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Sarno: Years of ‘belt tightening’ balance FY15 budget

May 22, 2014 |

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Domenic Sarno announced on May 19 the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) city budget maintains core services, doesn’t include any layoffs and uses the least amount of reserves in years.

Sarno said the better economic picture is due to increased revenues, additional state aid and “seven or eight years of belt tightening.”

He added, “It is a good budget in difficult times.”

Sarno said that no projected payments from MGM Springfield are included in the budget.

The $581.9 million budget represents a 1.8 percent increase over FY14 budget, Sarno said. The city department heads and financial team had to address a $21.8 million projected deficit, which Sarno explained was one of the lowest in recent years.

More revenues are coming to the city due to growth in its real estate market, Sarno said, and the city received an additional $908,976 in state aid. Only $2.8 million of city reserves, or about 0.5 percent of the total budget, was used to balance the budget. The city now has a stabilization fund of $30 million.

“We think we’re starting to see a turn,” he said.

In his budget letter to the City Council, Sarno pointed out several financial areas that directly affect city residents. His letter read, in part, “[The Department of Public Works] will continue to provide free single-stream recycling and yard waste pickup; low-cost bulk pickup and free hazardous waste drop-off dates; will enter into a five-year lease for the purchase of four new trash collection trucks.

“All city buildings and grounds, parks, and terraces will be fully maintained throughout the year; all pools and splash pads, including Five-Mile Pond, will remain open during the summer months, and summer recreation programs remain active; golf courses are fully-staffed and capital funding has been provided to replace aging maintenance equipment.

“Nursing, community health advocate, public health educator and mediator positions are all filled ... two re-purposed city library branches (Liberty Street and Pine Point) will continue to host neighborhood programs like adult literacy and a drop-by center for seniors and all extended hours at the Main Library and all branch locations will remain intact.”

The budget will fund the police academy for 26 recruits that started this month as well as an additional academy of six to 12 more officers. There would be also 20 new firefighters covered in the budget.

Anticipating developments such as the Union Station remodeling and the awarding of a casino license to MGM Springfield, Sarno said, “We’re on the cusp of some activity happening.”

Sarno said there is no change to the trash fee, but his administration is continuing to monitor that issue. He added a “pay as you throw” system is still “down the road.”

City Council President Michael Fenton said, “It’s encouraging to hear of the reduction on the reliance on reserves.”

He is arranging to have three public hearings on the budget – May 29, June 4 and 10 – and hopes to be able to vote on the budget on June 11.

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