Greenfield City Council begins budget discussion, nixes raise for mayor

  • WEDEGARTNER

  • Greenfield City Council meets at the John Zon Community Center in April. Councilors began discussion Wednesday night on the proposed $58.3 million operating budget for fiscal year 2023, a figure that represents a $3.9 million or 7% increase over the current operating budget. Staff File Photo/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/19/2022 6:26:41 PM
Modified: 5/19/2022 6:24:56 PM

GREENFIELD — City Council began discussion Wednesday night on the proposed $58.3 million operating budget for fiscal year 2023, a figure that represents a $3.9 million or 7% increase over the current operating budget.

While most budgets were approved as requested, City Council ultimately voted to reduce the total wages line item in the mayor’s budget by $3,098, which represented a request for a raise in the mayor’s salary, and to reduce the total expenses line item in the mayor’s budget by $8,000.

Before adjourning just after 11 p.m., councilors voted to continue the meeting to Thursday at 6 p.m., leaving the Police Department and schools, among other departments, still to be discussed.

“In creating the fiscal year 2023 operating budget, which I did in collaboration with department heads, we focused on a shared common purpose of providing a city budget that realistically maintains the services and programs for all Greenfield residents that we have come to rely on,” said Mayor Roxann Wedegartner in her comments prior to the budget discussion. “We did that in an environment of rapidly rising costs for goods and services … and negotiated the cost-of-living increases for the city’s valued employees.”

Finance Director Liz Gilman previously explained the $58.3 million budget includes appropriations for general government, public safety, public works, human services, culture and recreation, and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG). The largest direct appropriation is for education at 38.2%, followed by fixed costs at 31.2%.

Gilman informed city councilors that the major drivers of the proposed 7% change include increases in salary and wages, debt services, health insurance and retirement assessments, and most significantly, education.

The portion of the budget that generated the most discussion Wednesday pertained to the executive branch, where Wedegartner requested a salary of $93,157 for FY23, or an increase of about 3%.

“The salary you negotiate or receive at the time traditionally remains the same during the term of the mayor,” said At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey, who formerly served as mayor. “I also think that in view of some of the things we are struggling with at this point, the mayor’s salary of $90,000 seems to be very reasonable and I don’t think there should be an additional wage increase.”

After some back and forth between councilors and attempts at motions to amend, councilors settled on a reduction that brought the salary to its FY22 amount of $90,059.

“I feel like there is a lot of pay disparity across our city, across departments,” commented Precinct 5 Councilor Marianne Bullock. “I don’t want this to feel like it’s punitive toward our mayor.”

Bullock noted that in her comparison of mayor salaries in Massachusetts, she found Greenfield is on the lower end. Still, she said, at $90,059, the mayor’s salary is double the median household income in Greenfield.

At-Large Councilor Michael Terounzo echoed Forgey’s remarks, adding that, considering it is an elected term, “you know what your salary is.”

Speaking to the expenses line item, Precinct 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher made a motion to reduce the expenses line by $8,000. At a recent Ways and Means Committee meeting, councilors were told a $17,000 request was for a new city website.

“If we find out the website is going to continue to cost (more) … they can come back for another order, if need be,” DeSorgher explained.

She said she would hope the difference in cost could come out of grants, such as through the Community Development Block Grant.

Bullock, however, disagreed.

“I do think that these budgets were put together with care and an understanding of what departments need,” Bullock said. “I do trust (Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau) when she said she put this number together with an understating of what costs are coming up from last year … and what’s coming forward. I think our website needs help and to make it more accessible to the public.”

City Council voted 10-2 in support of DeSorgher’s proposed reduction of $8,000, with Forgey and Bullock voting “no,” and At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts abstaining.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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