Mayor Martin proposes $51.3M budget

  • Mayor William Martin, a Greenfield School Committee member, speaks about an Open Meeting Law complaint at a meeting last month in John Zon Community Center. The mayor proposed cutting the budget of the schools by about $1.3 million in his spending plan to the City Council, which he filed this week. To his right is School Committee member Susan Hollins. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2019 11:19:07 PM

GREENFIELD — The mayor has presented a $51.3 million city budget for this upcoming year, which marks the largest increase from one year to the next that he has proposed in his 10 years in office, but with a 2.5 percent increase in the tax rate. 

The city’s spending plan as proposed by Mayor William Martin is about a 5 percent jump from this year’s budget, by a $2.4 million increase. 

The mayor’s proposed tax rate is $22.92, which is an increase from this year’s $22.36.

Typically the council looks to cut further into the mayor’s budget.

The Greenfield Public Schools took the biggest hit from the budget Martin is proposing to the Greenfield City Council, decreasing the schools’ hopeful budget by $1.35 million. 

The budget marks the mayor’s final spending plan because he is not running for re-election this November. Martin lays out the groundwork for how the city should finance its future infrastructure and staffing needs, but that strategy may pivot in the years to come depending on who is elected the third mayor of Greenfield. 

The budget will be first presented to the public Thursday, April 11 at the John Zon Community Center. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the final budget May 29. 

The budget also comes as city officials scramble to sort through questions on petitions and referendum procedures, in the wake of the library-zoning deal vote last month. 

Department heads proposed a collective $53 million budget, which the mayor reduced by about $1.8 million. 

The Greenfield School Committee’s budget request was reduced by the mayor, who is also a committee member. About 50 percent of the mayor’s proposed reductions comes from a decrease in funding for the school.s

While debating the school budget last month, the mayor argued to reduce the amount noting the city’s budget expected to cross $50 million. His pitch fell flat among most of his fellow committee members, who honored the superintendent’s budget presented to them. 

Martin proposes to the City Council a school budget of $18.625 million instead of the $20 million passed by the Greenfield School Committee. Specific details of the budget are not available yet.

“This budget is not a representation of what we totally want,” Martin said in a memo this week. “This budget is a reflection of what we can accomplish with known annual revenues.”

Martin said the budget uses planned debt to leverage a “competitive, safe and strong Greenfield.” 

The outgoing mayor explained the city is using a municipal investment strategy known as “smoothing” to allow Greenfield to afford infrastructure costs. 

He presented his strategy to pay off debt. Investment through debt, he said, is “good for the long-term survival of communities” and “maintains momentum needed to attract new life, external talent and new shareholders to the city.”

“This strategy prevents us from reaching beyond our means, but allows us to reach our dreams,” Martin said. 

The mayor’s debt strategy has been criticized by some city councilors, particularly some of the more typically fiscally conservative elected officials. 

Martin’s views on debt were a part of the central criticism in his pitch to why Greenfield could in fact afford a new public library, a new fire station and infrastructure needs like an anaerobic digester. 

The hesitation to follow the mayor and his financial team’s numbers led Martin to bring in an independent financial advisor to field questions from councilors. At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass and Precinct 3 Councilor Bricket Allis, who is running for mayor, asked a majority of the questions at the March meeting. 

Eventually the distrust that the city could actually afford a $19.5 million new public library led to Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud to broker a deal with Mass. 

The proposed compromise aimed to swing needed votes for the library in exchange for relaxed commercial zoning laws that could allow more business come to Greenfield and, ideally, take some of the burden off of the taxpayer. The deal was approved last month, but recent citizen petitions have put the whole process stuck in neutral. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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