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New England News

Springfield Budget Calls For Job Cuts, Library Closings,Higher Fees

  The city of Springfield Massachusetts will reduce its municipal
workforce and cut some city services under a budget recommended by the
mayor. At the same time, the city council is being asked to raise almost
$3 million in fees and taxes to avoid even deeper cuts. WAMC's Pioneer
Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

        A grim faced Mayor Domenic Sarno announced a recommended budget
of $551.8 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. At a city
hall news conference late Tuesday, the mayor and the city's finance team
outlined the spending proposals that will result in 108 jobs being cut,
a dozen through layoffs, the closing of three branch libraries, and
reduced maintenance of city property.

        Under the budget Sarno is recommending, the city would actually
spend 2% less than it will in the current fiscal year.  Among the cuts
that were identified by the mayor as a result of the recommended fiscal
2013 budget are: The closing of the Pine Point, Liberty Street and East
Forest Park branch libraries.
        -The parks department will stop mowing the grass at ten city
        -The department of public works will no longer repair sidewalks,
and street sweeping will be reduced.
        -The city will stop collecting trash at apartment houses with
more than three units, forcing the building owners to hire commercial
rubbish haulers.
        -31 vacancies in the police department will not be filled, and
because of staffing shortages in the fire department, a ladder company
will be taken out of service.

        The budget proposes the use of $10 million from the city's $40
million reserve fund. It also counts on a 2%  increase in the local
hotel room tax and a host of fee increases that require city council

        Mayor Sarno blamed the city's budget woes on what he called the
triple negative forces of  reduced property tax revenues, a lack of
increased support from the state and an increase in non discretionary

        The city is projecting a $7 million drop in property tax
collections that chief assessor Richard Allen says is a result of the
Prop 2.5 tax cap and overall lower property values.

        Springfield officials have proposed a package of financial relieve to
the Patrick administration, and the legislative leadership, but so far
there has been no action taken on Beacon Hill.

         Springfield City Councilor Timothy Allen said it was wrong for the mayor
to count on revenues the council has yet to approve.

        The council now has a little over two weeks to hold hearings and
vote  on a budget before July 1st.  By law, the council can only cut the
mayor's proposed spending, it can not add to the budget  bottom line.