The next state budget in Massachusetts is likely to include the
first increase in local aid in four years. But, it appears it won't be
enough to avert layoffs and service cuts in the state's third largest
city. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Massachusetts House and Senate leaders made local aid increases
a priority for the next state budget. The House and Senate have passed
different versions of a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.
Differences will be hashed out in a conference committee in the next
couple of weeks, but whatever the final numbers, municipal leaders
should be pleased, according to State Senator Stanley Rosenberg of
The senate's budget would boost local aid by $275 million.
Unrestricted local aid would increase by $65 million. Since the
recession, unrestricted local aid has been slashed by 32 percent,
triggering lay offs, service cuts, local option tax and fee hikes in
many of the states cities and towns.
Despite the welcome increase in local aid, the fiscal
retrenching is expected to continue for another year in Springfield.
Mayor Domenic Sarno is expected to soon unveil a $530 million budget
that will require furloughs, layoffs, service cuts and higher taxes and
fees to bring it into balance.
City finance officials have recently projected a $6 million
dollar budget gap, largely because of a drop in property values caused
by the foreclosure crisis and damage from last year's tornadoes. That
projection assumes the city council will approve a $3 million revenue
package. It includes an increase in the residential trash removal fee,
which was universally panned at a recent series of public hearings. It
also counts on taking $10 million from the city's cash reserves.
The mayor warns the cuts could affect the city's police and fire
departments, where lay-offs and furloughs had been avoided in recent
Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet said budget cuts
could force the elimination of special units, popular with the public,
that focus on street crimes, ordinance violations, and community
And, the Springfield Fire Commissioner, Joseph Conant says
budget cuts could force the closing of some fire houses.
Several city councilors, among them Bud Williams have urged the
mayor to take more from the city's cash reserves, or rainy day fund,
which now totals $40 million.
The city council, by law, can only make cuts to the mayor's