Thanks for Nothing (Seriously): As Ambrosino Leaves, Budget Deficit Has Been Erased

When Mayor Tom Ambrosino leaves office next month, he’ll be leaving a neatly wrapped package in the Mayor’s Office for Mayor-elect Dan Rizzo.

That gift will be a surplus of cash in the Rainy Day Fund and a nearly $2 million deficit that has been completely wiped off the books.

Ambrosino reported to the City Council last week that the City’s worrisome deficit has pretty much been reduced to nothing through a number of cost saving measures and several cash bonuses from the state and federal government.

When the year started out, the City was staring down a deficit of $1.7 million and Ambrosino predicted that the City would use all of its reserves in order to set a tax rate in the fall of 2011. It was the worst budget of his 11-year tenure, he declared at the time.

At the same time, the City was also staring down nearly $600,000 in snow removal costs from last winter that still had not been paid off, and would probably have to be carried over (which is allowed by law).

It looked rather dire, and even Ambrosino said last Spring that the next mayor was going to have his work cut out for him.

However, good news rolled in last spring when Attorney General Martha Coakley reached a legal settlement with the Wheelabrator Saugus facility, netting more than $200,000 for the City. Then, one of last winter’s storms was declared a federal disaster, allowing the City to collect another $200,000 or more in federal disaster aid.

Soon, the deficit numbers began to topple.

Earlier this fall, Gov. Deval Patrick restored major cuts to local aid, sending more than $600,000 to Revere to help balance the budget.

In addition, a new health insurance cost saving agreement with the City’s municipal, police, fire and DPW unions reaped additional savings.

That was added onto smaller measures like closing City Hall one Friday every month, and instituting furlough days.

Before anyone knew it, the deficit that was going to finally crumble the City was pretty much gone.

Last Monday, Nov. 21st, Mayor Ambrosino reported to the Council that the state had awarded the City $1.419 million in general free cash and $705,095 in Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund Free Cash. Both of those monies were expected to be used to pay down the deficit, but as it turns out they were sent to the Rainy Day Fund.

“I’m proud to report that this will leave us with $2.663 million in our Rainy Day Fund, which is the highest we’ve ever had in that fund,” said the mayor. “These significant reserves will serve the incoming Rizzo Administration well in the event of any future financial difficulties.”

Most councillors praised Ambrosino for leaving the City’s books in such good order, and one councillor noted that such a thing is unheard of in the game of politics.

“You’re leaving your tenure here the same way you came in – in a very high-class way,” said Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso. “You’re thinking of the next guy and taking care of him and that’s unheard of in politics.”

One councillor asked Ambrosino if he wished that he had such surpluses when he came into office.

“Sometimes you have more headaches when you have more money,” said the mayor with a laugh. “There are a lot more people asking you for it.”

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