New Bedford Mayor Mitchell Takes Issue With Budget Cuts Process
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell called the city’s council’s process of cutting spending “hugely flawed.”
The council voted 8-3 on Monday to cut $8.77 million from Mitchell’s proposed $513 million budget for the Fiscal Year 2024.
A majority of the cuts are from the General Government Unclassified (GGU) fund, including reductions in spending for contracts, local payroll taxes and trash pickup.
The council also cut about $800,000 by eliminating two proposed positions from the Department of Facilities and Fleet Management and the City Solicitor’s Office.
Speaking on WBSM with hosts Marcus Ferro and Chris McCarthy on Wednesday, Mitchell said the cuts were the largest he’s seen in his 11 years as mayor.
He took particular issue with how the list of cuts were not made public until the meeting – a practice that was done by the council in previous years.
“There's no debate,” Mitchell said. ”They have refused to turn over their proposed cuts, which they have to submit days before the hearing itself, to the media, to the administration, to anybody.”
Mitchell said he understands the council’s role in making cuts as a way to keep the executive branch in check from spending too much money. He said constituents have called him and the councilors asking that they pass a balanced budget.
“The city council has an important role in the city government as a check to the mayoral administration,” Mitchell said. “There is pressure on the council to do something, and I don’t make it easy on them to make major cuts by putting fat in the budget. Other mayors do that.”
City Council President Linda Morad could not be reached for comment.
Councilor at Large Shane Burgo said he understands Mitchell’s frustrations for the decreases in the GGU fund but said there should have been cuts to other areas to offset the rise in taxes and insurance costs.
Burgo, who wanted to make more cuts to departments with vacant positions, said the council could not decide where they wanted to cut spending, leaving the GGU as the only option left.
He said with the number of vacancies in departments, they should not have a large budget.
“When it was time to make a cut from the fund, the councilors couldn't decide on which department should have had some cuts,” Burgo said. “There was an agreement among all of us not to cut from the police department, but we made a decision to cut $7 million from the GGU to offset taxes.”
Still, Mitchell said more could have been done to keep the process more open to the public.
“It does not allow them to engage us or for constituents to speak up,” he said.