Budgets from all the City Departments are in and it is time for the Board of Finance (BOF) to see where it can makes changes before passing it on to Mayor Erin Stewart.
On Tuesday night the BOF received and accepted the budgets which request a bit over $33 million in increases. Last year the BOF was looking at a submitted budget at over $48 million.
BOF Member Mark DeGrandis said, “We are going to start going over it. We are optimistic, but it is going to be a fight like it was last year to keep under control.”
Mayor Stewart has said she will not raise taxes this year. The BOF must submit a budget to the Mayor by March 19. She can then higher it, lower it or present it as is to the Common Council by April 16. The Council votes on a final budget in June.
“They are in the beginning stages,” commented Stewart.
“A big driver of it, is the Board of Education budget, which has about a $13 million increase,” said DeGrandis. “In order to keep the mill rate stable we may have to get this budget down to a zero increase.”
This year will be difficult as there are unavoidable bills due to the debt services.
“That is going to be there no matter what,” said DeGrandis. “We are going to have to find savings elsewhere.”
Across the board departments have asked for increases and DeGrandis said “they are going to be hard to come by.”
Last year Mayor Stewart vowed to put a fair budget in front of the Council and not a “shell game.” In the 2013 budget. Former Mayor Tim O’Brien put unrealistic numbers that put the City in a $25 million deficit and nearly sent it to bankruptcy.
As a result, Stewart was forced to raise taxes by 4.88 percent in 2014.
The first meeting with department heads will be on Thursday night and meetings will take place right through March. The public is invited to come to those meetings and there is public participation on the budget before the meetings. Meetings are at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at City Hall.
“Every year our budget is higher than the ultimate final budget,” said DeGrandis. “We are restricted in what we can and cannot touch such as employee salaries.”
Last year the BOF submitted a Transmittal List. The list had ideas of things to be considered by the Mayor. This year the BOF will ask departments for suggestions on how to decrease the budget so they can help save the City and taxpayers money.
“They cannot make policy changes but got together and submitted additional comments on policy changes they thought I should make,” said Stewart. “There was a big memo with all sorts of suggestions. I think it is great to have other opinions on changing things. They can’t control them, but I welcome the input.”
Members of the 2015 Board of Finance are DeGrandis, Robert Kusiak, Mary Morracco (chair), Josephine Moreno, Bruno Lukas and Maritta Dabadio and Peter Denuzze.