PITTSFIELD — After multiple meetings and hours of City Council debate over the budget, one move shut it all down. A week later, it’s still not clear why.
Councilor Charles Kronick invoked a charter objection — a tool that prevents the council from discussing or voting on an item until its next meeting — amid a discussion on the budget on June 14.
By the time the council meets again in late June, their window to act on the budget will have expired and Mayor Linda Tyer’s proposed $198 million budget for the coming fiscal year that begins in July will automatically go into effect without changes the council voted on.
Why call a charter objection? Kronick did not make himself available after multiple requests for an interview about why he objected.
At the meeting last week, Kronick did not offer much explanation.
“Mr. President I make a charter objection on behalf of Ward 2,” he said.
Some councilors let out groans and one councilor walked out of the meeting in frustration — calling the move “irresponsible” — while many councilors agreed after the meeting that Kronick, who is serving his first term, did not fully understand what he was doing. But Kronick’s objection did get some support. Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who represents Ward 7, seconded the objection.
His reason is “quite clear,” he told The Eagle on Friday. “I do not support the budget at all this year, in its entirety.”
“I didn’t support any of the money they moved around or added to the budget. When you don’t support something, it’s easy to second a charter objection. I think it’s irresponsible spending at this time,” he said. With inflation, a “looming recession,” and pandemic recovery, “I think it’s too rich for our blood.”
Though he wants to see a reduced budget, Maffuccio didn’t think motions to cut it would pass. “It’s pointless with this council,” he said. “I’m just tired of the rubber stamp the mayor has.”
Kronick attempted to cut the Department of Human Resources budget for employee training and education by two-thirds. He also tried to cut the new office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion budget, calling it a “sacred cow” and making a transphobic remark. Those reductions did not pass.
Before Kronick’s charter objection, councilors approved budget changes, including voting to give an additional $1,000 to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and have the Police Department use $250,000 in grant funding each year to hire more co-responder clinicians. Those will now be negated when Tyer’s initially proposed budget becomes finalized by default on Friday.