The largest city in western Massachusetts has a new budget in place for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.
The Springfield City Council voted 13-0 Monday night to approve a $656 million budget. The vote to adopt the spending plan exactly as proposed by Mayor Domenic Sarno came after brief comments from only a few councilors and was greeted with applause from more than 30 department and agency heads who were in the Council Chamber to support the mayor’s budget request.
" Thank you so much," said Sarno to the councilors. "I look forward to continuing to work with you. Thank you."
In the run-up to Monday’s vote, councilors held three meetings to review the budget in detail with administration officials. Sarno presented an overview of the budget and urged councilors to approve it with no cuts.
" I believe you will be happy," said Sarno."This is another solid budget from multi-million dollar projects to sidewalks getting done."
The vote marked the end to one of the least stormy budget seasons in the city in recent years.
"Unanimous is the key word," said Sarno. " There is mutual respect there."
Basic city services favored by City Councilors and their constituents are funded in the budget including street and sidewalk repairs, residential trash and recycling pickups, neighborhood branch library operations, and summer recreation programs in the city’s parks.
There are funds to pay for training academies so the city can hire new police officers and firefighters.
"Public safety remains my number one priority," said Sarno.
Sarno highlighted that for the fourth year in a row the city will balance its budget without dipping into a cash reserve, or “rainy day” fund, that now totals almost $45 million. He said Wall Street has taken notice of the city’s strong finances.
"Our bond rating is the highest in the city's history, just reaffirmed AA today by Standard & Poors," said Sarno.
City Councilor Tim Ryan, who chairs the Finance Committee, praised Sarno and his budget-writing team for “a well-done job.”
City Council President Orlando Ramos said the mayor had responded to the council’s priorities by agreeing to fund sidewalk repairs, create the new position of sustainability director, and put more money into the city’s pension fund.
"There was a back-and-forth negotiation with the administration and that is the way government should work," said Ramos. "We should be able to bring up the issues we hear from our constituents."
A new agreement between Sarno and the council aims to attack the city’s unfunded pension liability, which is the largest of any municipality in the state. The administration will put $42 million into the pension fund next year -- $2 million more than originally proposed.
In future years, 15 percent of the city’s surplus cash from earlier fiscal years will go to overfund the required contribution to the pension system.