By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The City Council Ways and Means Committee began budget sessions Monday night and they expect to continue tomorrow night discussing the details of the city’s operating budget.
Councillors heard from heads of several departments including police, fire and technology.
The city’s total budget is $180 million, including the school department and other city departments. Impacting the budget this year is the settlement of several union contracts.
Mayor Brian Arrigo said the FY18 budget, which goes into place on July 1, continues to hold the line on costs with non-school spending coming in at under three percent. Some of the salaries increases resulted from union contracts in the police, fire and DPW. Other new parts of the budget include the human resources department and the 311 Call Center.
Most councillors attending the session found the budget to be lean without much to really comment on. Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Patch commented on the mayor’s chief administrative officer salary. With CAO Omar Boukili leaving on June 30, his salary of $120,000 is also left.
“I think that’s a lot of money for a chief assistant,” Patch said.
Arrigo said it will give him some flexibility moving forward to select a replacement.
“I’m not even certain the position will remain in the office,” Arrigo said. “It provides me with flexibility moving forward.”
“At the end of the day it’s money well spent,” said committee chair Ward 5 councillor John Powers. “I’m reluctant to change the dollar figure. I’ve seen some of the positive things this man has done.”
Council President Robert Haas Jr. said the budget has been lean for the last 10 to 15 years.
The committee also heard from Fire Chief Chris Bright who presented his budget of $8,799,967 up from the FY17 budget of $8,650,760. He said the budget does contain four new positions, but it is still not enough to cover the opening of the Point of Pines fire station.
Powers, who has long championed the opening of the station, said he wants to see estimates to rehab the building. He is concerned about coverage, especially in the summertime. He even questioned if the station could be open from May to September.
Capt. James Guido presented the police department budget of $8,878,375 up from FY17 budget of $8,576,043. As for the police chief’s total salary he was not sure if it would be the current salary of $175,000 that Chief Joseph Cafarelli has received. The mayor has not opted to renew the chief’s contract and a new chief is slated to be selected soon. Guido said they are now down nine patrol officers with four out injured. He stressed that the department needs to fill the open IT position.
“Every aspect of the job is IT,” Guido said.