Mayor explains spending reduction proposal

Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan (WNG file photo)

WESTFIELD – On Tuesday, Mayor Brian P. Sullivan spoke in more detail to The Westfield News about the managed reductions for the current Fiscal Year 2019 budget, totaling $200,000, which he is proposing to the City Council to offset taxes.
Mayor Sullivan said he sat down with many of the department heads, analyzing their budgets to date, to come up with the $200,000.
The Mayor said some of the funds came from personnel changes, and positions being vacated that would not be filled in entirety or at all, totaling $35,000. Some of the personnel changes in the administration include the departure of the Outreach Coordinator, a position Sullivan said he hopes to fill in the next fiscal year. Treasurer/Collector Meghan Kane has also left, and a search committee has been formed to find a replacement. Also retiring at the end of the year will be City Auditor Mary Daley, who will also be replaced.
Sullivan said $30,000 of the reduction came from the treasurer from savings in interest on temporary notes, and $10,000 from savings in interest on long-term debt, because of the health of the city and the good job done by the treasurer and the auditor.
A $50,000 reduction in heating costs from the School Department was due to the way Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and CFO Ron Rix are managing the systems, according to the Mayor, who said they are doing things differently in the buildings, resulting in the savings.
Reductions were also made in purchase of services in several departments, including $10,000 from Purchasing, $2,000 from Assessors, $7,000 from Flood, and $10,000 from Highway, along with $5,000 from supplies and $5,000 from additional capital in Highway. $7,000 from the Police Dept. Animal Control for replacement equipment was also reduced. The Mayor also kicked in $8,000 from his reserve for unforeseen account.
“This is the second year in a row for mid-year reductions. It’s a different approach with department heads and myself managing the finances monthly as opposed to annually. I give a lot of credit to the department heads,” Mayor Sullivan said.
In addition to the $200,000 managed reductions that the City Council will be voting to accept at Thursday’s Special City Council meeting, Mayor Sullivan is also proposing a transfer of $1 million from Free Cash to offset taxes.
Sullivan said there is $5.1 million in certified Free Cash this year. He said they had planned in their budget to use $700,000 from Free Cash for this purpose, but because that number was so healthy, they added $300,000 to use to offset tax increases.
“It should be given back to residents for tax relief, utility upgrades, and road improvements; to strictly benefit residents,” he said, adding that it was a healthier number than projected, and better than it was last year. Sullivan said the number is due to the health of the economy, a managed budget with the help of the department heads, and projects that waited for the new fiscal year.
Last year, Mayor Sullivan proposed $1.571 million in managed reductions to the City Council, $1 million from two health benefit holidays for employees. Sullivan said this year he cut $1 million from the Health trust as a part of his budget proposal. He said he felt confident in the status of the Health trust at the beginning of the fiscal year to make that reduction at that time.
The city also hasn’t planned on any health benefit holidays this year to date. “As of now, we’re analyzing the trust to see if there is an opportunity,” the Mayor said, adding that in the spring, they will be putting some money into OPEB and the Stabilization account from Free Cash. “We don’t have a number yet,” he said.
As for what all of these changes will mean to the tax rate, Sullivan said the taxes will now be based on what the City Council takes for a vote with the tax shift at Thursday’s meeting. “The increase is less than 2.5% based on the managed budget,” he said.
Right now the tax shift is 1.65. Mayor Sullivan said he would like to see it go to 1.68 or 1.69, which would save the residents more, and at the same time not damage the business community.
“That will be a vote of the City Council,” Sullivan said.

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