By: Tammy Daniels On: 09:24PM / Monday July 18, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor will present his "Plan B" budget to the City Council next week that includes nearly a half-million in cuts from the already passed fiscal 2012 budget.
That brings the fiscal 2012 budget to $35,074,495, down nearly $900,000 from last year's budget and $50,000 less than fiscal 2009.
"We know that the Prop 2 1/2 was defeated; by virtue of that, the voters challenged me, and us, to come back with a document that meets the needs of the city without an override," Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Monday evening. "We've made significant progress but not without pain."
The committee will recommend a further fiscal 2012 reduction of $457,011 that includes $250,000 in cuts passed last week by the School Committee. That still leaves the city with a structural deficit of $423,739 that the mayor is hoping to close with an increase in anticipated state aid and by dipping into the city's depleted reserves.
The mayor had pushed for a Proposition 2 1/2 override of $1.2 million to balance the fiscal 2012 budget. Over the past three years, the city has lost $3.2 million in state aid and was carrying a structural deficit of more than $1 million heading into the fiscal year. The school department has cut some $4 million over past few years that included the closure of Conte Middle School.
But voters, already pinched by property tax hikes and sewer and water fees instituted last year, rejected the override last month, forcing city officials to find more cuts.
Still, property owners can expect an increase of up to 41 cents per $1,000 valuation as the city taxes to the full levy capacity. Alcombright said the increase comes to just under $60 more a year for a home valued at $150,000.
Included in the cuts is a reduction in seasonal workers for highway and parks and not filling one highway position; the transfer of $38,500 in police salaries to a Verizon 911 grant; a reduction of more than $20,000 in pensions approved by the Pension Board and based on recalculating the funding schedule; elimination of funds for the Historic, Human Services and Youth commissions; $5,000 from the tourism department and $10,000 from insurance.
That is on top of the 10.5 teaching positions and elimination of a curriculum director included in last week's school cuts.
Finance Committee members expressed concern over the cuts being made in the school system, with Chairman Michael Bloom questioning the loss of a kindergarten teacher and curriculum director.
"We cut 10.5 teachers, if you figure each teacher interacts with 20 kids, we have to do something differently with 200 children," said Superintendent James Montepare, who noted school choice funds are being used to cover underfunded salary and residential placement accounts. "But if you look at what we had to cut to get where we did, we had to cut bodies."
He said ideas had been floated about instituting fees for sports or for full-day kindergarten, for which parents are being charged anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 a year in other communities. But the task of collecting the money, and the fact that the city's high poverty level would make most students eligible for discounted rates, made the cost savings questionable, Montepare said, at this point.
"We have substantial enough reserves now to get into our budget cycle," said Alcombright, who is hoping the proverbial "pennies from heaven" will appear from the $65 million more alloted this year to cities and towns by the state. "Let's say they level fund us ... that could be another $175,000, another $200,000 that could reduce this deficit ... I think we're in a good place with this budget."
The city's reserves, once in the millions, now total about $530,000 not counting free cash - the funds left in accounts from fiscal 2011. Those funds cannot be touched until the state certifies the accounts this fall. The city will also be closing out the $800,000 medical insurance trust fund, which could bring another $50,000 or so.
Alcombright said his contacts with the state Department of Revenue have been positive and encouraging.
"We are doing all the right things," he said. "In December of 2009, the council — and I was one of them — moved $1.8 million from reserves to lower the budget, to pay debt; last year, we used $1.2 million in reserves to pay debt. This year, we're going to use $423,000 in reserves and we may not have to if we get additional state aid. ... We've made tremendous progress."
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Bloom being worried about the kindergarden teacher at Sullivan is a joke. Was he worried about when he approved pay raises for teachers, cops, firemen and city yard? Alcombright spins it well but has no idea what is going on. I hope the taxpayers continue to watch the mayor closely as he speaks with fork tongue. Amonth ago Alcombright needed a override and now "we have substantial reserves to get into this budget cycle." Truly amazing! Where is the pain Dick, smaller raises for the unions?
I'm curious how far the mayor has looked for cuts - even small ones. I've noticed the street sweeper out quite often for no apparent reason. It has a purpose in spring and fall or to clean up after heavy winds but during good weather when there's nothing that should require this fuel and time hog to be operating? The only purpose I see is so that people can sweep their yard waste and debris into the street/gutter for it to be swept up. Yes, I've seen people doing this - quite often right before it comes through like they know it's going to happen. And why is it driving around downtown weekly? I'm sure there are other seemingly insignificant items that woud add up to savings. Occasional use when needed would make more sense than an expensive street sweeper that isn't needed most of the time it's operating.
Where is the outrage? That is all the cuts? That's it? What about Bond saying "I have looked at this for hours and there is no more to cut". What about the mayor saying SUBSTANTIAL cuts would have to be made. So we lost the youth commissioner.....is anyone else as mad as me at the mayor for OBVIOUSLY lying about the cuts, and just trying to get more money out of my pocket.
I have finally come around. I cannot say how saddened I am to say it, but after seeing the small amounts of cuts actually made, I now see that Mayor Alcombright has to be defeated in the fall. He has failed.
I do have to say, this does validate all Bob Cardimo and Lew Chalifoux said. Simple scare tactics to pick our pockets, when it was not needed. No more I say, no more.
All the mayor supports seem very very quiet today. They may have finally seen the light. Silence speaks volumes!
Recall would be good, but we can tahe care of business in Nov. change will be good but now we need someone to run, BosleyNo, who else maybe the council president ? time will tell as Aug 9 is coming soon.
I see a lot of comments about people saying they won't vote for Alcombright again, but... I also see absolutely no opposition yet. Hey Tammy, has anyone taken out papers yet for either council or Mayor? Deadline is in August, right?
1st of all. They okay'd a 1% raise to the DPW and Teachers in which they gave back. They did not in anyway give or attempt to give a raise to Police - Fire or Non Union employees so I wish people would get facts straight before they open their mouths. The cuts are dramatic so Im not sure what you DA haters want to see. Most of you should move to California where they demand service but are unwilling to pay for it.
I was against Prop 2 1/2 but I think the cuts made were tough but appropriate. Also, leaving the sports programs as is with no cost to the parents students is smart. Lord knows kids these days need exercise.
All i can say is that JB3 for years manipulated the accounts so much the people had no clue what was happening and as long as taxes didnt go up they didnt care. The employees for years put up with little to no raises but insurance fees kept going up dramatically due to the funds being depleted. Once it came to light JB3 knew he was now under the spotlight and left it for DA to deal with. If JB3 won he would have just did his usual shell game and employees would lose out yet again. Its ok for them to pay and go without but not the rest of the people to do their share ??
Sorry The One, but every year under Barrett our taxes did go up, just not through the roof like with the current Mayor. And in every new contract the city employees received raises under Barrett. The anti-Barrett crowd likes to make us all believe that for 24 years we had no increase in taxes and all city workers were forced to panhandle. Look at your own tax bills for the years prior to Alcombright - you will see increases, reasonable ones. City workers don't make a fortune, but they all have guaranteed pensions when they retire, something the private sector got rid of a long time ago. And you and I pay for those pensions with our state and local tax dollars. How much is in your own 401K? Enough to give you a guaranteed 80% of your highest salary yearly for life after retirement? I bet not.
The poor sports from last election would be pouting no matetr what Alcombright does. If he makes the cuts they say "see told you more cuts could me made." If he didn't make the cuts they would be saying "see he can't balance a budget." At no time did Alcombright say he couldn't balance the budget if Prop 2.5 failed. He provided a list of things that might get cut. Guess what, some of those things got cut. He didn't want to use the little we have left in reserves. Now he has to. God help us if next year the state makes more cuts. The rise in utilities and general expenses alone will increase our budget for 2013 and bring more cuts. The million dollar insurance fund bill Barrett never paid but said he did all those years will finally be paid.
Editor: Which cuts would real cuts? As opposed to the $1 million in not real cuts. I Agree (7) - I Disagree (1)
HDV God help us ?? The state should make more cuts. God is not the one that overspent so I guess it should be up to everyone to live within our means. The unemployment is still north of 9 percent so the state and cities should cut back not tax more.
It's very sad that everyone here is shouting victory while our City gets worse and worse each year. Heaven forbid we want to make things better around here. We could probably survive with half the taxes we pay right now, but what would the City look like then?
I know your response will be: "just move somewhere else". But, is it really wrong for some of us to want to be proud of where we live, to want the best education possible for our kids, to want our families to continue to live here in the future? That's exactly why I support spending more than the just the "minimum required" on our kids and having just a fraction of the staff required in most departments. How can we expect progressive, city transforming things from our government when then can't even accomplish daily duties with the staff they have?
80% is what you get if you work about 35 years for the city or state. I work for the federal government and I am going to get 26% when I retire. How's that for a thank you? I guess everyone who doesn't work for the state or the city is just jealous that they don't have one of those "easy" jobs with the great retirement, is that it? More power to them, I say. At least someone will be able to heat their home when they retire.
Tammy your part of the problem. You have no clue about the shell game Alcombright is playing. Were you at the meeting when he had no answers and kept turning to Ziter and Lescarbeau for answers. Everyone around City Hall is disgusted and the morale is quite low. He has no idea about anything as shown at the Council meeting when did not even know there was money left in the salary account for Bunt's position who has been gone for several months. Don't you see he has no creditabiliy left among the people and yet you keep making excuses for the guy. Why have you not reported the Treasurer is leaving this week as she is fed up. I guess he forgot to tell everyone about that one. Mr. Transparency has not told the Council just like he didn't tell them who his new Director of Tourism was before he announced it at Rudds. He can't keep people, Veteran's Agent, assistant Building Inspector, Assesor, Wire and Alarm, Manager at skating rink and Administrative Officer, all gone. You think something might be wrong in the land of Alcombright? More to come in the weeks ahead. Too bad you have no idea how bad things are and in turn the public has idea.
Editor: All I asked is what more budget cuts would people consider cuts? And I'm covering this administration the same way I did the last one. Should I have also have investigated the reasons for every departure then? Like the administrative officer and the treasurer? I Agree (9) - I Disagree (3)
FromHere...nice use of code words....We dont want a progressive city....nice try. What we want is to go back to when we lived within our means. It does not take a village.
Interesting, Insider2, but did they say when Boucher took out the papers? He said on his talk show a few weeks ago that he was not running for Mayor but had considered it. Wonder if he's changed his mind.
I am so sick and tired of people like From Here acting as if the city is now a junkyard because the voters stood up to yet another tax hike. You say "we could probably survive paying half the taxes we do now..." No one has said we wanted a tax decrease. We have had tax and fee increases constantly from the Alcombright administration, and none of them has turned North Adams into the Emerald City. All we said in the override vote was enough is enough. As it is we will again be taxed to the levy limit. We pay enough.
From Here2 I agree. Also . If any of the 1200 that voted for more taxes , please feel free to go ahead and pay more. If you have that kind of money that is wonderful but do not expect everyone to come up with money just because you can. So please make out a check or stop crying on everyones sholder.
Stop talking like you are elected to speak on behalf of all of North Adams. I disagree, Sorry.
The reason we are struggling to live within our means is because our means keep getting lower and lower. That's the result of many different things... loss of jobs, increase of poverty moving in from outside the area, etc. I happen to believe that constantly cutting along with the slide is not the answer. Changes need to be made to reverse the picture of this community. It's a catch-22 really, the worse off things become, the more we need to cut and the worse things continue to become. Something has to change that trend. I say I'm tired of NA being known as the cheapest place with the most to offer for those who need assistance. I'm all for helping our people get back on track but this City has rolled out the welcome mat as if the low income are a great help to our City. I want our City back too, but continuing down this path is only going to make it worse.
Editor, What about the cover up at city Hall North Adams, Ma. over the 20K from the city skatingring possible embezzlement ? Why is the Mayor not saying anything to the perple or is he covering this up too.
N.A. News, he's not saying anything to the perple because he doesn't want them to know its hidden in a purple box under the ice. The perple have a right to know what they're skating on in the skatingring!
I'm tired of your calm, objective moderation of these threads. It bothers me how you continue on days and even weeks after its no longer news. Its time to either take my side or bury them after a few hours. Sully, this editor's too fair, time for a new one.
And don't pretend you don't know who Sully is. He's the newsman in the corner office with the fedora, cigar and press pass. When he covers the news he does so in a suit, heat wave or no.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.