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Bianchi presented the budget during a special meeting of the City Council.

Bianchi Proposes $141.2 Million Budget

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
12:54PM / Saturday, May 31, 2014
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The mayor provided his proposed budget to the City Council on Friday afternoon.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Daniel Bianchi is requesting a $141.2 million budget for fiscal 2015.

The proposal is 2.8 percent more than this year, but Bianchi calls it a "maintenance budget."

Particularly, paying off debt is up $1.2 million and employee pensions are up by nearly a half million, Bianchi said.

"That is the bulk of the increase," the mayor told the City Council on Friday afternoon when he submitted the budget request.

In total, the proposal is about $4 million more than last year with $2.6 million increasing on the city side and $1 million increasing on the school.

The city's budget is proposed at $75.8 million and the school is proposed at $56.5 million. A total of $8.8 million of the budget is wrapped in with enterprise accounts.

An additional $6.5 million is proposed to be raised for such things as regional school transportation, other postemployment benefits (OPEB), regional planning, some community development work and abatements. With that $6.5 million, the entire amount raised is bumped up to $147.8 million.

Meanwhile, he is asking to borrow $10 million for capital expenses. Those would include $500,000 for downtown parking management improvements, $300,000 for park improvements, $270,000 for five new rapid response vehicles for the Fire Department and $200,000 for the next phase of the North Street streetscape. The capital plan also calls to rebuild the Department of Public Works garage.

"While I can characterize it in one instance as a maintenance budget, I think that it is also a budget that is looking to the future," Bianchi said of the capital projects he believes will create efficiencies in operations.

The rapid response vehicles, for example, would be for the Fire Department's response to medical calls. Instead of sending a full engine, the rapid response vehicles could be sent instead.

"Rather than dispatching fire trucks to the 3,800 medical calls each year, we will be doing so with smaller vehicles," he said.

Another example Bianchi used is the purchase of software that will streamline all of the permitting online.

The spending plan would also upgrade the security systems in city schools, and Pittsfield High School's heating system and bleachers.

About half the total budget, $73.5 million, will be raised via taxes. That figure is up by $3.1 million from this year.

State aid is expected to be $49 million, up just short of 1 percent from this year, and local receipts are estimated at $11.1 million. Enterprise accounts will fund $8.8 million and Bianchi is proposing to use $2 million of certified free cash to lower the tax levy.

"The great challenge in this budget comes from Boston. While our municipal budget is growing by a combined 2.66 percent, state aid is increasing by a little less than 1 percent, therefore placing the burden on the city to raise additional revenues," reads a letter Bianchi wrote to the City Council as an introduction to the budget.

The budget also calls for $100,000 to be allocated to the OPEB trust fund.

At this point, a tax rate is far from being set. But, if this budget is passed as is, the average tax bill would likely increase by $144 with the tax rate going up 81 cents per $100,000 of value for residential. Commercial property would see a $1.88 increase in the rate bringing and average increase of $854.

The City Council will now host an array of budget hearings before approving the final budget. The first hearing will be on Saturday, June 7.

INCREASING
Department Amount Percent Department Amount Percent
Mayor's office (for director of administrative services) $1,765 .9 Engineering $1,290 .81
    Community Development (salaries) $44,820 8.07
Building inspector $16,178 4.84 Fire Department $275,080 4.39
Emergency management ($30,000, Code Red system) $29,500 479 Police Department $413,558 5.08
City clerk $10,996 3.81 Public Utilities $20,044 .65
Berkshire Athenaeum $20,906 2.33 Unclassified (mostly health insurance & debt) $1,761,729 4.16
Personnel $16,521 6.4    
Finance & Administration $168,122 13.01 DECREASING
Airport Commission $6,214 3.34 City Council $7,000 6.74
Parks and Grounds $20,669 2.98 City solicitor's office $45,000 14.69
RSVP $7,215 11.26 Office of Cultural Development,  cut administrative assistant hours $10,890 9.38
Council on Aging $4,702 1.78 Workers compensation $30,000 4
Maintenance $11,826 .67 Wastewater $5,585 .13
Public Services (DPW garage lines items were moved to this section) $1,020,777 39.19 Health & Inspections $80,295 16
         
Sewer $5,585 1.37 Veterans & School maintenance Level  


 


Tags: city budget,   fiscal 2015,   

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