Most of the councilors evinced a willingness to review the use of reserve funds one more time.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council has delayed transferring $166,000 from certified free cash to cover this year's budget until the Finance Committee takes one more look at reserve funds.
The unexpected move at Tuesday's special public hearing on the tax classification was sparked by calls from the gallery, including from Councilor-elect John Barrett III, to dip into several other accounts to lower an expected tax hike of 6 percent.
"No new taxes, it's as simple as that," said resident Louis Chalifoux, one of nearly a dozen residents attending the hearing.
The council, on an 8-1 roll call vote, agreed to refer the matter of the cash transfer to the Finance Committee then to postpone the vote to Tuesday, Dec. 6. Mayor Richard Alcombright asked that the tax classification vote on whether to continue with a split-tax rate be delayed until the same night.
Alcombright said the residential tax rate of $14.82, up from $14 last year, would mean about $112 more on the bill for a single-family home. The commercial rate would be set at $32.82.
The anticipated rate hike doubled because of a decrease in evaluations on the commercial side of some $8.5 million. Nearly $6 million of that was because of changes in inventory taxing for Time Warner Cable and Walmart over which the city had no control; another $1.8 million was lost when North Adams Commons was changed to nonprofit status.
"This will set us up for another difficult budget year as we will begin our next budget year with a six-figure deficit of $430,000-$450,000," Alcombright said, because of the use of $166,000 free cash added to the extra $271,000 received in local aid the state may not offer next year.
The arguments on spending were similar to that between Alcombright and Barrett in the mayoral race two years ago: Alcombright objected to dipping into reserves and Barrett advocated spending or borrowing.
"There is no guarantee we may not need a good portion of this money to further out the year," Alcombright said, pointing to an expected half-million in costs because of Hurricane Irene, increased spending on veterans benefits and other maintenance and overtime issues that may arise. "Anything more that we throw from reserves against our taxes is only going to add to our structural deficit next year."
Barrett, who was mayor for 26 years, said the city should use reserves or take advantage of low-interest borrowing. "I always believed you should use reserves and available funds so that you didn't tax to the max."
He pointed to some $300,000 in the stabilization account, nearly $700,000 in the free cash account and other funds including the parking account, landfill account, cemetery account, ect., that could be tapped. "I believe that taking $200,000 you will save on average anywhere from $60 to $70 bucks [for taxpayers]," he said. "The funds I recommend be used will replenish themselves over the course of this fiscal year."
Alcombright said the state Department of Revenue had been advising him to set aside "a good healthy reserve."
"We don't know what this year is going to look like ... last year was horrible," he said. "There are a lot of wild cards out there and the state has urged me over the last two cycles to find ways to build reserves and no longer deficit spend: it's that simple ... we shouldn't be deficit spending."
Robert Cardimino, who led the opposition against the Proposition 2 1/2 vote last summer, said the city wasn't making itself competitive by raising taxes.
"You're not taking into consideration the people who are on the edge, who are on thin ice the elderly," said Cardimino, who got into a shouting match with City Council President Ronald Boucher. Boucher recessed the meeting for 5 minutes and met with an angry Cardimino in the hallway outside the chambers.
When the meeting resumed, Barrett said he wanted to find common ground with the councilors and help a divided community "start healing." Councilor David Bond said he was willing to step back and look at the accounts and Councilor Alan Marden motioned to amend the free cash transfer.
Councilor Keith Bona voted in the negative on the amendment because, he later said, he believed the numbers and believed the mayor.
Business Manager Nancy Ziter cautioned that too long a delay in setting the tax rate could affect the ability to get tax bills out on time.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
I watched the meeting on TV last night. Cardimino was more out of control than usual. A police officer needs to be stationed at every meeting. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that any Councilor or attending resident should have to tolerate that type of behavior.
Is it true that Walmart now is considered a "consignment shop" under state or federal rules, and thereby does not pay tax in the same way? I read that in a letter to the editor but have not seen it anywhere else. If true, then why are our legislators not changing the rule to reflect reality - which is that Walmart is the largest retail chain in the nation, not a GD consignment shop? For Pete's sake...
John Barrett hit the nail on the head - North Adams is a divided City and this is very bad. Somehting needs to change NOW to prevent this downward decline that is occuring as a very fast pace. Councilors - time to start asking questions and educating yourself about how to run a City.
Are you serious! How can you raise taxes when people's home values have gone down!!!! Lets us reserves and cut administrations through out the city other cities and towns cut positions not keep high paying positions they don't need!!! Who voted him back in All he wants to do is keep taking more money from the small hand full of people who pay taxes! He doesn't have any concern for how it affects our families that are not living on section8 or any of the other free ride programs in this city!!! Thank god for out former mayor sticking up for the people! I hope he continues to think of the people that can't afford to keep having taxes, fee's, and any other bill Dick wants to put on our lap! It is getting unaffordable to live in a town not a city that has nothing to offer like jobs!!! It doesn't look to me that owe mayor cares that for every penny more he wants from us the citizens. Are getting nothing but an empty wallet! Make cuts and use reserves stop thinking we can afford it I don't care how little dick tries to make it seem it impacts my family in a big way and I am sick of it!! Get a heart Dick!!
John Barret - "I always believed you should use reserves and available funds so that you didn't tax to the max."
In his own words and in a nutshell why the city is in such dire straits. The city of North Adams made a big mistake when they elected Mr. Barrett to the council. It will be just like Congress - a big ego fest.
It looks like North Adams elected a bunch of spineless cowards who are still afraid of JB3, the 6th place vote getter, who created the structural deficit and wishes for nothing more than to create a huge budget crisis in time for the 2013 elections.
Another fine day in N.A. with the Mayor not wanting to reduce taxes for the homeowner, in light of all the extra cash on hand,a Big thanks to Councilor-elect John Barrett III, Louis Chalifoux, Robert Cardimino, and Mark Trottier, for asking the hard questions to the mayor who by all accounts has over 2 million dollard on hand and could reduce the tax rate back down to around 2.5% cutting the 82 cents rate to about 41 cents and saving the homeowner about $65 dollars per year. but the mayor said NO, what a piece of work.
John Barrett hasn't even taken his seat on the council and he is making waves. He does not see the forest for the trees. Mayor Alcombright is taking the cautious approach toward handling the city's financial affairs, while the former mayor wants to raid the reserves and set us up for potential disaster.
How many of us have stopped raiding our savings and tightened our belts during this economy? If you haven't, you are not being fiscally responsible. The same goes for our fair city. Mr. Barrett wants to raid the money that we are starting to set aside ..... money for known and unknown expenses...... without regard for our future. Shame on you, Mr. Barrett, and shame on all who think the same.
Most of us did not like the way you handled the city while you were mayor, Mr. Barrett, and that's why you lost your last mayoral campaign. Most of us still think your ideas are not in the best interest of the city, and that's why you finished close to the bottom of those elected to the council. You claim to want to find "common ground", only, it appears you want that "common ground" to be what comes out of your mouth, and no one else's.
There are many of us who have been saying that this coming version of our city council may be the most contentious council ever, because you are on it, Mr. Barrett. Please prove us wrong.
One other thing ..... Didn't Mr. Cardimino state that he would no longer attend city council meetings? He was quoted in this regard in more than one source.
Mr Cardimino, my main gripe with you is not that you "stir the pot", it's that you appear not to be a man of your word.
What a show put on lastnight by the Mayor of North Adams, after residents ask questions, about all of the free cash on hand asking for a total accounting. Mayor, No, "I will not use that money " Who is this man, one who is not willing to help the taxpayers in time of need? sorry Mr. Mayor, but I didn't vote and for you. Help the people or maybe its time for you to leave and step down and go on with your life, maybe back in AZ, were you could do some good.
Hinc is a known tax raiser from the Tscript board. He claims to be a conservative yet in his posts supports no conservative issues. He was big behind prop 2.5 override last year
Sorry hinc but its our money, not yours, the city's or dick's
This council needs to wake up and see JB for what he is. A liar and control freak. All the incumbents and mayor were elected becuase the people agreed with the direction they were going. Don't let one SOB change that agenda because he's a sore loser. JB is one vote on the council.
So, Mr. "LowerTaxes" you say that "Until that liar golfer proves his liar and control freak comments his posts should be removed", yet you say that I am "a known tax raiser from the Tscript board." Let me turn the tables on you and have YOU prove that statement, or have it taken off this page.
Yes, I supported the prop 2.5 override. If that fact makes me a "know tax raiser", I accept it. But being "from the Tscript board"? Prove it.
I'll bet you can't prove it. In fact, if you can prove it, I'll never make a post on iBerkshires again. (Unlike Mr. Cardimino, I'll keep that promise.) How about you not making any more posts if you can't prove it?
Doesn't the Mayor see that this city is seriously fragile right now and just CANT handle any more expenses? NOW is not the time to work on building reserves. At the rate he is going, he will have all these reserve accounts built up, and NO RESIDENTS left in this city! His lack of seeing this makes me honestly believe he is seriously out of touch with the "average" resident in North Adams. All of us residents would love to be able to have "rainy day" funds, but not many of us are able to build those funds with the state of the economy right now. Its hard enough to just pay for the necessities (food, oil, etc). I guess our Mayor just cant relate. Unreal!
Editor: Yes, it did. Mr. Barrett described whether to spend or save as a "philosophical difference." He's right. Perhaps commenters should focus on the differences in philosophy rather than the personalities. That might be more illuminating.
$65... you can't afford $65? I'm pretty sure that is less a day then they ask for on the Christian commercials for the 3rd world kids.
If you don't keep up the city, you won't have a population left to pay any taxes... on second thought, with the amount of "fixed income" people here, it may be that the population will die off and limit the funds soon enough anyway. It seems that is what they are shooting for around the country. If they can just keep it exactly the way it is long enough for them to pass away, they won't have to deal with it.
The least you can do is fix up the place before you leave for the ones picking up the can you kicked down the road all your life.
Absolutely agree, editor. The people of North Adams spoke a month ago and decided to re-elect the Mayor and to elect the former Mayor to the Council. Given those circumstances, I'd say that overall the voters decided they wanted a check and balance in place. Neither the Mayor nor the councilor-elect is "lying." They both come at taxes from different points of view. Alcombright wants a larger reserve fund in the event of future economic crises and Barrett doesn't feel the existing taxpayer base can handle higher taxes in the current economic climate. Both are right in their own way.
Dipping into reserves, to much debt, cutting the budget and crucial services - money woes abound and they will get worse if we don't make an effort to understand Money. The House Resolution 2990 offers an intriguing remedy based on research that can be found in "The Lost Science of Money" by Stephen Zarlenga. The only moaning aloud is for those who must hold on to the defunct system refusing to even consider the "American Monetary Reform Act".
i know somewhat off topic.....but north adams businesses want us to shop local.....but how is the price of gas $3.21 a gallon in pittsfield and $3.43 in north adams....and do not reply bjs.....$3.21 is the hess station in pittsfield
It hasn't "always been higher here." There have been many times when gas in North Berkshire was the same or cheaper than Central Berkshire.
Normally South Berkshire is higher, and that has nothing to do with the supply chain - it's because the local franchisees feel they can charge the tourists more and locals can fend for themselves.
Even if the supply chain thing was true, it wouldn't explain the huge difference. A few cents a gallon explains a little extra drive (which it isn't, really - the Port of Albany is a whole 6 miles farther from North Adams than from Pittsfield and that's where the supply comes from). 20-cents a gallon is just highway robbery and the Liptons and O'Connells know it. I have the "luck" to work in Pittsfield but live in North Adams, and will not buy gas again in North Berkshire until prices come into line.
As I understand it, out taxes would be raised about $112 per year. Since we are billed quarterly for our taxes, that works out to $28 per QUARTER! That's $7 a week or so. Seriously, give up the expensive coffee two or 3 mornings a week and that would pay the tax increase. Or, just realize that it costs money to run a city and suck it up. I don't have any problem with making some cuts to my lifestyle to the tune of $7 a week. It won't kill you, really it won't!
I don't mean to put too fine a point on this, but John Barret's "philosophy" of "paying for it later" is the biggest cause aside from the state cuts for the structural deficit in the first place. And by using reserves he is only worsening the long term solvency of the city he claims to love.
John is not stupid. He knows exactly what he is doing and what effect it is going to have when Dick writes the fy 2013 and 2014 budgets. My digestion to Dick is to come back to the council with actual cuts if they don't vote for the rate increase.
With 46.2 million americans are living in poverty today per U.S. Census Bureau some here in N.A. and this mayor wants more money from the people
shame, shame, on him, but thats because he is one of the 1% and doesn't care.
The people of north Adams need to remember barrette got us in this mess by spending. The reserve funds and left the city broke. Now we're all paying for john's past. JB needs to go back were he can from and stop causing problems. None likes tax increases but we need to do what's best for the city,
Thanks for the mess JB your a winner
To support golfer claims: Does Barrett lie? Yes. Remember he told the public the million dollar insurance fund was paid. It wasn't. Instead he called the teacher's union liars by accusing him of not paying it. He also pressured the city council from allowing the public to see the insurance fund figures after Alcombright requested they be open. As editor, you should know this since you wrote it. http://www.iberkshires.com/story/34352/Report-North-Adams-Underfunded-Insurance-Trust-by-1.1M.html
Is he a control freak? Yes. Everyone knows that. He admits to micromanaging and said he trusts no one, and he made three enemies a day as mayor. Those are his own words. He admits his philosophy differs from Alcombrights and a few times this year he has attempted to change what Alcombright has brought forward. What did Golfer say that's false or not already known?
Editor: My point is calling people liars and other names doesn't add to the conversation. They're just cheap shots and childish. Focus on the "philosophical differences" - it doesn't matter who supports those differences, it's whether the philosophies are sound. You can find economists who support both.
Lets not forget that with the mayors new tax rate he will add another 6 or 7 percent for the override that is on it's way.
I guess the only way to lower taxes is to let your home run down. If just 50 home ownes start a junk pile and let the grass grow board up a few windows and paint them an ugly color that would drop the value of not only your home but any in the area. Homes are not selling anyway so why not . Send a message to the mayor and his 1% friends.
Another vote for "pay for it out of normal budget or cut it."
I'm not campaigning for a tax increase but I'd rather pay for something that the city needs than consider raiding the reserves. 2011 (including the winter of 2010/2011) showed us that extra funds are going to be required sometimes due to various storms (and probably not always the meteorological sort).
I for one have learned the lesson of this economic depression: live within your means. Save for a rainy day. That goes every bit as much for a municipality as a household.
Hey Cockerbeagle... I knew it was only a matter of time before the "Just" crowd came out. It's JUST $28 a quarter, it's JUST $7 or a cup of coffee a week... It's easy to make those claims in a vacuum, like you do. But you need to look at the overall picture. Add that $28 a quarter to the tax hikes the Mayor has already put in place over the last two years alone, including putting us right up to the levy limit, and add to that the new sewer fee, and add to that the increase in the water rate. When you add all of those up, it comes to JUST several hundred dollars instead of JUST $7. In case you didn't read about it or hear about it, we JUST came out of a recession, and many would claim we're still in it locally. I guess your pay has steadily increased in the past few years while the rest of us JUST have had to live with either no raises or pay cuts, because all of these extra taxes Alcombright has added to your expenses seem to be JUST fine.
Raising taxes does not improve the economy - it hurts it.
Why is it the same old people who want to live for free. Complain they can't afford, can't afford. Then they use the elderly for there support. The Elderly are not the ones in front of the mic wining. Raise the taxes start building our city. If you can't afford to pay, increase your income. We the voter decided to re-elect the Mayor. Start supporting your community we have not done that in 25 years. That's how we will get it done. Oh and by the way lets give our city employees a raise since they are the lowest of the low.
Usually, I don't say things like this, Mr. "Lower Taxes", but you are a putz. I am not from any Transcript board (editorial board, board of directors, or other), but I have posted many times on the Disqus section of the Transcript's website. Therefore, you have not proved I am from the Transcript "board". For crying out loud, say what you mean ...... AND SAY IT CLEARLY!
If you don't have the communication skills to clearly say what you mean, then have someone proof-read your comments before posting them.
I can't wait for the inane response that will be posted in response to this comment.
While your listening to JB3 preach his economic philosophy of robbing from peter to pay paul, remember this,The person who got you into a problem is seldom the person who will get you out.Say no more to JB3 hocus pocus economic philosophies and say yes to sound fiscal management.
Hinc it is you who are the idiot. Anyone with half a brain knew I meant you post on the Transcript discuss board. So leave...we dont want to hear about your tax raising schemes. Still better about the 2.5 defeat I see. Get to used to it, you will lose again this year.
editor Do the math . If my home drops from a value of 150,000 to sixty five thousand guess who will have to make up for the loss in taxes ?? Let me help you. The mayor and his 1 % friends. They wanted more taxes so we can help them out.
So if anyone has any junk to give away please contact me or any other 99 percenter.
I stopped looking at these comments after the election. I come back to find that the Tea Party types who think that services are delivered magically by unpaid little elves are alive and well.
I'll give the council one chance to get this right - Pay for it or get rid of it.
I simply do not understand why none of our political leaders will stand up and say that John Barrett's magic reserves are a fairy tale that just punt the ball for 6 months and make things twice as hard then.
DICK - START CUTTING THE BUDGET HARD! Lay people off. Demonstrate what happens when residents don't pay adequate taxes to support a police department, DPW, Fire, administrative help for the clerk, treasurer, inspectors, etc... We can simultaneously lower taxes and destroy what little civic services we have.
Cardimino can park for free (like he wants) because there will be no one to collect the money. Chalifoux can sit and whine that all the business has left and the town has shrunk, all the time wondering why low taxes are not attracting new business. Trottier can write pretend tickets to Cardimino and complain that the city should spend $30,000 on a meter maid who collects a few thousand a year in quarters. Wayne can wonder why Barbour St only gets plowed at the end of a snow storm and why his sewer backs up into his house. Moulton can continue to complain about foot traffic but get upset that the city doesn't have the money to promote downtown. Ron can say that new business don't come to North Adams because someone has a dirty window.
And John Barrett can spend the next two years trying to rehabilitate his image... um... I mean... 'heal a divided city'... back to the "caring social liberal who is fiscally conservative" and looks out for the little guy and protects his pocket book at the same time.
The education level or the sanity (it's one or the other) of much of this city is questionable at best.
I'm sure you remember the great depression. Were your taxes cut then too? I'm believe they stopped alllll capital improvements then as well to boost the economy up goood! All everyone had to do that that time was wise up and get a job right? The government totally stepped out of the way and pretty much cut itself down to nothing yes?
Umm... no, actually, what got us out of the Depression was massive government spending. Public works projects, all of that good stuff - people had work, made some money, spent that money. Then of course we went to war, which didn't hurt either. (But at least we were smart enough to fund that war with war bonds and taxes, unlike the last two wars, which we wanted to pretend were being waged for free.) Government spending can, indeed, be beneficial - especially when no private enterprises are spending. And please don't forget that the many billions in the stimulus funds (which got started under Bush) went to private enterprise which then sat on those funds to make their balance sheets look good, instead of investing them to create economic activity.
If dick cant see people want the cuts he is blind...he are some
1. Comm of Public Safety, thats easy
2. Senior center, no one i know uses it, and bleeding hearts dont start cause I dont want to hear you
3. cut teachers...yes cut them....when I was young in the 80's we had bigger classes, and you now what, the smart ones learned just fine.....and they idiots, losers, troublemakers wont behave and learn if there were 3 kids in the class....make these teachers earn their money
Honors and AP classes all the way through so stick it teachers....and it was due to me...not the teachers that made me successful.
Are we truly at the extreme minimum.....perhaps, but I doubt it.....then cut other things at the school (do we NEED a football team?), we certainly dont need music. Again the good kids will find something to do, the losers wont anyway, and who cares.....
North Adams is too small be a city any longer, it should be converted to a town or township ruled under selectmen style leadership.
This would mean a new form of gov for this area, selectmen instead of a high priced Mayor and a part time town manager. North Adams is not the place it was forty years ago, it is a city going downhill at an alarming rate with homes and shop deteriorating and its time for a complete make over.