NEW BEDFORD — The City Council continued to asses Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget proposals by department during a three hour informal session Wednesday evening at City Hall. 

Nine departments were represented, including each of the city's public safety departments. A common theme among fire, police and EMS departments was the importance of adequate staffing for both a sustainable budget and overall functionality.

Fire chief Michael Gomes presented a budget similar to last years, though with nearly half the amount of overtime spending. Gomes contributed these savings to better staffing.

"We've actually stopped the attrition of firefighters from the fire department and we're holding the line at 216 uniformed personnel," Gomes said. "This year's budget will have five civilian employees that will put our total number of employees at 221."

The Fire Department's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $15,691,871 — Personnel Budget
  • $276,174 — Charges and Services
  • $85,750 — Supplies
  • $525,330 — Capital Outlay
  • Total Budget: $16,579,126 (FY17 - $16,379,136)

EMS director Mark McGraw told the council that while things are moving along fine right now, there is still a great need for additional paramedics to staff the city's ambulances.

"It's been a one step forward, two steps back kind of year in some aspects with personnel," said McGraw. "There's still a shortage for paramedics, there's a lot of good opportunity out there for young paramedics. We've lost some, we've gained some and at this moment, we're sitting pretty tight."

The EMS FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $2,581,377 — Personnel Budget
  • $224,300 — Charges and Services
  • $163,425 — Supplies
  • $254,220 — Capital Outlay
  • Total Budget: $3,223,322 (FY17 - $3,040,496)

As police chief Joseph Cordeiro took the podium, he was asked about a surplus of around $500,000 that was recently moved to another department. Cordeiro explained most of the NBPD's surplus in recent years has been due to salaries. Officers were budgeted for but, due to finding seats in police academies and other hiring hurdles, did not make it on the department.

Cordeiro hopes to curb this issue and properly staff the department within a reasonable time frame by re-opening the city's own police academy.

"We're moving to get our own academy back in the city," Cordeiro said. "I've had conversations with the (Municipal Police Training Committee), we're making some changes physically at headquarters to accommodate a classroom. The idea is to get one up for next year."

The Police Department's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $23,356,678 — Personnel Budget
  • $1,079,207 — Charges and Services
  • $143,665 — Supplies
  • $200,000 — Capital Outlay
  • $100,000 — Other Financing
  • Total Budget: $24,879,550 (FY17 - $25,016,268)

Also presenting their budget proposals Wednesday were the following departments.

The Treasurer's Office FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $698,906 — Personnel Budget
  • $183,700 — Charges and Services
  • $9,000 — Supplies
  • Total Budget: $891,606 (FY17 - $884,775)

Debt Service's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • Total Budget: $11,299,614 (FY17 - $11,450,200)

The Labor Relations's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $412,045 — Personnel Budget
  • $5,270 — Charges and Services
  • $1,595 — Supplies
  • Total Budget: $418,910 (FY17 - $326,768)

The Airport Enterprise Fund's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $385,927 — Personnel Budget
  • $200,335 — Charges and Services
  • $28,919 — Supplies
  • $381,119 — Other Financing
  • Total Budget: $996,300 (FY17 - $792,037)

The General Government Unclassified Fund's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $197,000 — Personnel Budget
  • $9,524,290 — Charges and Services
  • Total Budget: $9,721,290 (FY17 - $9,277,404)

The CFO's FY18 proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • $323,180 — Personnel Budget
  • $7,476 — Charges and Services
  • $1,250 — Supplies
  • $1,000 — Capital Outlay
  • Total Budget: $332,906 (FY17 - $290,449)

Councilors will continue to hold hearings with department heads in the weeks leading up to the final cut session on June 26.