North Adams City Council Presented $36M Budget
Councilors referred two items to the Finance Committee and endorsed two resolutions.
Both items were referred to the Finance Committee and the classification plan to a second reading and publication.
"This budget is truly reflective of the dire financial situation facing our city," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who noted it also contains a $985,000 deficit. "We have virtually no cash reserves."
The mayor said he will file special legislation to allow use of some $800,000 in watershed funds and will ask the council to institute fees.
The budget includes at least a 10 percent increase in property taxes, and a 10 percent increase in water rates and the institution of a sewer fee (42 percent of the water bill) to offset payments to the Hoosac Water Quality District.
The city, like other municipalities, is grappling with a 4 percent cut in Chapter 70 education aid along with local aid decreases. In addition, it has to cover a settlement over insurance with its public unions and deal with rising costs.
The Finance Committee has been reviewing the budgets for some weeks and will continue that review through the expected adoption of the budget on June 22. All the councilors have attended one or more meetings.
In good news, Alcombright said it appears that even if the state loses some $600 million in anticipated stimulus funds, the governor has pledged not to slash local and education aid further.
Mayor Alcombright said after the meeting that a number of changes are being considered but they can't be done before this budget is finalized at the end of June.
Alcombright didn't respond to Cardimino's complaints of the two departments, other than to say the animal control officer does traffic details on her days, although at past finance meetings he said he intends the tourism office to expand its responsibilities to work with local development and marketing groups.
As for insurance, "this is something that has been happening over 20 years," he said. The city has been working with Department of Revenue on an audit and who gets insurance and who doesn't was one of the questions raised, said Alcombright. Changes may be made in the coming year, he said.
Cardimino had singled out Councilor Michael Bloom in his comments about insurance coverage and mentioned him again during open forum. Council President Ronald Boucher called him out of order for personalizing the issue and, after some back and forth, cut him off. Cardimino claimed his constitutional rights were being violated.
In other business, the council:
► Approved new regulations on vacant and foreclosed properties to a second reading and publication.
► Endorsed two resolutions submitted by Councilor Gailanne Cariddi in support of funding for Northern Berkshire Community Television Inc.
► Heard an update on truck traffic on Notch Road that Cariddi said she planned to bring to the Traffic Commission. Alcombright said a property owner on Notch Road had taken out a permit for clean fill to placed on his land; the fill is coming from the project at the Clark Art Institute.
The trucking company had been using Luce and Pattison roads but a few weeks ago began using Notch Road and Brickyard Court. Alcombright said the company's been ordered to stick to Luce and Pattison will be limited in operation. It will also begin removing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of top soil from the Clark stored at the property. Storage and removal would not be allowed, but Alcombright said they had worked out a deal that trucks delivering fill would take away the top soil.
The Clark has been cooperative and the city didn't want to "hold the top soil hostage," said the mayor.