Mayor Proposes ‘No Drama’ FY17 Budget, Focus on Schools and Safety
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell presented his FY17 budget proposal to the City Council Wednesday night with a focus of sustainability.
"This is a no drama budget," Mitchell said. "What we're trying to do is put the city on a more sustainable path and that means easing the burden on taxpayers and continuing to improve city services."
The proposed budget of $312,516,322 is a 5.8% increase over the FY16 budget, nearly a $31 million.
The two major drivers of the budget stem from spending toward public safety and the school department.
Under the proposal, public safety would see a 7.3% increase to $44,435,900. Emergency Medical Services will increase 14.5%, Fire will increase 12.4% and Police will increase 3.5%. The increase in EMS will cover additional personnel as well as two new ambulances while the fire department's increase will pay for the conversion of positions previously funded by the SAFER grant.
The School Department budget of $126,500,000 would be a 6.5% increase from FY16, or $7.7 million. With the help of state aid, the city would be responsible of less than one million dollars of that increase.
Increased school spending would provide full-day Fridays at elementary schools, 12 additional English Language Learner teachers and support, funding for the Hayden Mcfadden Turnaround Plan and key technology upgrades.
The school's budget would be in line with the state minimum, but Mitchell hopes to see the city go above and beyond that figure as the city's finances become more stable.
"We have to have a goal of spending beyond the bare minimum," the Mayor said. "The good news is that because of the increased state aid, because of the efficiencies that we've been able to achieve citywide and in the School Department, the money goes a lot further."
During his address to the City Council, Mitchell commended the collaboration between his office and the council's ad-hoc budget committee for putting together a streamlined budget.
Council president Linda Morad called for the formation of the committee her first night as president, and believes it has taken away a lot of the animosity in the budget process.
"It allowed us to put what our priorities were on the table and it also allowed us to hear what the administration was thinking," said Morad. "...there's still going to be some disagreements...but I think that there are no surprises."
The Council will conduct hearings with department heads over the next few weeks before making their final cuts to the budget.