commercial districts, and expand our commercial tax base." If we want to make our city attractive for business should we not also make our city attractive to the citizens and tax payers that own property and have had to deal with an increasingly busy highways that pass by their homes?

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