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The Finance Committee hears from Information Technology Director Mark Pierson about upgrades being made to the city's information systems during the budget review.

North Adams Finance Committee Begins Fiscal 2024 Budget Review

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee last week began review of the fiscal 2024 budget presented by Mayor Jennifer Macksey, voting to recommend the School Department and General Government spending plans and compensation plan.  

The Classification and Compensation Plan for fiscal 2024 included a 2 percent across the board cost-of-living raise and reclassifications for a number of positions. 
"Police, Fire and Highway settled to have a 2 percent raise this year," said Macksey. "I feel that it's only fair that everyone else gets the 2 percent."
The largest change in the comp plan is the addition of five dispatcher lines. The dispatch salaries had come out of the 911 grant for years and officials have acknowledged the wages were below comparable communications centers. Two years ago, the City Council authorized a $3 an hour jump in pay. 
"I know the council adjusted the line but we still were not competitive with surrounding communities," the mayor said. "My big thing is we have a very good dispatching crew ... they are the heart and soul of our public safety. They know the streets, they know people they know our ... so to say, regular customers."
The new classifications are dispatcher in training (starting at $18.80); dispatcher certified ($20); dispatcher training officer ($21.95); head dispatcher ($23.58), and headquarters front desk ($16.98). This last position is reception at the new police station since dispatch will remain at the old station for at least several more months. 
Dispatch has also followed the police shift differential, though that has not been documented, Macksey continued, so the charter will now note that second shift is 8 percent and third is 9 percent. 
Further discussion on the dispatch budget will continue during the Public Safety line review on whether to outsource the services. Macksey said she, instead, envisions North Adams becoming more a regional dispatch, noting that it already covers a couple towns. 
The committee heard from Superintendent Barbara Malkas and Nancy Rauscher, director of school finance and operations, on the fiscal 2024 budget approved by the School Committee
The city's portion of the $20 million budget is level-funded but Malkas and Rauscher noted future challenges, such as a lack of educators to fill the wave of retirements in the coming years and the "fiscal cliff" as federal and state pandemic funding terminates. 
"We are trying to add things back into the budget," said Rauscher. "We're phasing things in and phasing things out ... trying to show the numbers closer to the actual spending."
The committee members said they appreciated the detail offered within the school budget this year.


Administrative Officer
The mayor is proposing to fully fund this position $72,625 in anticipation of hiring a full-time person. Katherine Eade came back part time last year and is expected to shift to another position.  
The human resources director has been added at $31,754. This is the city's portion of the $72,000 post since it shared with Adams and Williamstown. It is currently funded through a three-year grant but had to be added to the compensation and classification plan. 
Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Administrative officer  $72,598 $71,201 $72,625
Human Resources Director     $31,754
Total $72,598 $71,201 $104,379


The main increase is in outside inspection services, which is $43,000 of the expense line, for two separate services. Mayflower Valuations provides annual sales and utilities' personal property analysis. It will also begin the 10-year citywide re-evaluation at a cost of $28,000 for the next three years. The salaries reflects changes in who occupies the posts and the two part-time members are paid $160 a month. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Assessor $55,046 $49,883 $50,881
Office Manager $35,111 $32,853 $34,267
Green Community Coordinator $3,800 $0 $0
Part-time member $3,600 $3,600 $3,840
Expenses $21,675 $20,350 $47,900
Total $120,632 $106,686 $136,888


The increases in expenses reflect the contract with an outside auditor. The city is still seeking to fill the assistant auditor and has kept it in the budget. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Auditor $55,226 $56,054 $57,994
Assistant Auditor $18,000 $19,760 $20,155
Expenses $26,000 $27,400 $32,100
Total $99,226 $103,214 $110,249


Boards of Appeal

There were no significant changes in this budget line. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Secretarial/clerical $600 $600 $600
Advertising $1,000 $19,760 $20,155
Total $1,600 $1,600 $2,300


City Clerk

The clerk's budget reflects the addition of a part-time clerk at the request of the City Council, the step raise for the clerk's one-year anniversary and the added costs for the city election.

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
City Clerk $55,153 $55,872 $56,989
Assistant City Clerk $39,684 $36,885 $42,263
Clerical Part-time $6,000 $16,450 $22,198
Expenses $3,400 $3,400 $8,900
Total $104,237 $112,607 $130,350


City Council

There are no changes to this budget. The mayor said she would entertain an increase in the City Council stipend if the councilors were seeking one. A comparison with other communities found stipends ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, suggesting $500. The stipend has not changed in nearly two decades. Finance Committee member Lisa Blackmer thought it was a matter better left to next year; members Keith Bona and Bryan Sapienza thought it worth the conversation.

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
City Councilors $27,600 $27,600 $27,600
Expenses $8,320 $8,320 $8,320
Total $35,920 $35,920 $35,920


Election & Registration

Expenses are up because of the increased costs of ballots and coding projected at $10,500.

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Election Officers $9,400 $9,400 $9,400
Registrars $2,400 $2,400 $2,400
Census Workers 0 0 0
Expenses $16,325 $15,900 $22,100
Total $28,125 $27,700 $33,900


Office of Community Development

This office is largely funded through Community Development Block Grants. The projects coordinator is open.

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Director Community Development $16,497 $16,253 $17,739
Director of Purchasing $0 $0 $0
Technical Specialist $0 $0 $0
Fiscal Compliance Officer $13,232 $24,037 $25,567
Projects Coordinator $8,229 $6,626 $7,499
Expenses $4,100 $3,100 $3,100
Total $42,149 $50,016 $53,905


Law Department

The legal budget has increased by $20,000 to reflect the increased need and the higher rates being charged by KP Law. The mayor said it has been difficult to find a local solicitor; Blackmer agreed, noting the conflicts that can occur and the lack of expertise in municipal law.

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Solicitor $0 $0 $0
Expenses $40,000 $40,000 $60,000
Total $40,000 $40,000 $40,000

License Commission

There is no change in this budget. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Members $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Chairman $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Expenses $2,000 $2,000 $2,000
Total $4,000 $4,000 $4,000

Mayor's Office

This budget includes a grants and communications specialist. The mayor anticipates one of two people already on payroll being shifted to this position depending on if a full-time administrative officer can be hired. The mayor's salary was also increased at the 2 percent COLA. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Mayor $88,470 $98,000 $99,960
Administrative Assistant $52,715 $49,773 $52,040
Grants & Comms Specialist $0 $39,520 $50,304
Expenses $3,500 $3,500 $3,500
Total $144,685 $190,793 $205,804

Information Technology

This line continues to have the largest increases the past few years, reflecting the need to upgrade the financial and general systems and for security, and to consolidate lines from other budgets. Director Mark Pierson told the committee that have expenses have gone up largely from the police line, the high-capacity internet and the connection to the transfer station. He said the department will be taking a step because it has taken on a number of projects in a short time and will be implementing and training on the technology. 

"Our security is getting much tighter and our capabilities are increasing at the same time," he said. 

The mayor said she intends to take $100,000 from the municipal technology to offset the increase. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
IT Director $82,154 $83,386 $85,054
Assistant MIS Director $64,189 $59,334 $60,521
Assistant MIS Director $0 $0 $60,521
Expenses $178,795 $360,000 $432,870
Total $325,138 $502,720 $638,966

Office of Tourism

The director of tourism will be increased from 20 hours a week to 30 hours at $17 an hour. The mayor said she is trying to reinvest in that position that disappeared during the first year of the pandemic and returned part time. The approved salary in 2022 was not all spent. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Director $39,968 $15,000 $15,000
Expenses $23,800 $23,800 $23,800
Total $63,789 $38,800 $50,320

Planning Board

The only change is an extra $500 in advertising because of increased costs. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Secretarial/clerical $1,200 $1,200 $1,200
Advertising $4,000 $4,000 $4,500
Expenses $0 $148.98 $0
Total $5,200 $5,348.98 $5,700


Traffic & Parking

Ticket entry is being done by a person at $15 an hour at about 10 hours a week. 

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Hearing officer  $1,500 $1,500 $1,500
Ticket Entry $0 $5,200 $7,800
Meter Mechanic $15,200 $11,200 $11,200
Expenses $1,700 $17,000 $1,700
Total $18,400 $19,600 $22,200


Treasurer & Collector

The foreclosure expense line is up $15,000 to $45,000 cover court costs; advertising costs are also up $600 at $3,200. City Treasurer Beverly Cooper said her team has been pushing to move properties out of tax title but that process is "expensive and slow."
Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Treasurer/Collector $62,987 $63,932 $65,211
Assistant Treasurer $44,712 $37,991 $43,108
Principal Clerk $40,583 $41,307 $42,133
Part-time clerks (2) $33,758 $34,000 $38,000
All Expenses $78,500 $85,100 $101,700
Total $263,040 $263,330 $290,152

Vital Statistics

Account Name 2022 Approved  2023 Approved 2024 Requested
Expenses, book binding $1,500 $2,500 $2,000
Total $1,500 $2,500 $2,00


Tags: fiscal 2024,   north adams_budget,   

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Blackinton Mill Owners: City's Delays Put $17M Hotel Project in Peril

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Jennifer Macksey speaks at Tuesday's City Council meeting as Tourists owner Ben Svenson looks on. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The $17 million expansion plans for the Blackinton Mill are tripping over a 10-foot high pile hides that has been decaying for 60 years. 
The partnership that operates Tourists resort says the whole project — including a proposed bike path — is in danger of failing before it even begins if a November grant deadline to clean up the mess isn't met. 
But the Mayor Jennifer Macksey says more testing is needed before the city takes control of the one-acre site and is positing a February closing date.
On Tuesday, the partners were pleading with the City Council to use any tools it had to make the mayor abide by an agreement to close on the parcel before the deadline.
"I really don't want to say it will go away but we will not be able to sustain any longer unless we can resolve this issue," said principal Benjamin Svenson. "And so I appeal to you tonight to please — whatever tools you have — communicate to the mayor the urgency of resolving this matter."
The matter before the council was an authorization for the mayor to purchase the property, which would be for $1. The city would be able to apply for a U.S. Environmental Protection Act brownfield grant not available to the private entity. 
"We need this to secure our financing," said Svenson. "We can't get a bank loan until we resolve this matter. ... 
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