City reveals $507.8 million budget

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

City residents will see no real estate tax increase in the coming year if the city manager’s proposed budget is approved.

The $507.8 million spending plan also includes no layoffs or furloughs of city employees, a freeze of 11 vacant positions and a new requirement that positions that become vacant stay that way for 90 days before they are filled.

The budget also increases the local contribution to the schools by $3 million. The schools had asked for an additional $7 million more than last year’s funding.

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It is not yet clear how the schools will close the $4 million gap.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said the city is dedicating 75 percent of all new general fund revenues to support the school system.

“When you can say 75 percent of all our new money is going toward education, I think that speaks volumes,” she said.

In addition, the budget, if approved, will implement a compensation study for the second half of the year, meaning about 800 of the city’s employees will see salary increases between 3 and 9 percent beginning Jan. 1.

The study found that the pay of those employees lagged behind their counterparts in other area cities. The remaining employees will not receive increases.

“We need to really reinvest in our workforce,” Cuffee-Glenn said, adding that departments had cut line-item expenses to be able to provide the increase.

The implementation of the compensation study will be phased in during two budget years.

In the proposed budget, 46 cents of every dollar goes toward the school system. The only other double-digit item is public safety, which is 17 cents and includes the police and fire departments.

New revenue in the budget’s $173.5 million general fund is coming from a real estate tax value increase because of new construction and rising tax collections such as business license, meals, personal property, utilities, sales and lodging — “all those areas that indicate economic activity in the city,” said Anne Seward, director of Budget and Strategic Planning.

Some cuts in the budget included equipment additions, health and welfare services and more.

The city has also proposed reducing its contribution to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts by $100,000 to address constrains on other local human services organizations. It has been $450,000 in previous budget years.

City Council members on Wednesday lauded the spending plan.

“On the surface, it looks like you’re doing an outstanding job,” Councilman Mike Duman said.

“It appears this is a very workable budget,” Vice Mayor Charles Brown said.

An informal public budget meeting will be held April 11 at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. A public hearing will be held April 18 at 7 p.m. at the same location. The City Council will have its first opportunity to adopt the budget on May 2.

The budget is posted online at It also is available for review at the municipal building, in all city libraries and at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.