Recent news that Revere certified nearly $11.2 million in “Free Cash” is a welcome indicator of sound fiscal management, and will give the city the opportunity to tackle long-neglected municipal infrastructure improvements.
“Free Cash” is a term commonly used to describe money that accrues to a city from three distinct sources: unanticipated free cash from the previous year; actual receipts that exceed revenue estimates shown on tax recapitulation sheets; and unspent amounts of money in municipal budget line items. In other words, a municipal budget is based on the anticipated expenses necessary to run the City, funded by anticipated revenues from all sources such as property taxes, fees, grants and other sources of income. When a fiscal year ends, and the City spent less than it expected to spend, or received more money that it expected to receive, or a combination of both, “Free Cash” is the result. The amount certified this year is the highest “Free Cash” the City has seen in over a dozen years.
As anyone who owns property or runs a business understands, the thought of “extra money” triggers the imagination of what to do with it. And while the “extra money” might inspire grandiose ideas, responsible money management demands that the money be devoted to important, overdue projects and into the city’s savings accounts.
The Department of Public Works is a primary candidate for such improvement.
An effective Public Works Department is a vital function of city government. DPW is the primary caretaker of the City streets for everything from snow removal and pothole repair to street lighting and signage to street sweeping. DPW maintains our parks and public buildings and is a first responder in times of natural disaster and infrastructure emergencies such as water line breaks and sewer backups. DPW is responsible for the collection of household waste, yard waste, and curbside recycling and the DPW facility is the primary site for municipal recycling. DPW is the city’s first line of maintenance in flood control and also contributes integral consultation in the oversight and regulation of development. As Revere grows and roars into the future, a strong Department of Public Works is imperative.
Decades ago the DPW’s operational facilities were relocated from valuable property on Broadway–(now the site of a Rite Aid pharmacy)–to its current inconspicuous headquarters at the northern end of Charger Street. Unfortunately for the DPW, “out of sight” also became “out of mind” as the years passed. Somehow, DPW became perhaps the most neglected department in the City as staffing levels plummeted, equipment became dilapidated and outdated, and the Charger Street facility fell into a state of disrepair that was not only physically dangerous to employees, but a public embarrassment, as well.
Following an architectural and engineering analysis that I requested in the first year of my Administration, it has become clear that construction of a new DPW facility is the most sensible response to the Department’s requirements. The construction of a modernized DPW site will complement increased staffing and the DPW equipment upgrades that are already underway. In the past year, DPW inventory has added two new dump truck/sanders, a 10-wheel dump truck with plow, a trash removal truck, a crane utility truck, along with other capital equipment. Now, the next step is to provide our DPW employees with a decent headquarters where equipment can be maintained and preserved for long service to the community.
Beyond the commitment to DPW infrastructure, our “Free Cash” funds will be steered into the city’s Rainy Day Funds and will be used to help stabilize our water and sewer rates.
The “Free Cash” returning to the City’s coffers ensues from careful budgeting by our municipal department heads, conscientious expenditure of available budget funds, and watchful efforts of the city finance team that assure all of us that everyone is paying their fair share.
The City remains dedicated to providing the utmost in municipal services and to enhance the quality of life for everyone, operating in a thorough and efficient manner that assures the greatest value for our tax-paying citizens.
Brian Arrigo is the mayor of Revere.