Lack of Budget Cuts Could Cost New Bedford Taxpayers, Councillors Say
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford City Councillors said taxes will likely be going up again this year after cutting just $679,000 from a $356 million municipal budget Tuesday night.
Out of more than 200 proposed budget cuts, the councillors approved just a handful at the June 22 special city council meeting, which took place via Zoom.
Most of the $679,000 figure — which represents just 0.2% of the city's operating budget — will come out of general government funds.
Councillors-at-large Linda Morad and Brian Gomes took their colleagues to task for failing to make more significant cuts.
"Tonight we have cut nothing out of the budget," said Gomes. "This has been a very, very interesting night."
"I’m ashamed, and so should all of you be ashamed," Morad said, noting that various departments have transferred money from "large excess budgets" over the past several weeks. "We don’t work for the department heads, we don’t work for the administration. We work for the taxpayers."
Morad said that there's "absolutely no question" that taxes will be going up next year. "We're spending more money than we spent last year, and we have to raise that money somehow," she said.
"When the tax bill goes up at the end of the year, when the water and sewer bills go up at the end of the year, and people start calling, I'm going to be giving out ten peoples’ other numbers," she added. "Not mine."
Gomes had proposed 2% cuts across many departments, excluding the city council and city clerk's offices, while other councillors proposed cutting vacant positions in several areas.
Ward 2 Councillor Maria Giesta had proposed a large number of cuts to the airport and zoo budgets, as she said she thinks those departments should be privatized.
But after a lack of support from other councillors, she withdrew the items from consideration.
Ward 1 Councillor Brad Markey noted that councillors can't touch a majority of the budget, as it is made up of contractual obligations like insurance rate increases, union-mandated raises, and pensions.
"To me, the most important part is, make sure the money is there to get things done in this city that need to get done," he said.
New Bedford is awaiting more than $64 million in federal relief funds, which Mayor Jon Mitchell has said could be used for one-time expenses like major projects or pandemic-related shortfalls.
The city council ultimately approved a $355 million operating budget and more than $80 million for other enterprise funds, which are paid for through separate fees.
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