The city's nonunion administrative staff will have smaller raises and a school special education fund the mayor slashed from about $650,000 to $150,000 for fiscal 2013 was replenished to about $350,000 during a lengthy but relatively undramatic Finance Committee budget hearing last night.
The city's $246.7 million budget was otherwise left intact and its bottom line to where it heads next: the City Council for a final vote next Wednesday.
The budget calls for no tax increases, but due to the recent statistical revaluation, many property owners will see their taxes go up as long as their home values haven't fallen by more than 13 percent. If you're "lucky" to have a drop in assessed value of more than 13 percent, your taxes will be decreasing.
Although they ended up shaving just $10,000 out of the line item, committee members engaged in a lengthy debate about whether it was appropriate to give nonunion administrative staff members raises. Fung had called for three percent raises for those employees since they've gone without raises for four or more years. Ultimately, they reduced the three percent figure to 2 and 1.5 percent — the cutoff being a $60,000 salary. Make more, get a lower raise. Make less, two percent it is.
The biggest change was in the contingency fund for special education, which was boosted from $150,000 to about $350,000 after numerous reductions in various line items and adjustments to expected income from delinquent taxes and other revenue sources.
For anyone who has watched city affairs over the years, it was noteworthy that the Finance Committee, which is comprised of City Council members, combed through the budget to generate enough money to replenish the special education fund. The city and school district have had a cautious if not contentions relationship for years, battling over money in court and giving budget meetings an acrimonious flavor.
Instead, last night, the council made it clear that it was willing to take the advice given to them by the superintendent and School Committee members, who warned of potential school deficits next year if there are unexpected special education enrollments mid-year.
And several speakers commended the School Committee and the council for working collaboratively with each other and the mayor, including School Committee Vice Chairman Frank Lombardi, who said the city "has turned a corner."
We will post a full list of the amendments and their corresponding values later today along with excerpts from the public and committee comments throughout the meeting. Stay tuned.