Public safety spending leads to budget shortfall in Pittsfield

Monday July 9, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The city needs to erase a nearly $840,000 shortfall -- more than half incurred by the Pittsfield Police Department -- in order to balance the previous fiscal year's budget.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said he will ask the City Council on Tuesday night to transfer $839,504.79 from several city accounts and departments that posted a surplus in fiscal 2012 to the four departments with a spending deficit in fiscal 2012 that ended June 30. The police needs $455,000; fire, $207,128.28; personnel, $110,938.66; and maintenance, $66,437.85.

The council meeting is 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The 11-member panel is expected to vote on the mayor's transfer requests for fiscal 2012 as they must be acted upon by July 15, according to city officials.

"This is all money that was appropriated in the previous budget," Bianchi said. "We're simply closing the books on [fiscal 2012]."

While such budget-balancing measures are common, the $455,000 police deficit was unexpected -- and unprecedented -- according to city officials.

Police Chief Michael J. Wynn said several major criminal investigations -- led by the Adam Lee Hall triple homicide case -- and an unusually high number of officers on disability leave, put a strain on the overtime account.

"This was a bad year for injured officers who were out for a long period of time," he said, noting four officers are still temporarily out of work.

In addition, Wynn said officer pay raises negotiated after the fiscal 2012 budget took effect and special event coverage, such as Third Thursdays and Live on the Lake, also contributed to the shortfall.

"It sounds like a perfect storm, all [four] things coming together at once," said Council President Kevin J. Sherman. "You can't assume how many crimes you'll have or officers out hurt."

City officials noted Pitts field was fortunate to have a substantial surplus to balance the fiscal 2012 budget, but future deficits may be harder to eliminate.

"I don't expect a great deal [of money] leftover next year, as many departments' [spending] have been clipped," Bianchi said.

"We've been paring our budget closer and closer to our actual spending, so we have less left over," Wynn added. "This is the first time in the five years I've been in command we haven't had a surplus."

By the numbers ...

The Pittsfield City Council Tuesday night needs to vote on Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's funding requests in order to offset year-end deficits in four city departments:

-- Transfer $455,000 for the city's health insurance account to the police department.

-- Transfer $207,128.28 from workers compensation account to the fire department.

-- Transfer $110,938.66 from the contingency fund to the personnel department.

-- Transfer $66,437.85 between accounts within the maintenance department.


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