North Adams could face Prop 2 1/2 override vote for fiscal 2015


NORTH ADAMS -- With expenditures coming in higher than expected, North Adams likely will have to empty its reserves to close out fiscal 2014, according to Mayor Richard Alcombright.

Facing that grim reality, Alcombright on Wednesday said it "would not be out of line" to ask for a Proposition 2 1/2 override to balance next year's budget.

"There are no more rabbits to be pulled out of the hat," Alcombright said.

The mayor painted a grim picture of the city's finances at Wednesday's City Council meeting. He said the city could be facing a large deficit in fiscal 2015 and is already at its levy limit.

Alcombright said the city could be in much better shape if a Proposition 2 1/2 override had not been rejected three years ago.

"It's got to come to an end. I said it would come to an end three years ago. We have no reserves," Alcombright said.

The council set several spring dates to discuss how to close the current year's budget and how to approach next year's.

Alcombright said the gap in the current budget are largely due to police department overtime, veteran's benefits increasing, and a decline in state funding and revenue, Alcombright said.

The city's salaries are expected to come in about $290,000 over budget, according to Alcombright, largely because of Public Safety overtime. Budget estimates account for one sick or injured emergency responder per day, but that number has crept over two this year.

Because of an unexpected increase in the number of claims, the city's expenditure on veterans benefits is now projected to end the year about $140,000 over budget.

The weather also hasn't helped the city, forcing additional expenditures of close to $40,000 for snow and ice treatment.

As for next year, expenditures are expected to increase about $750,000, Alcombright said. Nearly one-third of the increase will be spent on the school district, while another $120,000 will come from a raise in pension costs.

According to the mayor, the city's expenditures have actually only increased a total of 3.8 percent over the past five budget cycles.

"Our budgets have been very, very contained on the expense side," Alcombright said. "Unrestricted local [state] aid is on par with what we received in 2001."

The "inability to sustain the budget cycle to cycle" can be blamed on the city's dependence on reserves -- which currently amount to about $300,000 -- lack of ability to raise revenues, and decreases in state aid, Alcombright said.

"I will bring a balanced budget forward," he said, "as ugly as that will look."

To reach Adam Shanks:

or (413) 663-3741, ext. 225.

On Twitter: @EagleAdamShanks


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