GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 2, 2008

Kirk takes the helm

Mayor Carolyn Kirk used her inaugural address yesterday to announce an “austerity” program that will bring all non-emergency overtime and routine expenses over $100 under her personal control.

Kirk also announced a hiring freeze and gave a packed City Hall auditorium and balcony notice that “it may be necessary to reduce the hours city offices are open to the public.”

Kirk said she is creating and heading a finance team of “appropriate city professionals” committed to getting “a grasp on revenues and expenditures.”

She said it is necessary to “restore” the state’s confidence in the city’s ability to manage its fiscal affairs.

The austerity measures were received with applause, as were later announcements of actions to shake up and modernize the city government.

She made clear doing that requires revitalizing the local economy and said the “essential” place to focus efforts is around the harbor. She promised a new public process and action on a series of ideas that would shrink state control and encourage private investment.

She revealed that the state Department of Revenue told her the city “stopped reporting” its fiscal status in 2005 after producing reports of deficits in the previous two years.

“They wondered if Gloucester is hiding deficits,” Kirk said.

She said she invited the DOR officials to Gloucester this month to see for themselves that the new administration is getting things in order.

She went out of her way not to sugarcoat problems, saying, “We don’t live on easy street, but it’s home” and that the city needs a budget correction that reflects a “harsh reality.”

She reminded the city she would provide a detailed assessment within 100 days.

“By then,” Kirk said, “we will have a clear grasp on Gloucester’s fiscal situation. I will inform you, the taxpayer, the answer to the basic question, where is my money going?”

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