One-time $750K payment to North Adams part of approved state budget
Massachusetts lawmakers approved a compromise $36.5 billion state budget on Monday, which includes a $750,000 one-time payment to the cash-strapped city of North Adams.
North Adams Mayor Dick Alcombridght made the request for state aid to help North Adams through a budget crunch. The city passed its $37.73 million budget, which made up for a $620,000 deficit through a $420,000 revenue package and $200,000 in cuts at City Hall, the Department of Public Works and the Police Department.
Once it's clear how the aid will be disbursed to North Adams, Alcombright said he intends to "restore a police position immediately along with having discussions around a couple other unfilled positions" at the Department of Public Works.
"Beyond that, our schools have taken hard hits over the past five cycles so I will be looking at that," Alcombright said in a statement. "The remaining money I am hoping to reserve for possible use in [the next] budget. And while this money is greatly appreciated, it will help us through this cycle and maybe into the next.
"There will still be a need to press forward with a Proposition 2 1/2 override campaign either this or next fiscal year. An override is our only hope for fiscal sustainability long-term."
Alcombright called the state aid "wonderful news for the City of North Adams" and thanked Sen. Benjamin Downing and Rep. Gailanne Cariddi for "their work not only in getting this passed but for getting me in front of the right people to make this happen."
With little new growth to boost tax coffers in North Adams, Alcombright has said that costs like health insurance, veterans benefits, and pension obligations are outpacing its state aid revenues.
The House voted 144-7 in favor of the state budget and the Senate accepted it on a voice vote a short time later. Gov. Deval Patrick has 10 days to act on the proposal.
Downing, in a news release, also said the budget also includes $460,000 to preserve employment-related transportation services by BerkshireRides, $100,000 to support the operations and programming of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, and $75,000 for Gallery 51, MCLA's art gallery, in North Adams.
The state's budget includes about $73 million in casino licensing and slot parlor revenues despite a ballot question that could repeal the 2011 casino law in November.
The budget proposed did not include an item that would have expanded the state's bottle deposit law to include sports drinks and other beverages. That all but guarantees that a question that would expand the law will be heading to voters in November.
The budget also relies on about $140 million in one-time "rainy day" funds from the state's main reserve account to help balance the budget.
Several Senate priorities were included in the spending plan including substance abuse prevention, education, local aid, mental health services, veterans, public safety and child welfare, said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer.
The spending includes $18 million in new spending on substance abuse programs and a $50 million increase the state's troubled family welfare agency.
Patrick -- who was scheduled to leave the state Monday for Panama to attend the inauguration of President-elect Juan Carlos Varela -- said he planned to take as much time as he needs to review the budget before signing it and issuing any vetoes. He is due back in the state on Wednesday.
"Obviously, we want to do the line by line analysis," Patrick said.
The final budget can be viewed online at https://malegislature.gov/Document/Bill/188/House/H4242.pdf