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Longtime Burlington, Vt. Mayor Miro Weinberger will not seek re-election

Pittsfield Council Wants Independent Review Of City Budgets

This is a picture of the Pittsfield City Councilors being sworn into office at City Hall on January 4th.
Jim Levulis
The new Pittsfield City Council was sworn in January 4th.

The Pittsfield City Council is asking the new mayoral administration to come up with ways to have department budgets independently reviewed.The city of Pittsfield operates on a roughly $145 million budget and like the majority of municipalities, that number is continually increasing. With that in mind, City Councilor Kathleen Amuso wants to have a fresh look at how taxpayer money is being spent.

“I see a lot of departments working as a silo,” Amuso said. “As we all know taxes have increased and they are going to again. I think we need to do due diligence and look at all the city budgets and work on some initiatives that could potentially save us money

The 11-member council unanimously approved Amuso’s petition asking the mayor to develop ways to have department budgets independently reviewed. Amuso, an at-large councilor who just started her second term, filed a similar petition during Mayor Dan Bianchi’s tenure. With Linda Tyer now in the corner office, Amuso is trying once more.

“There is a process that we could have somebody come in and work with our department heads and people in city hall to look for reductions and ways to get rid of duplications and things like that,” said Amuso.

She suggested data-driven analysis methods typically used in private sector businesses as potential ways to review how money is spent. First-term city councilor Donna Todd-Rivers supports the idea, but doesn’t believe the city should pay for a consultant right away. She says there may be people in the area with the necessary expertise who would be willing to serve on a task force.

“If we were going to pay for any kind of consultant, I would not pay for an independent review consultant,” Todd-Rivers said. “I would pay for someone to come in and train our employees. So if we’re going to spend money I would like to see our employees trained in this modality so that going forward our department heads have a different filter in which they do their job.”

While the idea behind the review is to look beyond product cost, Councilor Pete White cautioned about sourcing from out-of-town vendors just because they may have lower prices.

“By skipping out on not buying it locally we may just be putting another business out of business which is going to cost us more in the end anyways,” White said. “So I think we need to be careful though this process.”

Mayor Tyer says she is open to considering a variety of options to examine Pittsfield’s budget. Shortly after she was elected, the Democrat said she planned to do a review of city government during an interview with WAMC.

“Before I spend any more money I want to really take a seriously look at how we’re structured and are we set up in a way that’s really ready to meet the needs of our city and that includes understanding personnel and the way that personnel is deployed throughout the city,” said Tyer.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org