Mayor Dan Rizzo submitted his fiscal year 2016 budget to the City Council last week and it could be the first controversy of the upcoming November election. Rizzo’s challenger, Councillor Brian Arrigo, happens to be the chair of the Ways and Means subcommittee which will hold budget hearings over the next few days.
Rizzo submitted a $168,473,027 budget for FY16 which begins on July 1. The request is a 4.3 percent increase over the FY15 budget of $161,499,517.
The Ways and Means Subcommittee met last night. It is scheduled to meet again Thursday night at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers. It will meet again Monday, June 22 at 4 p.m. before the regular city council meeting. It is expected the council will vote on the budget later that night.
Rizzo’s FY16 budget increases the school department budget by $4,255,902, bringing the department’s total budget to $74,386,225. Under the proposed local aid from the state more than $54M of the $74M will be reimbursed at no cost to local taxpayers. The spending budget for public safety (police/fire) is $21,138,748, up $163,614. The budget also shows a 4.7 percent increase in assessments from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.
The general government budget request is $43,499,230; the public works request for FY16 is $27,030,075. Human services seek $1,332,325 and cultural services request is $1,086,424
City employees who are paid minimum wage will see an increase in their hourly wage due to the Commonwealth’s Minimum Fair Wage Law. Effective Jan. 1, 2016 the minimum wage will be $10 an hour. On Jan. 1, 2017 the minimum will rise to $11 an hour.
In the police department budget there is also a request for a budget director at a salary of $75,000.
“We have begun to put more police officers who are currently doing administrative functions, back on the streets to increase public safety,” Rizzo said. “This is a best practice that hundreds of cities and towns across the country have implemented. Police officers should be on a street, not behind a desk doing work that civilians can do for less money.”
In the budget package there is also a section explaining a proposed increase in staffing levels throughout the city. The proposed levels for FY16 include an increase in 55.2 (FTEs-full time equivalents) with 38 positions in the school department.
“There is a bump in the water and sewer employees due to the consent decree,” Arrigo said. The federal consent decree is mandating improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure.