$208 million budget

By Josh Resnek

The city will spend $208 million in 2020 to keep the ball of municipal government rolling, according to the mayor and Eric Demas, the city’s Chief Financial Officer during presentations they made to a joint convention of the city council and the school committee Monday night at city hall.

The mayor read from a prepared text informing the city government that this year’s budget presentation was perhaps his best ever.

He said the 2020 budget, to be discussed more vigorously during a Saturday session before the city council at city hall, would reveal itself to be 4% above last year’s budget but representing, in reality, aa 0% increase over last year when all is said and done.

The mayor detailed the restructuring that is going on, which includes a mix of layoffs, retirements, transfers and jobs remaining unfilled.

He said the city maintains a Standard and Poor AA+ bond rating and that for the third year in a row operated the government with a surplus.

The mayor also announced that the public schools will receive what they are asking for: $85 million, which includes a $6.5 million additional payment by the city to fund necessities for the schools even though the $6.5 million goes over the net amount of spending the city is responsible for.

Bottom line, the administration has funded the public schools as the public schools asked.

Demas echoed the words of his employer.

He said the budget is in line with the mayor’s wishes.

He, too, emphasized the economic wisdom of having such a high bond rating.

He said that 80% of the city’s bonded debt was being amortized in such a way that it will be gone in ten years. This did not include the city’s underfunded pension liability.

That will cost the city $15 million this year – and with the spate of layoffs and early retirements, as many as 15-20 additions to the city’s pension system translates into added financial responsibilities that must be met.

The city owes more than $100 million in pension liabilities.

Demas said the total tax levy is $142 million – that is – if necessary, the city could levy $142 million from property owners in the year.

Demas predicted a levy of $102 million for 2020.

This essentially leaves a $40 million “savings account” for the city to hold against unforeseen expenses.

Revenues from Encore casino and hotel should amount to $25 million with an additional $6 million expected from portions of taxes coming back to the city.

An all day meeting of the city council and the administration discussing the budget and any cuts to be made will be held at city hall Saturday.

The city council must have its final budget figures set for June 30.

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