By GERLY ADRIEN
Due to the pandemic, City Councilors, like myself, are reviewing the budget for this current fiscal year, July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021. This is my first year as a City Councilor in reviewing the budget. It brings me lots of excitement as I know every dollar matters to the residents to be spent fiscally smart. My background includes my undergraduate degree from Bentley University, MBA from Boston University, and my nine years in finance/budgeting. I love looking at numbers to tell a story of how the chief executive using the funds puts their priorities in.
When I reviewed this budget, my initial questions include:
Assessors: Why is the budget for the Assessors’ Office increasing by 47% in what is, as far as I can tell from looking at the budgets for previous years, not a valuation year. Wasn’t that done in FY2018?
Technology: How are we going to improve technology this year for the city?
Planning: What are the programs being offered and funding to assist residents with home improvements, landlords, home-ownership assistance, and tenants related issues?
Mayor’s Executive Office: Why is the position of Affordable Housing Coordinator going away? Who is going to assist with all the housing needs? Where is the budget to help with racism as a public health crisis and the budget for the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office? Why is there a car allowance for the Mayor when he is making $188,000? Is there a way that the Constituent services office can provide more financial support to constituents in need of tickets, food, homelessness, and job training?
Council on Aging: $47,500 for the Council on Aging, $570,866 for Veterans. Why can’t the City fund both effectively? After all, some of the veterans are Seniors. What are the programs and plans for this year for the Seniors? How can Everett serve its seniors if it doesn’t do outreach?
DPW: Now that Mr. St. Louis has transferred to the Engineering Division and gotten a raise, is there a new Director who makes almost $10,000 a year less?
Human Resources: There are 457 employees in city hall currently per the list given. How many were there in FY 2019- 2020? How much was reduced due to COVID-19 vs. other reasons? Are we going to provide technical training for employees this year, especially with the growth of using computers? What type of training do the employees go through?
Police: Have you reviewed my recommendations to put more funds into an office to help with mental health-related calls, homelessness calls, and non-criminal calls? Could you explain the reasons for the officers to receive different stipends for different reasons? For example, if they have a gun, they get an extra stipend? I do not think Teachers get an additional stipend if they something that is part of their roles.
Fire: Is there hazmat and hose training? Is there a plan to hire more firefighters?
After Saturday’s meeting, my further budget questions included: How much are we investing in our schools for our children? Does every line item is spent on what it is? Why are department heads getting a more significant raise than the lower-level staff who does the bulk of the work? Where is the funding to communicate to the residents? I do not see a difference in how the casino money is helping our residents improve their quality of life. Let us look at where the money is going in our budget and make sure the residents of Everett always comes first.
*Gerly Adrien is an Everett City Councilor-at-Large