Springfield City Council Approves Budget After Mayor Agrees To Reduce Tax Levy

Jun 27, 2019

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, with city department and agency heads standing and seated behind him, addresses the City Council on his proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019. The council later voted 12-1 to adopt the budget.
Credit WAMC

       With the start of a new fiscal year Monday, July 1st, the largest city in western Massachusetts has a new budget. 

      The Springfield City Council voted 12-1 to adopt a nearly $692 million budget that had been recommended by Mayor Domenic Sarno.

       Final passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget came after councilors and the administration struck a deal to eliminate 12 unfilled jobs and use $2.5 million of one-time revenue with the intent to lessen the property tax burden on homeowners.

      " It does show that we can and we will continue to work together," said Sarno.

         Not filling the 12 open positions will save the city an estimated $900,000, said city finance officials.

       The one-time revenue will be taken from an account used by the city assessor for property tax abatements.

        How the reduction in the tax levy for the budget will impact individual property tax bills won’t be known until later this year when new tax rates are set.

       Sarno said the final budget will not result in any municipal employees being laid off or any cuts in city services.

       " I am proud to say this is the fifth consecutive budget that was balanced without the use of (cash) reserves .. very much unheard of many times on the municipal level," said Sarno.

       City Councilor Tim Ryan, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the budget is “strong.”

       "We are funding everything: the raises we voted for, the requirements for pensions, and we are trying to make as many savings as we can," said Ryan adding, "It was a lot of good work by a lot of people in this room."

       The annual budget debate in the City Council Chambers has at times in the past been tense and acrimonious.  This year’s debate was described as “a lovefest” by City Councilor Kateri Walsh, a member of the council since 2003.

        Councilors, who spoke during the debate, praised their colleagues and the mayor’s finance team who negotiated the budget deal.

       City Councilor Tim Allen took the lead in negotiations with the city’s Chief Administration & Finance Officer T.J. Plante.

        " The trick is being able to ask the tough questions of someone you want to trust you. That is really hard to do and we have reached that with this financial team," said Allen.

        The only vote against the budget came from City Councilor Orlando Ramos who said there were “several reasons.”

         For one, he said the administration is not "being transparent about the fact residents' taxes are gong to go up in December when we set the tax rate."

         During the floor debate, Ramos criticized a $14,000 line item in the budget for office supplies in the mayor’s office, saying it was much higher than other city departments.   But Ramos did not make a motion for the council to vote to cut any amount from the line item.