Knapik presents 2013 budget

Mayor Daniel M. Knapik presented his proposed 2013 fiscal year budget to the City Council Thursday night with a bottom line of $126,104,668.44, a 1.56 percent increase of the 2012 funding package.
Knapik said that city departments had requested a budget totaling $129,768,177.72, but that he trimmed $3,663,509.28, moving much of that requested funding to a free cash priority list for next year. Free cash, usually certified by the Department of Revenue in November, consists of unencumbered funds remaining in the current 2012 budget and cannot be appropriated until the DOR certifies that the city has no outstanding obligations from the 2012 fiscal year.
Free cash requests for the 2013 fiscal year total to $1,433,404, a number which includes $137,559 for replacement of solid waste and recycling trucks, $199,545 to initiate purchase of a platform truck for the Fire Department, $240,000 for the technology center and $100,000 for purchase of shop equipment at the Westfield Vocational Technical High School.
Knapik said the city spend $1,023,223.27 on snow and brush removal following the Oct. 29-30 storm and that the city has applied for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which could return a substantial part of that expenditure to the city’s coffers, but which also cannot be appropriated until it is received from the federal agency.
Knapik said that he built the budget using very conservative numbers, including estimates of new growth, local excise and personal property taxes and state aid. New growth is the value of new building construction and expansion, but not included in the tax levy during the past year.
“I used a new growth number of $800,000, which is below the 10 and 20 year average and for state aid I used the House (of Representatives) number, although the Senate number looks to be more favorable for cities and towns,” Knapik said.
Knapik also included $1 million of school choice in his budget. The city’s budget does not usually include School Choice funding paid to the city for students from another community attending Westfield Schools. The loss of $2.1 million in federal jobs funding and Title 1 funding created a funding gap in the school district funding that is being bridged in part by the use of School Choice and an increase in municipal funding.
“The school spending is the biggest factor in the municipal budget” he said. “This budget reflects a 5.79 percent increase for schools in the municipal budget because of those federal grants cuts.”
Knapik said the good news for the city and school district is that the funding gap, initially estimated at $1.1 million on Monday morning and at $860,000 Monday evening, has been reviewed by John Kane, the school district’s chief financial officer, and City Auditor Deborah Strycharz, and revised downward
The School Committee will have to cut $556,216 or find additional revenue equal to that amount to comply with the city’s 2013 budget numbers.
Knapik said the DOR certified the city’s free cash for the current year at $2,453,013 and that $1,165,818 of that has been used to fund services, capital purchases and salaries, leaving a balance of $1,287,000. Knapik plans to use $900,000 of the balance to fund contractual increases due in the current fiscal year, $50,000 for health emergencies and $50,000 for other pose employment benefit (OPEB), such as severance payments. That will leave $165,818 in the 2012 free cash account unless it is otherwise encumbered.
Severance payments from employees retiring during the 2013 fiscal year are included in departmental budgets.
The budget was referred to the City Council’s Finance Committee which conducts interviews with department heads to set priorities. The committee can recommend further cuts, but cannot add to departmental budgets.

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