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The City Council's Finance Subcommittee heard the report last week.

Pittsfield Finance Director: Grant Has Curbed Firefighter Overtime

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The hiring of eight new firefighters through a SAFER grant is helping curb overtime.
 
For years, the overtime budgets for both the Police Department and the Fire Department have been underfunded, leaving a deficit that needs to be made up at the close of each fiscal year. This year, however, the city won the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to bring on eight new firefighters and with that, overtime has dropped dramatically.
 
Last week, Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said $217,931 of the $700,000 appropriation had been spent so far. That is equal to 31 percent at the halfway point in the fiscal year. At about the same time last year, the department had spent  $535,331.
 
"Adding manpower and protective services does have a positive impact," Kerwood said.
 
The Police Department hasn't been trending the same way. So far, Kerwood said $621,727 of the $900,000 budgeted for overtime in the Police Department has been spent. At this time last year, the department had spent $731,415.
 
"They are trending just slightly higher than they were last year," Kerwood said.
 
He also reported that the snow and ice budget is already overspent. But, that is one budget cities and towns can deficit spend because of how much it can change from winter to winter. The trend among nearly all municipalities is to budget low.
 
"We are over our appropriation. We are in a deficit," Kerwood said.
 
At the end of December, the Department of Public Services had spent $242,000 on snow and ice removal. But, the subzero temperatures and snowstorms of January has caused a significant increase in cost. Kerwood said the city has already spent $942,000 on snow and ice removal this year — $242,000 over the appropriation.
 
"That is a combination of what has been spent and what is coming," Kerwood said.
 
Those three accounts tend to be the focus of Kerwood's reports to the City Council. He said, "the majority of the accounts are trending at 50 percent."
 
There are some accounts that have prepaid items, such as insurance contracts which provide a discount if paid up front, that shows some lines 100 percent spent. But, overall, the expenses are trending mostly as predicted.
 
Kerwood also said revenues are trending above the estimated amount in the budget. A couple highlights include taking in $105,000 in parking tickets, which is 70 percent of what was estimated, and $76,000 in landing fees at the airport, which is above the $75,000 estimate (the Airport Commission raised landing fees).
 
Though overall, the revenue number won't show the positive trend because the major collections hadn't gone out. The motor vehicle excise tax takes in a significant amount of revenue and those will start going out this month.
 
The parking meters have taken in $148,505, Kerwood said. That is enough to cover the $130,000 of expenses that the City Council approved to spend with that revenue. That includes the ongoing maintenance fees, $30,000 for garage repairs, and the purchase of new license plate reading equipment for the parking attendants.
 
"I expect and have no reason to doubt that the revenues will exceed the expenses," Kerwood said.
 
The report was Kerwood's second quarterly report of the year. The update is provided to the City Council's Finance Subcommittee.

Tags: federal grants,   Finance Committee,   fiscal 2018,   overtime,   snow & ice,   

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