Mayor Presents FY14 Budget to Council - Carlo DeMaria

Mayor Presents FY14 Budget to Council

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Last Wednesday, Mayor Carlo DeMaria presented his FY2014 budget to the City Council.  The Mayor called on the Council to review the proposed budget, calling it “a starting point that will allow us to engage in a collaborative effort toward the ultimate goal of a sustainable operating budget.”  The Mayor stated that the budget was designed with the best interests of the citizens in mind.

The FY14 Budget was created with the goal of delivering a high level of continued critical services, but still maintains a financial conservatism that will yield a savings for taxpayers. Over the past year, the City of Everett has been widely recognized as financially stable.  The City’s finances are currently considered of high quality and of low risk. To continue the balance of growth and savings, the Mayor offered a proposed FY14 budget that is stable, sustainable, and fiscally conservative.  The FY14 Budget strives to maintain and improve services with limited increases in the cost of delivery. 

Some key factors of the proposed FY14 Budget include: An improved delivery of citywide services through organizational restructuring and technological advances, an investment in public safety in both the police and fire departments (more police and firefighters), the ongoing commitment to first class public schools, a reorganization of the City Service’s department and a significant savings in solid waste collections/disposal, working toward an affordable and mutually beneficial accord during collective bargaining procedures, and a decrease in health insurance costs due to savings from health care reform and new initiatives.

The total proposed operating budget for FY14 is $160,290,987.   The expenditures from the operating budget will be less than last year by over $500,000.  That means that the City of Everett is providing residents with quality services and increasing public safety personnel, while actually decreasing the general government operating budget.  In fact, since 2009, the general government budget has only increased by $4,000,000.  And if the increases in water and sewer charges are included, then the general government budget, as a whole, has only increased $7,000,000 in six years, only a 2% increase per year.   In terms of revenue, local receipts are projected to be $400,000 more than in FY13, and State Aid will increase an estimated $8.6 million.

The tax levy is projected to decrease by $3,325,412. Therefore, the amount needed in FY14 to balance the budget is estimated to decrease by $3,325,412.  This will result in lower tax bills for our residents and our business owners. The Mayor indicated that in the coming year he will also call for two orders to further reduce the tax levy.  The first order will be a one million dollar free cash appropriation and the second will be a $650,000 appropriation from parking receipts.

The FY14 budget contains an emphasis on public safety, with the addition of 8 new fire fighters and ten new police officers.  The Mayor made clear his commitment to putting resources into the public safety departments to ensure that crime continues to go down as it has over the past five years.  The budget also focuses on customer service, with an emphasis on information technology resources. These resources will improve the efficiency of all city departments.

Educational expenses represent, by far, the largest portion of the budget as the City continues to commit substantial resources to this vital area.  Mayor DeMaria stated, “providing the best education for our children is our most important goal.  This is why we have committed capital improvement money to ensure that our students have the best quality buildings and the best technology.”  The School Department’s direct budget increased from the prior year by 4.7 million dollars.  This was necessary in order to meet the School Foundation Budget as set by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The Education budget cannot be lower or the City will not be in compliance with the Education Reform Act.  The entire increase to the School Department budget will be covered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Fixed costs, excluding debt service, are increasing by less than a million dollars.  This is due to increased pension costs and Medicare.  The health insurance line item is actually less in FY14, due in part to the health insurance reform that the administration undertook last year.  Through the collaboration between the City and its employees, the City continues to save approximately $1.7 million dollars a year.  In order to see even more savings in health insurance, the Mayor announced that they City will be starting an insurance opt-out program, which will save an estimated $500,000 in 2014.  Debt is level funded this year, even with all the capital improvements that are currently being undertaken. 

The Mayor restated his belief that it is vital to continue to invest in our City.  He commented that, “This budget will guarantee our continued economic strength, as well as the well-being of our residents and the future of our City.  By working together to achieve these mutual goals, I know that we are making a prudent investment in Everett’s future.”  He concluded his presentation by asking the Council to “resolve to complete this budget process in the spirit of collegial cooperation.  Let us remember the commitment we must have to our residents, our neighbors and our children.  Let us continue to set the groundwork for a better Everett.” 

- Original article published Wednesday, May 22nd, Everett Independent

 

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