North Adams City Council set to vote on mayor's budget

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NORTH ADAMS — The City Council's Finance Committee has recommended a raise for Mayor Thomas Bernard, but there's only one problem.

There isn't enough time.

Raising the mayor's salary requires it be written in city ordinance. Given that the fiscal 2020 budget needs to be adopted by the end of June — and that an ordinance change would likely extend beyond that deadline — Bernard has denied the committee's recommendation that his own salary be increased.

"Coming forward now, there is not sufficient time, with no ordinance on the agenda for this meeting, and it needing two readings, to get it in time to pass the budget," Bernard said.

The mayor's salary is just one of a few outstanding issues as the City Council prepares to vote on Bernard's proposed fiscal 2020 budget on Tuesday. The meeting is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall.

After a weekslong review, the Finance Committee recommended only a handful of changes to the proposed $40.8 million spending plan, which represents a 0.22 percent increase from the previous year.

The committee proposed raising the mayor's salary by $4,000, from $84,470 to $88,470.

It also recommended lowering the proposed salary increase of the mayor's administrative assistant, which under Bernard's plan was set to jump from $47,835 to $51,936. Bernard brought his assistant on in 2018 at Year Three under classification and compensation plan, citing her experience. And she is now set to graduate to year five, resulting in a larger-than-usual salary increase.

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The Finance Committee recommended instead limiting the assistant's increase to 3 percent, or $1,810.

"It's appropriate and I'm not inclined to reduce it," Bernard said. "I believe it's deserved as the person who supervises that position and the person who knows how hard they work, and how important it is to have a strong front-of-house person for this office."

The mayor also denied the Finance Committee's request to increase the council's budget for legal notices from $4,000 to $5,000.

Bernard adopted the remaining recommendations of the committee, including increasing the City Clerk's stipend for taking notes at council meetings from $50 to $100 and eliminating a stipend for note-taking within the Parks and Recreation Department budget.

The budget does not require the use of reserves, nor does it call for an increase to water and sewer rates.

However, the spending plan does not make any major investments in city infrastructure.

"While this budget is balanced, it is important to note that it also reflects a spending plan focused on maintenance rather than strategic investment. While we have seen some relief due to the retirement of debt, anticipated new revenues have not kept pace with projections," Bernard wrote in a letter to the City Council.

As for personnel, the only notable change is the addition of a full-time maintenance position at the Harriman-and-West Airport, which is set to open a new administration building later this year.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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