Martin sees budget as ‘transitional’ to next mayor

  • Mayor William Martin at a Greenfield School Committee meeting eariler this year. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/8/2019 11:00:24 PM

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin is calling his $51.3 million proposed budget a “transitional” spending plan for a city that will have a new mayor come 2020.

The budget calls for raising the operating budget by nearly 5 percent and increasing taxes by about 2.5 percent, elevating the average tax rate to $22.92 from this year’s rate of $22.36.

The most significant cuts the mayor took to the requests of department heads was to the Greenfield Public Schools budget, facing a potential reduction of $1.3 million.

The budget will first be discussed Thursday, 6 p.m. in the John Zon Community Center.

The Greenfield School Committee last month approved a $20 million budget, more or less wholly agreeing to Superintendent Jordana Harper’s initial proposal, which is not common. The mayor, who sits as a member on the committee, balked at the amount the schools were trying to spend.

Instead he cut the budget to $18.6 million once it came to him as mayor.

The cuts are to the bottom line of the school’s budget but are not specific to staff or educational resources, based on city charter guidelines.

“Stressed and beleaguered school districts are visible across the state,” Martin writes in his 158-page budget book, “even more so, it seems, in Franklin County.”

Martin alluded to other school districts in the county that are struggling, such as Pioneer Valley Regional School District, which recently announced the closure of one of its elementary schools.

“There is no secret across the commonwealth of the deficiency of dedicated state funds for education expenses,” Martin said. “A legislative solution has been absent for decades. The burden for local education costs has been borne by property owners.”

Unfunded mandates and contractual obligations hurt schools, Martin says, which places additional strain on the schools.

“Fortunately, we are still intact financially and educationally,” Martin said. “To maintain and advance, we must progress by seeking partnerships with other districts by sharing tasks and reducing redundancies.”

Signaling to regionalization efforts, the outgoing mayor says the city’s school curriculum needs to be competitive for all needs. Martin writes education here is a “competitive industry.” He points to the eight other districts, including private and charter schools in the area.

“Greenfield is the largest district in Franklin County and needs to take a leadership role not only to survive but to demonstrate we are the best educational choice in the Valley,” Martin said.

In doing so, he presented a budget that cuts direct funding to the schools.

“This is not my preferred budget submission,” he said, “however, it represents a plan with known resources to move forward.”

Other highlights

Health: The health department remains in tact for another year, if it’s up to the mayor. After the department ran into a crisis without a single inspector, Martin is looking to fully fund health inspectors.

“This past year, under an extremely tight budget allocation, we worked to build the health and inspections departments to a level that is functional, not only to its mission, but to the citizens and the business community,” the mayor writes in the budget book.

He is requesting about $212,000 for the health department, which would be a 26 percent increase from what the department ended up receiving from the city this past year; and the increase would mark a 42 percent increase from what the council originally approved for the department but ultimately was what led to the debacle over staffing concerns.

Martin’s requests are in fact more than what the health department itself requested by about $17,700.

He is asking for the council to approve about $207,000 for salaries, compared to this year’s $163,000 and initially approved $144,000.

Police: The Greenfield Police Department included in its goal for this upcoming year moving away from Civil Service guiding its hiring practices.

It also notes the desire to “create a plan for the current building, as it is not adequate for long-term modern police and dispatch operations.” The police may be able to move into the potential new fire station lot.

The police are also looking to find a “alternative to the failing county-wide radio system,” like switching to the state-wide 800 mHz system.

Fire: The 34 Riddell St. site for a new fire station, and potential public safety complex, may take a step forward in this coming year’s budget.

A capital request asks for the city to commit $550,000 for building plans for the fire station. If agreed to by the council, the city will be able to move forward with the demolition of the current buildings at the city-owned site with $2.5 million of state money earmarked for the cleanup.

The Greenfield Fire Department did not list eliminating Civil Service as a goal of its own.

Mayor salary: After years of lobbying for a higher salary for the mayor position to help make it more attractive for the next candidate, Martin, who is the president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association, is recommending a decrease in the salary for the upcoming budget year.

Martin, who has been the lead executive of Greenfield for a decade, is paid $80,000, which is commonly seen as below-market value for a mayor. Currently three candidates have announced their interest for the November election, two of whom are on the City Council, but wide interest has not percolated yet.

Martin is proposing the salary for the next mayor start at $76,339. He is raising the line items for assistants to the mayor, from $48,562 to $83,985.The overall executive department is looking for less money in the upcoming year, the lone department to do so, as the mayor has eliminated a staff position.


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