Spending hike of 2.2 percent passes North Adams City Council

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NORTH ADAMS — The city council unanimously signed off Tuesday on a $39.5 million spending plan for fiscal 2017.

After the typical vetting process during a series of meetings held by the council's three-member Finance Committee in recent weeks, the full council approved the budget proposed by Mayor Richard Alcombright with little controversy or debate.

The budget, which includes the creation of multiple new city positions for the first time in recent memory, represents a $884,826 increase, or 2.29 percent, over the fiscal 2016 spending plan. It will not require a proposition 2 ½ override.

Among its revenue sources, the budget relies on a 4.5 percent increase in real estate taxes to $16.19 million.

"Our public school budget, McCann assessment, employee health insurance premiums, pensions, and our insurance obligations account for some $791,000 of the overall $885,000 increase. Other operational increases represent only $94,000, once again showing the financial discipline of this administration," Alcombright told the council on Tuesday.

The plan calls for the addition of assistant technology systems director at $40,000 annually, increasing the director of community events to a 30-hour-per-week position for an additional $10,551 annually, and hiring a building maintenance specialist at a $39,357 salary.

The city, like other municipalities in the region, took a hit on its health insurance expenses, which increased nearly four percent. The budget includes use of $205,000 in free cash to offset the sharp rises in healthcare costs.

"We are looking to renegotiate [health insurance] changes for 2018 fiscal year," said Finance Committee Chairwoman and Councilor Lisa Blackmer.

The city budgeted a 2 percent increase to its public school system, bringing the North Adams Public Schools to a budget of $16.74 million. The assessment to McCann Technical School jumped by 9.2 percent to $993,015, largely due to its increases in healthcare costs.

Due to a number of firefighters and police officers injured on duty, public safety costs have also increased.

"While we continue to try and create efficiencies, close gaps, produce balanced documents and build reserves, our challenge now is to stay on track," Alcombright said. "As presented to the council a few weeks ago, the difference between our tax levy limit and tax ceiling is shrinking.

In an action separate from the budget proposal on Tuesday, the council also approved the transfer of $787,752 from free cash into the city's stabilization fund. The amount will more than quadruple the city's reserve fund balance, bringing it to nearly $1 million.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376


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