The City Budget will increase by 8.8 percent as a result, mostly, of school spending, but strong economic development growth in the City will rule out any need for cost cutting or a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote.
The City Council unanimously adopted the $131.4 million budget proposed by City Manager Jay Ash for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY ’14). With the vote, the City will be able to fund an increased level of municipal service starting on July 1st.
“This budget contains several areas of expansion in services that will combine to continue the remarkable transformation and growth our community is undergoing,” said Ash. “The budget addresses numerous issues that are important to city councillors and residents of Chelsea, and it will make sure we remain both fiscally and programmatically strong.”
Council President Dan Cortell concurred with Ash’s assessment.
“My colleagues and I have been pressing to have more code enforcement to make our neighborhoods more livable, more DPW (Department of Public Works) workers to make our streets cleaner, more public safety supports to make our community safer and more public health initiatives to make all those in our community healthier. This budget, and our partnership with City Manager Ash, is making all of that and more happen,” said Cortell.
The FY’14 budget contains two new positions in the Inspectional Service Department (ISD) for a beefed-up neighborhood code enforcement team, an initiative that Cortell and his fellow councillors identified as a priority in their goal setting process. Two DPW adds will allow that department to better maintain the expanding number of parks the City has been building, as well as to react more quickly to pothole requests and other infrastructure maintenance priorities.
“These staffing increases will make two great departments even more effective,” said City Councillor Calvin Brown. “We all felt it’s important to give ISD and DPW more resources, because they have proven that they can meet and exceed our expectations for better neighborhoods and the quality of life our residents enjoy in them.”
Single staff additions to bring on a senior public health director, a crime analyst in the Police Department, and a junior city auditor were also approved. Additionally, funding to support police and fire positions that have expiring federal funds will ensure that public safety levels remain at their current heights.
“I think we’re all pleased that we’ve balanced another budget while especially making sure that our public safety departments remain staffed and resourced at levels that are well beyond the means of most communities. We continue to have high expectations for our public safety departments, and we remain pleased that they continue to deliver,” stated Councillor Leo Robinson.
Overall, the budget increases 8.8 percent above the FY’13 budget. Over half of the rise comes as a result of projected state aid increases to support educational spending. Negotiated pay raises for union employees, increases in employee health insurance premiums and more spending on infrastructure and other capital projects round out the major causes of the budget escalation.
“We’re maintaining our fiscal integrity, continuing to offer great services and advancing our goals of investing in our community. We’re certain to especially keep a close eye on areas of spending which threaten future balanced budgets, and continue to provide the oversight necessary to reduce those threats,” said Councillor Brian Hatleberg, who said the City’s recent bond upgrading to “AA-” by Standard & Poor’s was an indication as to the effectiveness of the City Council’s financial stewardship and Ash’s financial management.
Revenue growth, including from additional state aid and economic development activities, is expected to fund the increased spending.
“I do expect that the increases in state aid won’t be as high as they were originally projected, so some portions of the budget, especially in the schools, will need to be trimmed. From an overall revenue perspective though, we’re getting through another year of not needing to even think about a Proposition 2 ½ override because our economic development is strong and continuing to prosper,” said Ash.
The financial attention at City Hall now turns to closing out the current fiscal year. Ash said no major surprises are expected, so he expects the City to end in the black once again.
“We long ago realized that everything else for the positive happens as a result of first having our fiscal house in order. That fiscal house, in fact, is well in order, so many other good things will continue to happen for us well into the next fiscal year,” said Ash.