Barrett, a former mayor, wanted the City Council to dip into some $250,000 in reserve accounts, such as the landfill and parking, to reduce the tax rate. Alcombright opposed the move based on the current economy and the need for the city to bump up its depleted reserves.
"When we look at we have in reserves and look at out budgeting, we have to realize, we're still in a deficit ... we're still in a very unsettle budget climate," said Alcombright, who pointed to a half-million in anticipated budget increases for fiscal 2013. "This is a very conservative and balanced approach."
The mayor said he had spoken extensively with the Department of Revenue, which had advised putting cash away; and that the condition of the reserves had also been a central talking point with Standard & Poor's keeping the city's credit at A-minus.
Savings Using Reserves
Amount From Reserves
Residential Rate (per $1,000)
Commercial Rate (per $1,000)
Annual Savings (Home $135K)
"We are still not out of the woods," he said, and there was no guarantee what state aid or revenues would look like next year. Between using the extra $271,000 received in state aid and $166,000 in free cash, the city was already starting the fiscal 2013 budget in the hole; adding to that would excerbate the problem, he said.
Barrett countered that the so-called reserve accounts were replenished annually and should be used for the operations for which they were intended. He also objected to the term "budget deficit": "You don't have a budget deficit ... It's how you want to fund it."
"It's not a case where I believe in eliminating all of the surplus," said Barrett, who noted he had put away the school choice funds now being used to buffer the school budget. But the councilors some 20 years ago had demanded some of the reserves, like the landfill account, be given back to the taxpayers, he said, pointing to Alcombright's late father as one.
Alcombright said reserves should be used for renovations and expansion and that if they were used for operating expenses as Barrett recommended, "we should just put them into the general fund."
According to figures provided by the mayor's office, $100,000 equals about 11 cents on the tax rate, or a reduction from $14.82 to $14.71, or about $14.85 off the average tax bill.
The mayor said that a significant tax bill reduction, like $150, would be worth dicussing, but using $250,000 in reserves would save the average homeowne about $35 and put the city more than $600,000 behind going into the next budget year.
"You don't think the average homeowner is entitled to something?" asked resident Mark Trottier, who urged using money from "replenishable" accounts. "That it all should be kept reserves? Don't you think we're entitled to a $250,000 reduction. Aren't we entitled to something?"
The matter will be back before the City Council on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The council will vote on whether to maintain the current split tax rate (the public hearing for which was held last week) and whether to approve the original request to transfer $166,000 to reduce the tax rate. North Adams Budget Documents 2012
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Barrett's use of the reserves for everyday expenses was one of the issues that the audit in 2010 and the DOR flagged as financially imprudent.
What a lot of people do not understand is that by artificially filling budget holes now with reserves, the hole is proportionately larger when the reserve money is not there to fill it next year. I know that John thinks that these accounts will be replenished, but that's what he thought at the end of 2009 when he structurally broke the budget with his famous "we can pay for it now, or we can pay for it later" comment. The money is NOT always replenished. Sometimes it is cut by the state or by WalMart's tricky bookkeeping.
Let's see who on the council has grown a backbone in the past week.
Every rock should be turned over before putting the burden on the tax paying FEW of NA. I understand some people saying its only 7-10 dollars a week but that 7-10 dollars a week is what some elderly need for medication, food, etc. Are we that heartless in NA now? Why doesnt everyone on the city payroll take a 9% paycut like the people of Excelsior (Crane) had to a couple years ago? Why dont they raise the insurance on the city payroll like EVERYONE else has too. This practice is getting old quick. So the people voted against prop 2 1/2 but now have to take a 6% tax increase, thats bogus in my opinion.
Tonights meeting could and should have fireworks
doesn;t the public have a say on the committees report? Isn't it put on the table for debate before the councilors' vote with the right of the people to speak!
Basically the Mayor is saying he can't give back 35 dollars in good faith to the taxpayer who are in dire financial staights. Very pathetic! Perhaps the Mayor may have had the 200k to give back, had the city not wasted money in heating the Conte School for the office space. Or had the City not bought back the Son's of Italy for double what they sold it for selling for $75,000 with a re purchase price of $150,000. Maybe had the city properly patrolled the parking meters there would be more revenue taken in by the City. And, perhaps if the Mayor had applied for Economic development grant money there would possibly be a new business or two in the city, thus creating a somewhat larger tax base. Also, lets not forget the 20 plus thousand missing at the skating rink. Shame on the Mayor, and the councilors who have not done their jobs properly and continue to take money from the taxpayers of North Adams.
Regardless of who may have owned the Son's Of Italy. It was fiscally irresponsibility on the part of the City for paying double for something that had recently been sold. Especially during a time in which the real estate market is in a down turn. What a waste of park funds. Another bad move on Mayor Alcombright's watch. Once again, typical fiscal management of the taxpayers dollar by our elect officials.
It seems imprudent and fiscally irresponsible to remove a $200K+ cash reserve to refund a very small amount to taxpayers.
If this were done, and an emergency arose, THEN what? Would you all hand over your $35 and then some? No--there would be overruns and increased deficits and God knows what borderline illegal "stealing from Peter to give to Paul", as went on for the entirety of JBIII's reign.
Completely ridiculous to consider it. Times are tough, and I don't dispute that--but $35 is not going to ruin anyone. It is not worth the risk.
When the Sons of Italy was first put on the market it was near $300k. I was for sale long before Alcombright became mayor. Then it was sold to pittsfield business men. They stopped visitors to the FYP and Heritage State park from using their parking lot. This would have crippled the park. The city had little choice if they wanted to park to succeed. There is interest in the entire park and sons being purchased from the city and put in to private hands. This would not happen if the sons of italy parking lot was off limits. Smart move for the mayor to get that park on the tax role.
It is not surprising there are so many responders following the JBIII lead and looking to use reserve funds. How many of you have savings for emergencies? Look at how Barrett left the city, in dire financial straights from spending all the reserves and not funding things, like retirement. The Mayor and Financial Committee is doing the right thing in following the recommendation of the DOR. Storms or other acts of God can happen at any time and we better have funding available.
hey 'sin city'....did you criticize the former mayor for paying $200,000.00 for the willette house, and deep house at the foot of the hadley overpass to make a parking lot? same thing and not a word from anyone
I encourage all those who think that they can live in a civilized society without paying taxes to leave North Adams. Please.
If you honestly believe that you can spend "your money" more effectively on services than you do here in North Adams, go ahead. I would love to see the results of your efforts. Be sure to drop us a note when you get to your new home.
And for those of you who are simply too poor to keep your homes, I hope you show the same sympathy you expect from the city to those who can't pay the bank. Something tells me you would rather lecture someone who can no longer pay their mortgage about personal responsibility. Perhaps if you can't afford your taxes, you should look in the mirror.
In the mean time, those of us who acknowledge that we live in one of the 5 lowest ta burden cities/towns in the commonwealth will remain grateful for sound financial decisions made by the mayor and the council.
We might just might need enough money in reserve to fight off litte green men from Mars. The mayor is correct , you never know ANYTHING MAY HAPPEN. I wonder how much taxpayer money it would take to cure his paranoia .
Maybe you should just worry about your own personal business, and not issue personal attacks on others. I am appalled at the editor of Iberkshires for approving such trash to be posted. Once again, the media in this area has no credibility whatsoever. Shame on her for allowing such nonsense to go on!
When it comes to North Adams, the answer has always been to use reserves to artificially hold down taxes. Keep doing that and it's only a matter of time before the state through the Dept. of Revenue step in and end it. If you think state control is fun, ask Springfield. I bought a house here this year. For me, the tax increase means that I have to give up a $5 scratch ticket chance-a-month at a $million. I'm smart enough to know that's a good deal. Some people in the city are lacking that ability as I learned yesterday from a co-worker who told me "Pearl Harbor is that war thingie. You know! The one with the tea in the harbor. Ben Affleck was in the movie!" Dumbfounded, I told her the truth. What I got was: "Hey! I went to Drury, remember?"
I give up a $5 lottery fantasy for the reality of a better community. After the above conversation, all I can say is if you need more, just ask. $5 isn't anywhere near enough.
Billtowner, go post on the williamstown board (where you actually live)....We in NA pay a premium for property taxes (thanks Mr. Chalifoux). Lower the taxes....and yes I know that cuts services...so be it.
And now the editor will ask "oh but which ones". Senior center, and after school programs...done deal.
Why is it so hard for people to understand. It does not matter to the home owner how big the tax base gets. If the city doubles in size the mayor and city council are going to continue to raise taxes to the max. The mayor and councilors have said that they only want to reduce the tax rate for businesses not the homeowners . They will also continue to give out pay raises in a down economy. If anyone thinks this is fair then YOU are part of the 1% !!