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Friday, May 19, 2017

Greenfield Town Council OKs budget cut

Greenfield Town Council OKs budget cut

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GREENFIELD — Town Council has cut the mayor’s requested operating budget by 1 percent — a move council leadership said is intended to slow the increase of the tax rate.

On Wednesday, the council narrowly approved an amendment, made by council Vice President Isaac Mass, to cut the Fiscal Year 2018 budget by 1 percent with the goal of slowing the increase of the tax rate by one-third. Councilors were split on the vote, with the tie being broken by Council President Brickett Allis.

The amended budget passed by an 8-5 vote of the council.

While Mass said the cut would not affect town services, other councilors said the proposal was not carefully thought out and could have detrimental effects down the road.

The cut, originally proposed by Allis and Mass, applies to all town departments, resulting in a $486,498 cut to the mayor’s proposed $48.65 million operating budget. The proposal is expected to save the average residential taxpayer $59 on their tax bill.

Council leadership proposed the cut after looking at how much of the town’s operating budget was not spent — called “turnback” — from fiscal years 2012 to 2016, which was about $1 million, on average. During that same period, the town’s free cash, which includes turnback and one-time receipts, was an average of about $2 million every year.

The councilors said the proposed 1 percent reduction represents less than 20 percent of the free cash certified each year over the last five years, and requested that the mayor come back to the council with a supplemental budget later in the year if departments need more money.

“All we’re talking about is using last year’s money that we taxed for to fund some things this year,” Allis said.

Due to the cut, residential taxpayers are estimated to see their tax bills increase by $112.02 as opposed to $171.31 if the mayor’s budget passed without any reductions.

Allis and Mass said the proposed cut will have no impact on town services or staff, but Mayor William Martin disagreed.

“I find that irresponsible,” Martin said.

Martin said his proposed budget was already lean this year, as he asked department heads to present him with level-funded budgets.

“We’ve come to you with a very, very slim budget,” he said.

Martin said the finance department analyzed data and found that 65 percent of turnback over past five years was because of unfilled positions and efficiencies within departments.

When asked whether he would be supportive of a supplemental budget, Martin said it depended on which department came forward with a request.

“Why would you cause havoc and chaos within the budget process to prove some unrecognizable point?” Martin asked Mass.

Because the School Department has the largest budget, it will be affected most by the cut — losing $193,000 from the mayor’s request budget under the proposal. Greenfield Public Schools Superintendent Jordana Harper said the School Department’s budget was already cut by about half a million dollars in the mayor’s proposed budget.

“The cut of $193,000 to the school would create additional instability, even if a supplemental budget were brought by the mayor and approved by the council,” she said.

Harper said the cut could potentially create a structural deficit next year, as a supplemental budget would consist of one-time funds. She said the School Department has been trying to build a stable budget with a minimal reliance on supplemental budgets.

Precinct 5 Councilor Robert Wainstein made a motion to amend the budget to return $195,180 to the School Department, which failed after Allis once again broke a tied vote.

Precinct 4 Councilor Wanda Muzyka-Pyfrom, who was in support of the 1 percent cut, said the council should be trying to make Greenfield inviting to potential homebuyers.

“I don’t think that we should be shoving them away with a high property tax,” she said.

Town Council Treasurer Karen “Rudy” Renaud said although she can see why saving taxpayers money is appealing, the cut will likely eventually cause an increase in taxes.

“If we don’t pay this now, we’re going to pay this later. That’s what the one percent cut represents to me,” she said, adding, “This budget, I wish it was higher. I wish some departments were funded more, but we don’t have that power.”

1 comment:

  1. Greenfield has elected officials who place the well-being of taxpayers above the interests of the tax-fattened hyenas who feed at the public trough. Good for the taxpayers of Greenfield! This post will be deleted by a hyena.