Pittsfield City Council approves $166.6M budget request

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PITTSFIELD — The City Council approved $166.6 million in spending for the coming fiscal year during its regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting.

The spending plan passed 8-3, with councilors Kevin Morandi, John Krol and Tony Simonelli in opposition. Each said they voted against the budget because it didn't reflect what they felt should be the city's priorities.

The $166.6 million appropriation reflects a portion of the overall operating budget — it's the portion the City Council has purview over — while the city plans to spend a total of $175.5 million over fiscal year 2020. The council also unanimously approved $10.7 million in capital borrowing.

Krol said he couldn't stand behind the city's plan to take a piece of school reimbursement funds, expected from the state as part of its school funding review, to use toward health insurance. By doing so, he said the city is using hard-fought funding to balance the operating budget on the backs of the city's schools.

"That's just too glaring for me accept," he said.

During the earlier budget hearing for the Pittsfield Public Schools, Krol made a failed motion to refer the school spending plan back to the mayor for an increase.

Alternatively, Simonelli had moved to refer the same budget back to the mayor for a $200,000 reduction. He said the issues he hears most about from his constituents are crime and the deplorable state of the city's roads, so he had hoped to divert funding from the schools to address those two issues.

Simonelli said after the Tuesday meeting that he spent more than three decades working in the city's schools and "I'm not anti-education."

"As a city councilor, we have to look at the whole city," he said.

Morandi said he couldn't abide by the state of the city's roads and he felt the budget didn't properly address public services.

"Hopefully we can do a better job and this will send a message," he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said that he voted yes on the budget despite feeling that money should have been shaved and redistributed into the city's Department of Public Services.

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He and Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers were met with resistance last week when she proposed referring the department's budget back to the mayor for additional spending. Other councilors had said there was no money to pull from.

"The reason why we don't have any money is because we didn't make any cuts," Connell said during the Tuesday meeting.

Before councilors approved the $10.7 million in capital borrowing, Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo attempted to add controversial pickleball funds back into the spending plan. Council President Peter Marchetti told her councilors don't have the power to amend a mayoral order.

Mazzeo then asked Mayor Linda Tyer why her capital budget order didn't include funds toward a pickleball court. The council voted last week to remove the $52,500 in pickleball spending, but Mazzeo told her "you could have vetoed that."

"I could have " Tyer said. "But I would have risked losing the entire capital budget."

Tyer said that while she supports the pickleball facility and its intended location, she chose to honor the vote of the City Council when issuing her order.

Mazzeo said the whole pickleball ordeal "boggles my mind." With that proposal, Mazzeo said "we were not affecting the integrity of Springside Park one iota."

Fire hydrants and a port-a-potty

Connell also filed a fresh petition during the meeting to install a port-a-potty at Kirvin Park. He said the popular park needs a bathroom for people to use.

"We don't want people using woodsy facilities ...," he said while smiling, "which could very well happen if there's nothing there."

But Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said he didn't want to approve a port-a-potty at Kirvin Park exclusively without taking a comprehensive look at the entire park system. "It's never just one," he said.

And Morandi filed a new petition calling on the city to compile a list of the city's fire hydrants, documenting the functionality of each one. He previously told The Eagle he was concerned about the city's fire hydrants after they've failed to work during a series of Morningside fires, most recently with a large blaze on Tyler Street.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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