Mayor Domenic J. Sarno sent the following letter detailing fiscal challenges the City of Springfield continues to struggle with while developing the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget. In the Mayor’s letter to Chairmen Brewer and Dempsey of the Senate and House Ways and Means Committees, he highlights steps the City has already taken to address six consecutive years of declining revenues. This letter/testimony is a continuing effort by Mayor Sarno to continue to beat the drum for assistance from the State. The letter is attached for your review: please note the Springfield Legislative Delegation and Springfield City Council has been copied as well.
Chairman Stephen Brewer Chairman Brian Dempsey
State House Room 212 State House Room 237
Boston, MA 02133 Boston, MA 02133
Re: FY14 Budget Hearing Testimony
Due to scheduling conflicts, I was unable to attend the hearing held today at Greenfield Community College where you and your colleagues took public testimony regarding local aid for your upcoming budget planning process. I respectfully request that you accept this letter as my written testimony.
I am seeking your consideration of several proposals that will help the City of Springfield to balance its FY14 budget and that will help bridge a gap between spending and revenue that we expect to grow out of through several significant economic development projects in our City. By way of background, the FY13 budget for the City of Springfield is approximately $563 million which funds all major City programs and services including Schools, Police, Fire, DPW, employee health insurance, debt service, pensions, etc. Only 20% of the City’s budget is “discretionary”. The remaining 80% is governed by State Law or local ordinance. The non-discretionary costs have increases that need to be accounted for annually which takes away from the amount available for discretionary costs.
The revenue that supports this budget comes from 4 major sources:
As this illustrates, the City is highly dependent on State Aid, both Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Aid to support our operations. Although we appreciate your continued support of C.70 and our schools, the 30% reduction in unrestricted aid since FY08 continues to constrain the programs and services that we can provide. In addition to State Aid reductions our other main source of revenue, property taxes, have seen no growth due to the rules of Proposition 2 and ½ and a real estate market where already low property values are continuing to decline.
The City has made every effort to utilize the tools that the State has offered through municipal relief efforts including – GIC for health insurance, local option meals tax, local option hotel tax, extension of our pension schedule to 2039, and maximizing changes to procurement rules. In addition to the tools that you have provided, we have continued to use reserves, cut costs and maximize revenue.
• We have cut costs in the last 2 years by eliminating 190 positions through the elimination of vacancies and layoffs; we have taken furloughs and had no pay increases; we have closed a fire company, reduced library hours, eliminated a department (CitiStat) and discontinued maintenance of 10 parks.
• We have increased revenue by increasing our controversial trash fee, adjusted departmentally generated fees such as dog licenses, building permit fees and animal adoption fees.
• We have used reserves, $15 million in each of the last 2 years, to maintain core services.
In other words, we do not take the fiscal stability of the City lightly and have and will continue to implement every measure necessary to maintain a responsible and balanced budget. But we cannot do it alone and we need your help. Specifically we need:
• Your commitment to C.70 consistent with the Governor’s H.1 recommendations. This amount will continue the investment in our schools which are the lifeblood of our community.
• Your commitment to Unrestricted State Aid to at least the Governor’s recommendation using the new formula allocation but ideally more. We need growth in this revenue to sustain the growth of non-discretionary costs in our budget.
• Your consideration of special legislation to help grow the City’s tax revenue by temporarily allowing for the capture of new growth beyond the currently allowed limits (SD1590).
The City of Springfield “Thanks You” for your continued efforts and if you have the time, my team would be willing to meet with you to discuss our budgetary needs in more detail.
Mayor, City of Springfield
Cc: State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera
State Representative Sean Curran
State Representative Michael Finn
State Representative Thomas Petrolati
State Representative Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr.
State Representative Benjamin Swan
State Senator Gale Candaras
State Senator James Welch