PEDA Hones Budget for Planning Business ParkBy Joe Durwin
01:47PM / Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The PEDA board on Tuesday reviewed its budget, which includes specific goals and tasks for the year ahead.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For perhaps the first time since its creation 14 years earlier, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority's planning efforts at William Stanley Business Park will be informed by a comprehensive working budget, according to PEDA officials Tuesday.
At its last monthly meeting in 2012, members of the economic development board were presented with a detailed projected budget, the culmination of an extended process to reform the way in which the quasi-public entity handles its financial planning.
"The role of the budget should be, that if we have things to accomplish this year, which are defined as tasks, it should be reflected in the budget," said board member Michael Matthews, who heads its finance subcommittee, and has pushed throughout the past year for a more thorough and transparent budgeting process within the institution. "If we get to the end of the year, and we haven't spent that money, we obviously haven't accomplished those tasks."
"There's still a lot more to do, that we want to do, because there hasn't been a detailed budgeting process in the past, and we have not done accurate forecasting," said Corydon Thurston, who assumed the helm as PEDA's Executive director in April 2011.
"A lot of these ongoing processes that have been established for years are kind of like the open checkbook, and we're trying to get our arms around a lot of these," Thurston told the board.
The emerging budget is just under a half-million for the coming fiscal year, said Matthews. "We've shaved quite a bit of money in expenses."
Thurston said PEDA had reduced its operating expenses by "35 to 40 percent" over the previous year. He also pointed to some additional costs in legal fees and other areas stemming from the transfer of about half the park from GE to PEDA's hands within just the past year and a half, suggesting expected the demand for some of these expenses would be lower in future years.
PEDA has about $6.7 million remaining out of a $15.3 million redevelopment fund that was established for it at the time of the Definitive Economic Development Agreement, forged between General Electric and the city of Pittsfield in 1998. Of this funding, $2.2 million is earmarked for projects that can be defined broadly as "landscaping," with the remainder available for any other development work needed in the business park.
"In the [new] budget, we have expenses of some $491,000," Matthews said. "You can do your own math, if we have $6 million, how many years we can run with this, that we have left for funding."
"We're beginning to slowly break down our expenses, and categorize them internally by project," Thurston explained. "So we can begin to budget projects and get those away from operations, so that we can actually look at all the costs involved."
PEDA bylaws state that at least a preliminary working budget for the calendar year should be provided to the board at the end of the previous year. Thurston said the working budget document brought to the board Tuesday "is by no means the final budget for 2013," and that an updated version will be presented to the board in early February.
In other PEDA news:
• Next month PEDA will roll out a new local media campaign aimed at publicizing its 2012 accomplishments to the public. This will include paid advertising in several local print and online news outlets, highlighting "good things and benchmarks that have occurred in 2012," according to George Whaling, who heads its marketing subcommittee.
"It's a marketing piece, as well as a 'good news' PR piece," said Whaling, who indicated it would also have a component aimed at inviting business to join the park.
The campaign is being developed with Winstanley Partners, while the marketing group is separately working with another firm on retooled websites for the business park as well as PEDA itself. The group also recently acquired the urls PittsfieldLifeSciences.com and BerkshireLifeSciences.com, for possible future use in attempting to attract tenants to a planned life sciences center.
"We want to begin to introduce this life science initiative and use every vehicle that we have at our disposal to seek out interested parties," said Thurston.
• No opposition or holdups were encountered during a public hearing on MassDOT's design for a bridge that will connect East Street to the Tyler Street area through the business park, Thurston said Tuesday. The scarcely attended hearing, held two weeks ago at City Hall, heard only positive input from representatives of PEDA, along with Ward 2 City Councilor Kevin Morandi and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
The design calls for a 103-foot-long, steel-trussed, single-span bridge composed of eight welded plate girders topped with eight inches of concrete and three inches of asphalt. It will be four feet higher than the previous bridge, removed in August, to allow CSX Railroad to run dual-level cars beneath it.
Woodlawn Ave Bridge Design Proposal