Mitchell Says City Needs More Say in Own Finances
Now that Massachusetts has passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2018, New Bedford can start making plans based on what kind of funding and local aid it will receive from the state.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell said that is helpful, but that there are still a number of ways in which the city's hands are tied when it comes to budgetary matters. He said a lot of the budget is state-mandated spending, and mentioned the example of paying for employee health care as one of those areas.
"For our employees, we pay 75 percent of the health care costs," he said. "If we run into a situation where money gets really tight, we can't change that split, and it's a very significant, even saving one or two percent. But under state law, we don't have that authority."
He said that if the state did see a major drop in revenue, the only recourse the city would have would be to eliminate services.
"We're not at that point right now, but I just think the state has to be a little more careful," Mitchell said. "It has to exercise a little more foresight, especially when it comes to cities, with just how precarious the finances are."
Mitchell said he's making another push for the city council to adopt Section 21 of the Municipal Healthcare Reform Law of 2010, which he believes could save the city millions of dollars each year by allowing an arbiter to decide how much of the health care costs the city has to pick up for its employees.
"My feeling is that where the responsibility lies, so should the authority," he said. "That's the argument I would make, but we live in a state where so much of the authority remains on Beacon Hill."