Our Opinion: Don't jump gun on Pittsfield budget
The coming budget process in Pittsfield is going to be difficult enough without the launching of preemptive strikes that are in no way constructive.
On Wednesday, City Councilor Kathleen Amuso proposed cutting $3.2 million from Mayor Linda Tyer's $151 million operating budget for fiscal 2017 before the budget had even been formally presented. "We've only had this for seven minutes," observed Councilor Peter White. That proposal, along with Councilor Amuso's motion to cut $2 million from the mayor's proposed $11.9 million capital projects budget, was voted down, with Councilor Anthony Simonelli voting in favor of both reductions. Three councilors were not in attendance at the special noontime session.
It is impossible to responsibly reduce a municipal budget without at least listening to a mayor's arguments for the budget and going over it in detail. If Councilor Amuso believes there are $5.2 million in cuts available, or more, she can make that case in upcoming budget sessions.
In her brief presentation to the City Council, Mayor Tyer said her budget was up by 4.2 percent, or roughly $6 million, over the current budget. The city needs to maintain quality schools, repair and upgrade infrastructure, and add police officers to address a serious crime problem. All of this requires funding. Rising health care costs are a reality that can't be avoided.
Tax increases are difficult in an economically struggling city, but Pittsfield won't build that tax base if it allows its schools and infrastructure to crumble or fails to address the crime that worries residents and visitors alike. The balancing act is a difficult one and the result is unlikely to make anyone entirely happy, but a process has to be followed. Jumping ahead to make a statement serves no good purpose.