Gloucester's initial fiscal 2013 budget submitted by Mayor Carolyn Kirk calls for a 3 percent increase in city spending and revenues, including a $1.35 million increase in the budget for the Gloucester Public School District.
In the budget summary, Kirk stated that the schools, water and sewer infrastructure, and strengthening the city's fiscal position are top priorities in the budget.
Kirk presented the city's initial $86,416,353 budget to the City Council Tuesday night in the first step in the city's budgeting process. From here, the City Council will tear into the city's balance sheets before it votes on the budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The city is projecting $66.5 million in local property tax revenue for the new fiscal year, up around $300,000 from what it collected in fiscal 2012. Despite what she called signs of an improving economy, however, Kirk said the city still has to rely on the growth allowed under Proposition 2 1/2, without any potential override.
Property taxes weren't the only revenue source that have grown this year. The city raised its take from the motor vehicle excise tax by $100,000, the meals tax by $70,000 this year, putting it on par with the $400,000 room tax collection. Kirk's memo also said the city saw an $82,000 increase in new growth this year.
Some revenue sources aren't expected to come in as strong this year. Kirk said the city's budgeting only $800,000 for ambulance receipts, as the city hasn't hit the expected revenues in the current fiscal year. Fiscal 2013 state aid was also a net loss for the city, Kirk has said.
While the State House Ways and Means Committee increased the city's general government aid this year, it wasn't enough to cover state assessments. For the current budget the city received roughly $10.65 million in state aid, but receives only around $10.4 from Beacon Hill for fiscal 2013. That means the city is out about $185,000, with most of that from the loss of reimbursement through the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.
Gloucester receives $5,893,705 in Chapter 70 aid and $899,168 in charter school reimbursement, down from $1.5 million in Fiscal 2012. The charter school, however, is adding kindergarten and first grade for the coming year, operating as a full K-8 school and drawing an expected 200 students compared to the current 130.
"We present to the council a budget that reflects hard choices (and) reflects the priorities of the citizens of Gloucester — good financial management, education, and affordable infrastructure improvements," Kirk said in her memo to the City Council.
Kirk set the School District budget at $35,032,673. The number includes $600,000 in one-time revenues to offset funding the city pays out to the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School and is $1.35 million above the current school budget.
The School Committee has requested, $36,168,452, a nearly 6 percent increase, but Kirk said the funds budgeted for the department will meet level-service needs and expand the Bay Street Reading Institute program to all elementary schools as planned.
"We think they can live with this increase without impacting the educational program," Kirk said.
The school funding, Kirk said, also fills a void left by the loss of $1.6 million in one-time federal stimulus (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) money. When the stimulus funds abated, the district cut 41 positions last year, and a reduction in Title 1 funding, Kirk said, isn't helping matters.
"They're beyond cutting to efficiencies," Kirk said.
Including $1.4 million steered to the charter school, $1.5 million spent on retired teachers health insurance, $1.3 million school choice sending tuition, $967,781 to the Regional Vocational School, and $2.8 million on school related debt, Gloucester spends just over half of its revenues on education. The city is also pegged to spend $3.6 million on school facilities.
Kirk said the budget uses one-time surpluses from fiscal 2010 and 2011, as well as some of the supplemental local aid that went into stabilization in fiscal 2012, about $600,000, to support the school budget as well. The supplement, she said, helps absorb the $600,000 the city spends on the charter school. When the city budget has absorbed the charter expense completely in Fiscal 2015, it can divert tax revenue back to the schools.
The city's other departments, aside from the $3.6 million increase in Public Works facilities, saw slight increases. She added that a focus of Public Works this year would be management of school facilities.
Kirk's budget adds a patrolman to the police department. The department requested just over $5 million but was budgeted at $4.4 million, not including the $405,774 for investigations, $18,000 for Harbor, and $86,000 for parking enforcement.
The Fire Department budget fully funds a position added during Fiscal 2012 with free cash. The department's paramedic levels, Kirk said, will be returned to 20. The department requested $540,000 in overtime funding, Kirk's budget offers $200,000.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.