Greenfield Ways and Means Committee to deliberate city’s operating budget this week

Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2021 4:50:49 PM

GREENFIELD — Members of the City Council Ways and Means Committee have commended the police chief, fire chief and public works director for their “extraordinary efforts” in creating “bare bones” operating budgets for next year that do not include cutting services or people.

The committee will begin deliberations on all city department operating budgets this week and will eventually vote a recommendation to send to the full council. The council will then hold a public hearing, do its own deliberating and vote a final operating budget for the city that will take effect on July 1.

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner has proposed a fiscal year 2022 operating budget of almost $54.5 million, a 1.1 percent or $593,078 increase over this year’s budget of $53.9 million. She said departments were asked to stay within a 1 percent increase over this year’s budget, which means they are all level-services budgets.

On April 29, the Ways and Means Committee concluded the budget presentation portion of its meeting with Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr., Fire Chief Robert Strahan and Department of Public Works Director Marlo Warner.

Each said they worked hard to stay within the 1 percent increase without losing people or having to cut services, and they said they were able to do so while meeting contractual obligations.

“There’s no fat in this budget,” Haigh said. “I hope this budget goes through. We’re trying to do good things for Greenfield, things people are asking us to do.”

Haigh said the budget allows for four of his officers on the street at a time — two people each to two emergencies, if needed, at any time.

After Haigh presented his department’s proposed operating budget, At-Large Councilor and Ways and Means Committee Chair Christine Forgey told him, “We appreciate you,” while Precinct 1 Councilor and retired Deputy Fire Chief Ed Jarvis told him he did a “good job creating a bare bones budget.”

The Police Department has asked for $3.7 million, while other areas that fall under police have asked for their own — dispatch, $143,752; parking enforcement, $597,675; and animal control, $26,912.

The Fire Department has asked for $2.5 million and Emergency Management has asked for $19,485. The total public safety budget request for fiscal year 2022 is $7.3 million.

“We’re going to maintain what we have with this budget,” Strahan said. “It doesn’t reflect an increase in manpower. It does reflect a $39,000 increase in contractual obligations. I am hoping, though, we can reinstate the deputy chief position (by the beginning of next year).”

Strahan said the position was cut by the previous mayor and he’d like to see it restored.

Warner said he is responsible for six budgets and when he was asked to build a level-services budget, he did so.

“I had to figure out how to level cut numbers and still be able to provide services residents expect,” he said.

Warner is asking for a $2.4 million budget for next year. He said he thinks he can work with that amount.

“We bumped up the budget from this year just a little to keep staffing,” he said.

The other departments that presented their budgets over the past couple of weeks were the School Department, which is asking for $20.4 million; the library, which is asking for $679,713; and the Recreation Department, which is requesting $193,954.

The Health Department is asking for $209,483; Council on Aging is asking for $139,270; and the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District is requesting $525,366.

The mayor has requested $1.6 million for general government included in a total operating budget of $54.5 million.

Wedegartner provides leadership in the budget process by developing budgetary policy and working closely with department heads and the City Council to assure that the process identifies community needs and priorities. The city’s charter dictates the process, including timeline.

“We start this process in November,” Wedegartner said. “I held a meeting attended by all department heads and finance personnel, to discuss a general overview of the state of the economy and an outline of specific guidelines for the preparation of individual department budgets.”

The School Department’s budget is prepared by the superintendent, business manager and the Budget Finance Subcommittee to the School Committee, and then approved by the full School Committee. The schools’ budget process is also dictated by the city charter.

The Ways and Means Committee will meet virtually on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to start its deliberations of the entire operating budget. It will meet Thursday as well, if necessary. Otherwise, it will send a recommendation to the full City Council. To join the Wednesday meeting, visit bit.ly/2SiEonf.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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