Mayor Dan Rizzo said this week that his first stab at setting a City Budget proposal was a rather tough one, given the limited funds coming into the City, but said he got through it without any layoffs or catastrophic actions.
“We aren’t going to have any layoffs, that’s for certain,” Rizzo said of the $146 million budget request. “Former Mayor Ambrosino told us several times that 2013 was going to be a very, very difficult budget year. As it turns out, we tightened up on the overtime through fiscal year 2012, and told our department heads to be as careful as they could with spending. I think we did a reasonably good job in keeping everything in check to meet our upcoming budget without resorting to layoffs or Proposition 2 ½ overrides.”
One of the major pieces of good news, financially speaking, is that the City will not have to dip into it Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget. Instead, they have identified about $1.1 million of unused money in old sub-accounts that will be applied to close any possible budget gaps.
“We were able to find some help in some reserve accounts and that helped us not to have to dip into our Stabilization Fund,” said Rizzo. “It’s not all roses, but it’s not Armageddon either. Not using that Stabilization Fund will be big because I don’t want to be stuck like we were in 2008. I don’t want to have to go through what the former mayor had to go through, with scrambling around and having layoffs and negotiating with the unions. I want to have that Stabilization Fund intact so we’re ready.”
Director of Finance George Anzuoni agreed that staying away from the Stabilization Fund is not only good for the City, but also good in the eyes of Wall Street.
“We want to avoid it at all costs unless there are one time payments that are worthy,” he said. “If they see we have a dip in our Stabilization Fund and they find out we used it to meet payroll, that’s not good. If they find out we used it to put an addition onto the library or something like that, that would be another thing.”
Meanwhile, Rizzo said a large majority of the budget increase this coming fiscal year is due to a large bump-up at the School Department, which saw $6.34 million of the overall $8 million increase.
He was able to add a payroll clerk to the Treasurer’s Office staff, and said that a federal grant will likely provide four more police officers in the coming fiscal year.
One thing he was not able to do was to open up City Hall again on the last Friday of the month. City Hall has been closed on the last Friday of every month for budgetary reasons for the past several years.
“I was hoping to have restored the last Friday of the month at City Hall to get people back to work, but we’re just not there yet,” he said. “We’re seeing positive signs in the economy, so maybe there will be a supplemental budget where we can talk about this again. It was an early goal of mine, but it just wasn’t possible.”
A main reason that there was little room to maneuver was due to fixed costs, such as employee health insurance and trash collection/disposal costs.
Collection and disposal of trash actually went up this year by nearly $115,000.
“We’re one of the few places that hasn’t gone to a paid system of some kind and I am holding back to every extent possible on going to that,” he said. “The cost to dispose of our trash is actually getting to the point where we can designate it as a budget buster…I do anticipate that at some point this fiscal year I will sit down with DPW Superintendent Goodwin and our trash vendor – Capitol Waste – and talk about ways the City can implement a program where we can strongly encourage or incentivize people to recycle for cost control purposes.”
The proposal is now before the City Council and regular budget meetings are being conducted by Councillor John Powers.