Our Opinion: A revealing Pittsfield budget debate

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A Pittsfield City Council budget process that amounted to 22 1/2 hours of talk and precious little action was nevertheless educational and informative.

* In spite of objections raised repeatedly and redundantly and a series of 7-4 votes, Mayor Linda Tyer's $151 million city and school budget and an $11.9 million capital projects budget were approved (Eagle, June 30). This testifies to the soundness of a budget that includes many locked in contractual and obligatory costs. If there is any fat in the budget, no councilor could find it. In fact, the Council ended up adding a few thousand dollars.

* City residents concerned about crime presumably know they must support the increased costs for more police. If city residents expect good services from City Hall and good schools for their children, then they have to pay for those as well. It costs money to run a city worth living in.

* The budget comes with a 5.9 percent hike in the local tax levy, and Councilor Melissa Mazzeo is correct that Mayor Tyer's mandate in her decisive victory last November was not for a tax increase. The mandate, among other things, involved restoring transparency and a spirit of cooperation to City Hall and moving a city stuck in the status quo in a forward direction. The tax increase — and Mayor Tyer is not the first Pittsfield mayor of recent vintage to propose one — was the result of a responsible budget calling for prudent investments that City Council critics couldn't dent.

* With Pittsfield approaching its Proposition 2 1/2 ceiling, the mayor and city councilors face some tough calls. The mayor should look for ways to reduce the budget in the year ahead, but next year, city councilors are obligated to match their rhetoric with specific and well-argued ways in which the city can cut costs. That didn't happen this June.


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