New Bedford 2018 Budget Almost Fails in City Council Meeting
NEW BEDFORD- The final budget for the 2018 fiscal year proposed by the City of New Bedford saw its final cuts and was approved by City Council tonight after almost completely failing in the Council Chambers.
City Council came to a total budget of $305,850,071 for the 2018 fiscal year after voting to cut funds from various city departments. The final budget originally failed in a four-to-seven vote by City Council.
The problem amongst City Council is the burden they feel that the city’s budget puts on the tax rates for citizens of New Bedford. After making cuts totaling $1,169,236 to staffing for the library, city-solicitors, and the mayors office, amongst others, it was too little in the eyes of some City Councilors to have any effect on city taxes.
“If there was one dream I ever had when I came here, that was safe streets, good schools, all that good stuff,” said Councilor Brian Gomes. “But its to give the tax payers a real break, a real break, somewhere down the line” he continued.
Councilor Steve Martins remarks echoed those of Gomes, as he pushed forward the notion that the budget presented by the City of New Bedford is too difficult to work with and the cuts applied to it have minimal effect on the taxes for the people of New Bedford.
“All were doing here today is cutting the budget to hope, just hope, the tax rate will drop or level out,” Martins said critically. “We’re going into this blindly every single year and aren’t helping the tax payer.”
The funding deliberated the most by City Councilors was that of the General Government Unclassified, an account dedicated to certain spending obligations, including FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), the city’s trash collection contract, and city insurance. A total of nine failed reductions starting at $1,250,000 from General Government Unclassified finally resulted in an approval to cut $800,000 from the department.
This is what ultimately led to the budget failing four-to-seven originally. It took Councilors another hour of deliberation to finally agree on the number that failed, the $305,850,071, in a reversal seven-to-four vote. The problem facing Councilors was how to cut as much money as possible from a budget that is filled with fixed costs such as healthcare.
After finally passing the city budget through reconsideration, various members of City Council expressed their displeasure in a budget with such little room for adjustment.
“Its tough when most of the budget is fixed already. If you look at the budget submitted to the mayor, eight-four percent is all fixed costs. There’s a very small amount of funds that are non-fixed costs, so it’s tough to change it” explained City Council President Joseph Lopes.
“You look at the amount of money that would need to be truly cut from the budget to truly negate anyone’s taxes from going up is nearly $5,000,000 a year” Lopes said.