LOWELL — Almost all of the city’s proposed 2023 fiscal year budget was scrutinized Tuesday night as city residents face a 5.5% increase in property taxes.
The Tuesday meeting began with a hearing and the gallery was more full than most Tuesday nights, but there was no positive word about the tax increase.
Resident Rera Hall said the property tax hike was “terrifying” for those living on bonds, especially given national inflation. While appreciating the council and mayor Tom Golden’s efforts to improve the city’s quality of life, she emphasized that everyone needs to be able to benefit from change.
Yun-Ju Choi, Managing Director of the Union for Better Acres, predicts that the Parking Business Fund will run a $ 3 million deficit under the proposed budget, and the Water and Sewerage Enterprise Fund will have a combined deficit of $ 5.5 million. He said he was expected to do so. Hee-seop Choi also opposed the tax hike and said he wanted to see better predictions about how money would be spent.
In addition, Hee-seop Choi emphasized some discrepancies in the salary range of posted positions, as opposed to what was budgeted. One example that Hee-seop Cho emphasized was the mayor’s salary of $ 257,000, even though Golden started with a salary of $ 235,000 in May.
Community organizer Bobby Tugbiyele was one of those who opposed the property tax hike. Tugbiyele emphasized from his career as a human resources professional that salary is one of the reasons employees leave the city, but it’s not the only reason.
“Money should not be seen as a silver bullet for recruitment and maintenance issues …. I ensure that the rewards of these investments bring more trust and accountability to our employment practices. We believe that is financially responsible. Ladder is still a concern in the community today, “says Tugbiyele.
In addition, Tugbiyele needs to evenly distribute the city’s US Rescue Planning Act, as African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American communities are imbalanced in the impact of COVID-19. I told you.
Justin Ford asked the councilor if he wanted to keep the city’s residents, believing that raising the property tax rate would drive them out of the city.
At the end of the hearing, the councilors individually considered the budget proposals for each department.
Regarding the Legal Department’s budget, Councilor Erik Gitschier called for a $ 100,000 reduction from the $ 175,000 advertising application information used to pay court decisions. The motion failed 9-1, Gitschier voted in favor, and Councilor Wayne Jenness abstained.
Gitschier also motioned to cut $ 25,000 from the city council’s budget. This means he is willing to give up payment for his position. Gitschier and his councilors John Drinkwater, John Leahy, Vesna Nuon, Corey Robinson, Dan Rourke, and Kim Scott supported the move, but eventually failed.
But most of the discussion was about the mayor’s reserve budget. Gitschier called for a $ 1 million reduction from the manager’s $ 3.6 million reserve. Reserves include reserves and wage account reserves.
During long deliberations, Golden constantly emphasized that the money would be used to improve the quality of life in the city. As part of the Emergency Fund, Mr. Golden said the city will fund wage and classification studies to initiate the process of giving city officials salary increases.
Chief Financial Officer Connor Baldwin also said the reserve was used as a “transfer, transfer” account. Baldwin said $ 347,000 was remitted at the end of the year in fiscal year 2021. Baldwin said the move was made to cover the excess of “various utility accounts,” adding that contingencies most likely occur at the end of the year.
“This is probably one of the only items in this budget, and the money allocated to it must be returned to the council for the budget,” Drinkwater said, giving it the opportunity to make capital. Added. Investing in cash, it will be a sound fiscal policy.
Councilor Dan Roke said the council demanded more funding than the previous council, especially with regard to infrastructure. Rourke supported keeping funds within the manager’s budget and said Golden promised to consider ways to make “pay-as-you-go” capital spending, especially to improve the condition of the fire department. ..
Councilor Kim Scott said he does not support keeping funds within the manager’s budget as he faces an increase in taxpayers. Scott said he felt the plan was too “roughly defined.”
Mr Golden said the plan would be clearer if he had time to leave his mark on the budget. He also emphasized that the money spent would come before the council.
Baldwin said the city asked for a quote on wage and classification surveys, but procurement has not started.
Reducing the $ 1 million amount failed 8-3, with Gitschier, Scott, and Nuon voting in favor.
The city council continued to deliberate on the city’s budget even after Sun’s printing deadline.
Editor’s Note: Earlier versions of this story did not include Councilor Kim Scott in support of Councilor Erik Gitschier’s motion to remove $ 25,000 from the city council’s budget.