North Adams Closes Fiscal 2014; Prepares for Municipal Aid

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Richard Alcombright said he would be speaking with the Department of Revenue on the $750,000 in municipal relief for the city in the state's 2015 budget.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City officials will be determining this week what strings may be attached to the state's gift of $750,000.

The funding, entered into the state's fiscal 2015 budget by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, is a one-time payout for emergency municipal relief following the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital and its more than 500 jobs.

"The governor signed the budget so the $750,000 is in play," Mayor Richard Alcombright told the City Council on Tuesday. "As far as I know, it is unrestricted, but I'm sure the Department of Revenue will have certain reporting requirements."

Before the council made any decisions on the money's use, the mayor said he wanted to be certain what was required and will be conferring with the DOR's Bureau of Accounts on that and other financial matters Thursday.

The city's depleted its reserves and is facing a more than $700,000 deficit in fiscal 2016. This year's budget was balanced by more than $600,000 in cuts and revenue package estimated to bring in about $400,000.

The mayor has indicated he will attempt another Proposition 2 1/2 next spring to replenish the city's revenues.

At Tuesday's special meeting, the City Council approved a number of transfers from between accounts to close out fiscal 2014. All the roll call votes were unanimous; Councilors Kate Merrigan and Keith Bona were absent.

The land sale account of $282,363.87 was zeroed out to cover salary deficits in public safety ($82.344.82) and public services ($257.20); nearly $18,000 in the snow and ice account; $10,272.82 in the retirement fund and $171,511.94 in capital expenses.

The use of the land sale account had to be authorized by an act of the Legislature.

Another $429,535.59 was transferred from accounts with overages to accounts with deficits.

Shortages ranged from a high of $167,911 in the transfer station account to $43.72 in the treasurer and collector salary line.

Alcombright said it was costing more for waste to be taken from the transfer station than budgeted and that revenues were barely covering it on the other side.

Veterans benefits were also over by some $83,000 and public safety expenses were over by $31,000, in large part because of an equipment failure on one of the fire trucks.

Accounts that had a surplus included some $96,000 in health insurance; $18,000 in library salaries because of the lack of a director since last summer; similarly, $6,000 because of the short period without an animal control officers; and nearly $17,000 in computer maintenance funds that were not needed.

"Normally anything over would flow to free cash," said the mayor. "We haven't had that for some time as you know."

The city will close the year with about $196,000 in restricted reserves - funds that can only be used in specific areas such as cemeteries.

"We're about $100,000 better than we thought we'd be, which is good, but the other side of that is that the reserves we've maintained are all restricted," he said. "It's not like free cash ... but they're there."

Alcombright said he would keep the Finance Committee apprised of the city's financial condition and expressed hope that over the next two cycles, ways could be fund to replenish reserves.

"I've told all the department heads ... they have to keep a very very close eye on their budgets," the mayor said.

"We'll be watching them like a hawk."

Tags: fiscal 2014,   fiscal 2015,   municipal budget,   

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