Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Budget: The Library and the Overall Context

Like all Councillors, I’m getting many many emails and calls from citizens about the proposed cuts to the Library budget.

All the Mayor’s requested cuts including the $40,000 from a Library budget of $1.2M have to be seen in a broader context.

The School Dept has cut over 30 teacher positions over the last 5 years, the Highway Dept has gone from over 40 fulltime workers in the 1990's to 21 today, and the Police Dept is operating with less of a budget than in 2001.

Most of these problems are the result of much less State aid and increases to Health Insurance. Municipal unions have been helpful (compared to some communities) on delaying salary increases and assuming more of the burden on Health Insurance, but we’re still in a tight spot.

We're not the only ones in this predicament as Lowell proposes massive teacher layoffs, Lawrence may lay off 155 City employees, and Boston wrangles with its Firefighters Union. These communities are much bigger than we are, but the parameters of revenue and expense are the same.

The Mayor’s FY 11 Budget Proposal has the following percentage cuts (FY10 compared to FY11):

City Clerk: -1.4%

Library: -3.2%

Health: -3.7%

Fire: -4%

Police: -4%

Mayor: -4.2%

Animal Control: -6.1%

IT: -8%

Highway: -12%

Legal: -13%

Veterans: -14%

Emergency Mgmt -48%

To balance our budget this year, the Mayor is requesting among other cuts that:

  • the Fire Dept cut 4 fulltime firefighters, so we'd be down from 28 fulltime to 24; right now we have 7 firefighters per shift, so this reduction will mean one less firefighter per shift
  • the Police Dept will go without 2 patrol positions
  • Emergency Management will lose a position and that function will be handled by the Police Department

Surprisingly I’ve not gotten one call about the cuts to the Public Safety Departments.

Regarding the Library, even if we are not able to restore the proposed cuts to the Library budget, I believe we can retain our Library certification.

In FY10, the MA Board of Library Commissioners granted waivers of the FY2010 Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) to 97 libraries and denied one.

In FY09, 24 of the 26 libraries requesting waivers were granted them.

My personal feeling, and I’m only one of 11 Councillors, is that we are going to implement many of these cuts; we simply don't have the money.

At the same time we need (and I will be working) to implement additional revenue measures such as the local meals excise of 0.75% and paid parking. These additional revenue sources are always contentious; some residents have no problem paying more while for others on a fixed budget or with lower income it’s a real burden. But I think it's clear that we're hitting the point where we're we have no other choice.

The City Council will vote on the Mayor’s proposed budget on Thursday night, June 3rd. The Council can make additional cuts but cannot on its own add money to line items. However the Council can make recommendations to the Mayor on certain line items, especially if money is cut elsewhere in the budget.

Thank you,

Ed Cameron

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