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Mayor’s budget aims to dodge cuts

Says $43.8M figure doesn’t require layoffs, service reductions

GREENFIELD — It looks like the town’s taxpayers will dodge the budget cut bullet for the third year in a row.

Mayor William Martin has submitted a $43.8 million operating budget for Fiscal 2014 that does not require any layoffs or cuts to services.

“I didn’t want to lose ground in my fourth budget — the premise of it was to maintain all employees and services,” said Martin. “I believe that after four years we’ve figured out what it takes to run each department efficiently. We filtered through all expenses and analyzed every budget.”

Martin said he wanted departments to get to where they could function comfortably and believes they have arrived.

The $43,775,832 budget is a 3.13 percent increase to this year’s $42,448,460 budget.

Much of the $1.3 million increase, about $650,000 of it, will cover increases to mandated costs, including health and other insurances, retirement and other employee benefits.

Martin has proposed a $16.54 million budget for the Greenfield Public School District, an allotment that is $560,000 lower than the School Committee’s draft budget, but one he believes will be enough to run the schools.

The mayor said his budget will also fund six firefighters who were being paid by a grant, and will replace five police officers who retired or left.

“We’re able to do that because, for instance, the officers left at higher salaries than their replacements will be making,” said Martin.

The mayor said the state currently shows that state aid to Greenfield should increase by about $1.8 million next year, but Martin only factored about half of that into the operating budget and will add the rest later, if it ends up being what the state has predicted.

Martin said he also didn’t factor in the automatic 2½ percent property tax increase, about $670,000, allowed towns and cities each year.

“That means a savings to taxpayers,” he said. “It may not mean a lot of extra money in their pockets, but it will mean less of an impact when you figure in any increases to their tax bills.”

Martin said he was able to craft a balanced budget with increases from parking fees, meals tax, lodging tax, and profits from the sale of town-owned land.

“The town has also been very aggressive in bringing back taxes people owe up to date,” he said.

Martin said conservation efforts by the town, including the new solar farm on the capped landfill, reduced consumption of energy, and other “green” measures have saved the town money, which he is using to fund the budget.

He said projected raises for town employees will also be covered in the budget.

Martin’s total education cost, including payment for Greenfield students in regional schools, is $17.54 million, which is $726,000 more than this year.

The School Committee, of which Martin is a member, based its budget around an estimated $1.34 million increase in state aid, but Martin believes that amount will likely be lower. He said that the some of that state aid should be used to cover things outside the district’s budget, including health insurance for its employees.

Central Maintenance will receive $1.5 million, the same as this and last year.

Police will receive $2.6 million in Martin’s budget, which is $95,910 less than this year, and the Fire Department will receive $1.8 million, a $207,400 increase over this year.

Public works will receive a $35,800 increase, or $1.8 million, and the library will receive $614,500, a $25,000 increase over this year.

The Recreation Department will receive $15,000 less than it did this year, but it has begun using its own revolving account to cover some of its expenses. The money in the revolving fund comes from different events it holds throughout the year.

The Town Council Ways and Means Committee will begin reviewing each department’s budget on April 10 with reviews of the budgets of public works, human services, the library, veterans, central maintenance and inspectors. The meeting will be held at Greenfield Community Television at 6 p.m.

Ways and Means will deliberate on May 15 and make its recommendation to the full council.

On May 22, Town Council will hold its budget meeting. The council must vote next year’s budget by the end of June.

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