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Mayor: Hold budget line for one more year

GREENFIELD — As the mayor begins crafting next year’s operating budget, he said he can tell it will once again be a challenging year, but is optimistic that it may be the last year before things start looking up financially.

Mayor William Martin said the Fiscal 2014 budget will not increase by much, if anything. He expects his final budget, the one he will present to Town Council sometime in March, will again be about $42 million, like this year.

“It’s going to be another difficult year with many uncertainties and realities, but I don’t foresee any layoffs or service cuts,” said Martin.

Martin said the town budget will depend a lot on what the town receives from the state, but the town budget will be created long before Greenfield knows what the state will give it next year.

“I do know that the governor’s proposed tax increases will have a positive impact,” he said. “I think the town will see more Chapter 70 (school) money this year, and more Chapter 90 (roads) money. That’s good news, if it happens.

Martin said he is working on creating a budget that will meet the needs of contractual obligations, and hopes that what’s left over will help each department meet its mission.

“We have negotiated some contracts and are close to doing the same with the remaining ones,” said Martin, who said he cannot talk specifics about contract negotiations at this point. “We will be able to cover salary increases, but departments will have to figure out how to deliver the same services they did this year after paying those increases with the same amount of money they got this year.”

Martin said he is hoping to save Greenfield taxpayers a little bit of money by not including the 2.5 percent tax increase allowed — about $650,000 to $700,000.

“It will be there if we end up needing it, but we’re going to try not to use it,” he said.

Martin said he is meeting with all department heads to discuss operating expenses, strategies and raises in each of their contracts.

“I am meeting with them with our finance director and accountant,” said Martin.

Martin said capital borrowing and other types of borrowing will be a different story. The town will look at what it needs and then look to Town Council to approve any borrowing it feels it must seek for projects. He is also discussing projects with department heads.

“We are looking at some of the lowest interest rates in history,” said Martin. “We’d be foolish not to borrow for projects we know we need to do.”

The mayor said as budget season proceeds, he will know better how much the town will see in increases in meals and room taxes, and exactly how much it can expect in Chapter 70 and Chapter 90 money.

“Things are going to start looking up in a year or two,” said Martin. “Then, the town will really be on its way.”

The mayor and Town Council Ways and Means Committee will begin meeting publicly with department heads within the next several weeks.

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