FY15 Budget Message from Mayor Rizzo to the Revere City Council
June 3, 2014
I am pleased to submit for your consideration a proposed FY15 budget in the amount of $160,922,830.
We have continued to build on our new budgeting process with assistance from the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass. You will note additional changes and improvements in this year’s budget as we continue to move in a direction that improves the way we handle and deliver city finances.
Every budget cycle brings with it, its own unique challenges and opportunities. This budget cycle is no different. We collectively, as a governing body, have very difficult decisions to make. We can either layoff essential personnel or tap our reserves. It is really that simple. This budget clearly makes the case for the latter. We continue to prioritize funding for our core tenets of public education, public safety, economic development, and the rebuilding of our infrastructure.
The total proposed spending for Public Education in FY15 is $70,130,323. We believe that this level of funding will allow us to continue to fund the many outstanding and existing programs within our public schools. Estimates for Chapter 70 funding, according to the House Budget, are at $50,950,075. I’m sure all of you are aware of the amazing award just received by Revere High School, named number one, not in the state, but in the nation for academic achievement and innovation by the National Center for Urban School Transformation. This is not only a reflection on Revere High School, but on the entire school district and city as a whole.
I have always viewed my number one responsibility as Mayor as the safety of our neighbourhoods. The total proposed spending for public safety, including Fire, Inspectional Services and Police, in FY15 is $20,705,136. This is an increase of $1,939,597 over last year; proposed changes include an $868,109 increase for the Fire Department, and an increase of $1,046,633 for the Police Department.
There are several reasons for the increases in the police department; first, contract negotiations; second was the addition of two (2) additional Police Officers. Proposed funding will bring the compliment of the Police Department to 96 officers. This is still a far cry from the number of officers we had back in the late 90’s when the department had 117 members. We are slowly trying to rebuild given the resources we have. In FY14, 6 officers were funded through other sources, including federal grants, and school department funding, This year the grant funding has run out. We will only be able to fund 2 officers from other sources this year.
The Fire Department under the direction of Chief Doherty continues to focus on training and increased response times. While the Fire Department already has amongst the best response times in the Commonwealth, Chief Doherty recognizes that the status quo does not breed excellence and so they continue to look for ways to improve. It is important to note that when I assumed office the department was already out of contract. After many amicable meetings, it was realized that we simply could not agree on a contract which led to arbitration. As a result, you will see proposed funding consistent with the new collective bargaining agreement. This year’s compliment of fire fighters will total 98. It is important to note that of these 98, 10 have historically been funded from other sources, mainly through a federal “Safer Grant”. Unfortunately, that grant is no longer available to us. We have committed to retain these officers in order to ensure adequate response time to fires and medical aid calls.
We continue our efforts with our Police and Fire, in conjunction with the Town of Winthrop, toward our long awaited Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC) which will come online later this fall.
We stay firmly committed to an aggressive approach towards economic development in order to diversify our commercial tax base. As the Federal and State budgets tighten, grants previously available to fund positions in Planning and Community Development, and Economic Development, have dried up. This however, should not curb our efforts in fostering new growth and development.
Our Engineering Department is working hand in hand with both our Public Works Department and Planning and Development to keep up with an ever increasing workload. We have numerous public and private projects that are either underway or in the planning stages. Recently, we broke ground at Wonderland Station on a high end luxury apartment complex with an investment in our community of nearly $43 million. We are also seeing much needed improvements and development along Broadway, through both public and private investment. This past year we received a MassWorks Grant in the amount of $1.5 Million to help continue our revitalization efforts along Broadway, and throughout the city’s central business district.
In addition, MOM’s Motorcycles, For Kids Only, Harley Davidson, and Market Basket are making significant improvements to the city’s overall commercial portfolio. I do feel confident that we will see Market Basket open in the very near future. We are also fully engaged in the construction of the new Staff Sergeant James J. Hill School, Harry Della Russo Stadium, and three (3) new ball fields at St. Mary’s. These projects will provide greatly needed public space for our school aged children and residents for years to come.
We are in the final stages of the development of our 40U code enforcement program. This new local-option is much like the one in place for hearings we conduct for parking citations. 40U will allow for appeal of non-criminal disposition citations outside the traditional judicial system. It will allow for late payment penalties to be imposed through the automation of the ticketing process. This will require additional staff hours in the City Solicitor’s budget by the addition of a new Municipal Hearings Officer and in the Inspectional Services Department for administrative support.
Keeping pace with our aging infrastructure while a necessity is a challenge. One glaring example that we can all relate to is the harsh winter we just experienced and the resulting damage to our city streets. Understanding that there are many needs in our community, my job, and that of our department heads is to prioritize and multi task. Conversations with Superintendent Goodwin over the budget have led to us maintaining the current level of manpower, but add a desperately needed mechanic. For several years now, both Superintendent Goodwin and the Union have made the addition of a mechanic a top priority and we agree with their assessment. With the addition of an in house mechanic, it is our hope that we can reduce the amount of money spent out the outside servicing of municipal vehicles and equipment.
Also, we are planning on moving forward with a Capitol Needs Assessment and Capitol Improvement Plan in order to address the city’s aging assets. The Capitol Needs Assessment Plan that we are looking to undertake will address all city assets, including public buildings, equipment, infrastructure, parks, and vehicles. This is in direct contrast to the emergency funding strategies that city has primarily used in the past. We are looking to create a long term plan that will systematically address the needs for all municipal departments.
Total non-payroll spending in the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund in FY15 is $18,424,381. It’s no surprise to anyone that work being done with regards to improvements to our water and sewer infrastructure one of the more costly undertakings we must address as a city. While we are appropriating resources needed to meet our obligations under the currently negotiated Consent Decree, we challenge the city and our rate payer’s ability to pay for repairs that are needed to resolve more than 100 years of neglect; all in an unrealistic 10 year time period. Our Water & Sewer rate payers should not be subjected to such draconian terms and conditions. It is my hope that we will see some relief from this decree in the near future. For the purposes of this budget, rate assessments by the MWRA have increased by $354,396.
In order to balance the budget this year, it is our plan to utilize $2.5 million dollars ($2,532,345) from FY 14’s free cash appropriation of $3.2 Million. We made this decision based on the various needs of the city including our desire to maintain strong public safety staffing levels and to continue to provide as many services to our residents as we possibly can. Clearly, it is not my goal to be required to use reserves to balance the budget, but given our local aid figures, and our loss of close to $1 Million by way of losing Thrifty Rent-a-Car, we see no other viable alternative. In many ways, this is the reason we established the Rainy Day fund, so we can continue to provide essential services that our taxpayers deserve. Other cities and towns are facing similar situations.
In FY14 Malden faced an $8 million dollar deficit. They used roughly $5 million of one time funds to bridge the deficit. The proposal incorporated $1 million of proceeds from the sale of a school building, which was originally earmarked for repairs. Another $2.9 million was drawn from surplus funds that normally would have gone into the city’s stabilization account. Currently in FY15 Malden is downsizing more than 30 positions.
Everett, in FY14, faced a $2.8 million dollar deficit between what was authorized for school spending and what had been appropriated. To close that gap, the city had to come up with additional $1.1 million in new funding for the schools and the school department had to identify $1.6 million in spending cuts. The additional funding was found in the city's Stabilization Fund, with the council approving $1.1 million in order to ensure sufficient funding.
Brockton, in FY14, used $2 million in stabilization and $500,000 in free cash to balance the budget. Danvers, in FY14 and now in this year’s budget, is using $1.75 million dollars in reserves to balance their budget.
Lynn, in FY15 is spending $8.5 million less on the Public Schools than the state says it should. The Mayor of Lynn has not spelled out the details of her plan or how it might affect the budget for the current school year or the 2014-15 school year, but she did note the debt is a serious unexpected hardship.
Cities and towns across the Commonwealth, especially our neighboring communities, are dealing with budget increases in much the same way that we are.
I appreciate the hard work and cooperation we received from all of our department heads. I cannot say enough about the long hours, time, and effort put forth by our entire Finance Department, led by Director of Finance George Anzuoni and Auditor Laurie Giardella. Their tireless work ensured that this budget was submitted in a timely fashion. We continue to work towards receiving accreditation by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for excellence in public budgeting. We are more than half way towards receiving this award.
I look forward to working with you over the coming weeks to enact the proposed FY15 spending plan for municipal operations.