Wednesday July 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The City Council on Tues day night agreed to shift more than $770,000 of surplus funds to cover other departments that ended fiscal 2012 in the red.

The council, with little discussion, unanimously approved Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's request to transfer $773,066.94 from several city accounts and departments to the police, fire and personnel departments, which incurred a spending deficit in fiscal 2012.

Under state law, Massa chusetts cities and towns must balance the budget for the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30, no later than July 15, according to city officials.

The Police Department recorded the largest deficit at $455,000, erased by using a surplus from the city's health insurance account, said city Treasurer and Finance Director Susan Carmel.

"We've seen substantial savings with the GIC the past few years," she said. Carmel was referring to the city's move in 2009 to switch its employee health insurance to the state-sponsored Group Insurance Commission.

Police Chief Michael J. Wynn attributed the shortfall to several factors, including officer pay raises negotiated after fiscal 2012 began, overtime incurred by several major criminal investigations, and a high number of officers on disability leave.

As for the Fire Department, the council tapped into the city's workers compensation fund to cover its $270,128.28 deficit. Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said retroactive pay raises for firefighters led to the shortfall.

While Councilor at large Barry J.


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Clairmont supported the measure, he is worried the public safety service may run out of money again when the current fiscal year ends next June 30.

"I thought all along the Fire Department budget was too low to begin with when we had our [fiscal 2013] debate last month," Clair mont said.

Finally, the council ap proved using $110,938.66 from the city's contingency fund to balance the personnel budget.

Meanwhile, the Mainten ance Department didn't have a deficit as previously reported. Three maintenance accounts finished a total of $66,437.85 in the hole, but the department overall had enough unspent money in its utilities account to cover the shortfall, city officials said. The council also approved the intra-departmental transfer.

Public Utilities Commis sioner Bruce I. Collingwood said higher-than-anticipated gasoline and diesel prices the past 12 months necessitated the shift in funds within the maintenance budget.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.