On May 7, the administration presented to City Council our proposed city budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.
This is the sixth balanced budget produced by my administration and it emphasizes a few important goals: protection of the city’s strong financial position and bond rating; fully funded Sawyer Free Library; increase of $1 million to the Gloucester Public Schools; and settlement of most union contracts.
The total net available for appropriation is out of the general fund is $90,583,526 which is a 2.3 percent increase over last year. The local estimated revenues for FY14 have been carefully reviewed for any upward trends that seem to be holding steady. Conservative revenue estimates will continue to guide us, however, we have increased revenue estimates in some cases, and decreased or held level in other cases.
This is the first year of the city’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) arrangement with Equity Industrial Turbines, LLC, owners of the two wind turbines. This amount, starting with $40,000, in fiscal 2014 and increasing by 2½ percent annually thereafter will remain for the next 25 years as a source of revenue for the city. Revenues for the wind turbines themselves is conservatively budgeted at $350,000.
New growth on the tax base shows consistent growth and is estimated at $646,192 which is up approximately $114,000 from fiscal 2013.
The recommended funding level for Gloucester Public Schools is close to a 3 percent increase over last year’s Council appropriation or an increase of $1 million. Total net savings to the city as a result of the charter school closing is $1,322,284; these savings have been utilized in the fiscal 2014 budget for school department purposes only and include:
A $1 million increase to School Department budget;
A $300,000 increase to school facilities budget.
A nearly $600,000 increase to education line items carried in the city budget such as retired teachers health insurance, regional vocational school, school choice sending tuition, etc.
The Department of Public Works is currently in the midst of a $300,000 investment in school security implementation throughout all the schools. Elements of the plan include more secure windows, doors with “panic bars” which allow one-way access and are meant to contain people to certain areas of buildings, lock and security alarm repairs, upgraded intercoms, and closed circuit cameras at school entrances with buzzer-only access.
Regarding the Police Department, it is keeping abreast of vacancies and sending new police officers to the Police Academy on a regular basis. Total staffing numbers will not increase this year.
With recent hirings, the Fire Department will now be at full complement of 18 staff per duty group. The fiscal 2014 budget reflects a higher funding level for repairs and maintenance of capital assets, and an increase in firefighting equipment, protective clothing, and fire prevention training. The administration has also increased the line items for tourism, arts, and culture and provided modest funding for the Committee for the Arts, the Rocky Neck Cultural District and the Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District.
Our estimates show a substantial savings (approximately $1 million) if the city were to move employees into GIC health plans; however, these savings have not been budgeted due to ongoing negotiations with employee unions.
These are just some of the highlights of the fiscal 2014 budget, and as always, the Administration looks forward to cooperative discussions with the City Council in the coming weeks.
Carolyn A. Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.