Finance Committee Chairman Alan Marden said he would be willing to look one more time at the budget but the majority of council were satisfied and approved the $36.3 million spending plan.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A majority of the City Council on Tuesday night rejected an attempt by Councilor John Barrett III to send the fiscal 2013 spending plan back to the Finance Committee.
The $36,278,824 million spending plan was approved 8-1, with Barrett the lone naye vote.
The Finance Committee had spent some five meetings going through line items on the budget and conferring with Mayor Richard Alcombright, his administrative staff and department heads. The committee voted on Thursday to recommend all aspects of the budget to the full council.
The final budget is higher than the original draft (at $36,148,305) because of a calculation error, mostly from the consolidation of some $77,000 in seasonal worker salaries into line item that did not sum up properly in the software.
Barrett, however, insisted again that the budget presented on May 23 could not be recommended because it was a "draft" and that the budget presented by council order on Tuesday night should referred back for review by the committee.
He also pointed to what he said were errors and discrepencies in the compensation and classification plan and its possible effect on the budget. His motion for referral was seconded by Councilor Marie Harpin.
"All I'm asking is that we do it right," he said.
While Councilor Alan Marden, chairman of the Finance Committee, was amenable to another pass at the document, with the hope that Barrett would attend the meeting, Councilor Jennifer Breen Kirsch said he was playing semantics over the use of "draft."
"It's exactly what the budget would be," she said. "I find it disingenuous he wouldn't attend the meetings when he has so many issues."
Breen Kirsch said the process had been long and transparent and she "absolutely" could not vote to return it to committee.
Barrett said there was a problem with the process and he didn't see the point in attending meetings for a budget that didn't exist as an order and that no other city does that way.
"I challenge the mayor to tell me any city that did it differently," he said.
Mayor Richard Alcombright immediately responded "Springfield and Chicopee" and retorted that Barrett's reasoning for not attending Finance Committee meetings "was an excuse." He believed anything not approved by council was by definition a "draft."
He said if there were questions with the compensation and classification plan — Barrett had raised the issue of raises in the compensation plan not being reflected in the budget — they could be addressed by next the meeting.
Barrett's motion failed 3-6; the council then approved each section of the budget with only Barrett voting against. The compensation and classification plan passed unanimously to a second reading and to be published.
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