Springfield finalizes town budget of $10.7 million
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 22,2014
SPRINGFIELD — The Select Board added about $250,000 to its proposed 2014-2015 budget bringing it to $10.7 million, adding staff in the fire and police departments, and increasing the money for road reconstruction.
The Select Board met with the budget advisory committee Monday night and went through the budget, department by department. They cut some purchases, including a new $55,000 truck for the Parks and Recreation Department, to soften the impact of the increases.
The budget as it now stands will go to a public hearing at 6 p.m. tonight at the town hall, and be finalized for inclusion in the town meeting warning. As proposed, the budget would increase municipal taxes by 2.8 percent, or roughly $54 on a $150,000 home.
It is one of the smaller increases in recent years: Last year’s budget was up 3.07 percent, the year before that was 2.55 percent, and three years ago it was 3.83 percent, according to Town Comptroller Jeffrey Mobus.
One budget committee member, James Soucy, said he personally was willing to pay $20 more per year for another police officer. The estimated cost of the officer is about $15 a year for the average taxpayer.
Many of the decisions to increase the budget came on a 3-2 vote, with Select Board members Kristi Morris, Peter MacGillivray and Stephanie Gibson Thompson voting in favor, and Selectmen Michael Knoras and David Yesman opposing the additions.
One of the most contentious issues was the funding for two organizations, Springfield On The Move and Springfield Regional Development Corp.
Thompson made a motion to include $50,000 for “economic development” in the budget — $30,000 for Springfield Regional Development Corp and $20,000 for Springfield On The Move.
Yesman and Knoras said they supported the funding but that it violated the town charter to include funding for the two outside organizations in the budget. They said the funds should be voted as special appropriations, separate from the budget, at town meeting.
But Thompson, citing a legal opinion from Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda, said the money could be included in the Select Board’s budget as “economic development.” She said the two organizations provided the town a lot of value that would cost far more if the town had to hire an economic development staff.
In the end, Morris, the board chairman, broke the tie and included the funding in the budget.
While all of the Select Board members appeared to favor adding staff to the overworked police and fire departments, their differences came on how to pay for it.
Yesman and Knoras wanted the funding to come out of the departments’ overtime budgets. In the end, the police overtime budget was cut by $20,000, and the fire department’s by $10,000. The cost of full-time staff, including overtime and benefits, was set at $77,000 for police and $66,000 for the fire department.
Many of the increases were supported by the budget committee, but again the differences came in how to fund them.
The budget group wanted the cost of the new police officer, for instance, to come entirely from the department’s substantial overtime budget.