GREENFIELD — The majority of the city’s $58.3 million operating budget has passed to city council with generally positive recommendations, though a raise in the mayor’s salary has drawn mixed reviews.
“That was past practice…once a mayor is in office, there is very little change in the mayor’s salary,” said At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, noting her salary when she was mayor was $70,000 throughout her four-year term. “I’m still in favor of the contract we put in place with the mayor for the $90,059, and would like that to continue this fiscal year as well.”
In early April, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner presented her proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2023 of $58.3 million, a figure that represents an increase of $3.9 million or 7% over the operating budget of the current exercise.
Chief Financial Officer Liz Gilman previously explained that the $58.3 million budget includes appropriations for general government, public safety, public works, social services, culture and recreation, and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG). The largest direct credit is for education at 38.2%, followed by fixed costs at 31.2%.
Gilman told city councilors that the main drivers of the proposed 7% change include wage and salary increases, debt service, health insurance and retirement assessments, and most importantly, education.
Ward 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher told councilors at the Ways and Means Committee meeting on Wednesday evening that it was important to remember that the budget, as a whole, had increased by 7% .
“I think that needs to be looked at,” DeSorgher said. “If I have anything (to say) about many (of the posts), it’s because our tax bills are 21.09% of people’s income and the state average is 13%. … I think about the people I represent. I think everyone in the world deserves a raise, but the question is what we can afford.
Speaking in favor of the pay raise, Precinct 1 councilor Ed Jarvis, whose resignation from council will take effect May 31, said he approaches his role on city council as if he ” ran a $58 million business.
“Do we offer services in all branches in the city, and are people satisfied? ” he started. “If that’s the case, then I think we need to continue to provide those services and at the level that we provide them. In doing so, it’s going to cost money…and it’s going to cost us money to keep things going. very smart and educated people who run these departments that provide these services.
In the end, At-Large Councilor Michael Terounzo, Forgey, and DeSorgher voted against sending a positive recommendation for total salaries in the mayor’s budget; Jarvis voted for.
“I think it sets a bad precedent if we give the mayor a raise every year,” Forgey said. “It drives that salary up and it’s not, in my view, at this particular time, affordable for the people of Greenfield.”
Regarding the mayor’s spending budget, DeSorgher asked for an explanation on the increase in the purchase of services and advertising positions since fiscal 2021. Between FY21 and FY22, the purchase of services increased by 2 $389 to $16,500, a change that was attributed to the creation of a new website. The amount requested for fiscal year 23 is $17,000.
Terounzo was also curious if this increase of around $14,000 since FY21 would continue for much longer.
“I understand a one-time jump of $14,000, but then to have it at the same rate or even higher, that’s not an upgrade, that’s maintenance,” Terounzo said.
Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau explained that the cost of the website runs through the current fiscal year and will move on to the next.
DeSorgher voted against sending a favorable recommendation on the spending line in the budget, while Jarvis, Terounzo and Forgey voted yes.
Few other items generated as much discussion, although councilors had brief exchanges on the police department budget and the emergency dispatch budget, both of which featured items that some councilors felt could be cut by relative to the expenditures of other municipalities.
The full city council is expected to review the operating budget at its May 18 meeting at the John Zon Community Center.
Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne