Council passes town budget for upcoming fiscal year

June 24, 2020 | Danielle Eaton
daniellee@thereminder.com

AGAWAM – The Agawam City Council met on June 15 for a brief in-person meeting where they passed the town’s budget for the fiscal year of 2021.

The meeting began at 7 p.m. and was attended by all councilors, except councilor Gina Letellier who attended via a conference call. Prior to the June 15 meeting, the council held a workshop on June 8 where they worked through the budget regarding the city’s departments.

The budget was the first item on the agenda. Councilors George Bitzas and Dino Mercadante, along with Council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese spoke about the budget and their support for it. Bitzas spoke first, stating that he felt the budget before the council for a vote was “a good budget.” He mentioned specific parts of the budget he was in favor of, including “full, funded education without any cuts” and a “full, funded police department.”

He then went on to express his feelings regarding the recent proposal of defunding police departments across the country in an effort to combat police brutality. He said, “That’s very sad because Agawam, there’s just no way at all in Agawam [that] would never happen, stuff like that.”

Bitzas continued and said it was important that the police department be fully funded as it was “needed to protect us, protect our families, protect our homes, protect our children.” He said, “We like to live in peace, we like to live safe in our homes. I don’t know why some people think that way.”

Calabrese then commented on the budget and stated that the unknown amount of local state aid was “one of the wild cards with regard to our budget,” this year. However, despite having challenges such as a pandemic presented to the town, Calabrese said the administration presented a “fiscally responsible” budget. She also warned the council to monitor what would happen over the next fiscal year, as it would likely have an impact on the following year’s budget.

“Everyone sort of needs to keep an eye on FY22 because things [that] end up happening now are going to impact the next year’s fiscal budget,” she said. “So I just wanted you all to keep that in mind and as we all know come in here with resetting the levy on how to pay for this so I think that the mayor and his administration and department heads and the city council here have put forth a reasonable budget given the economic environment that we’re in right now and I’m going to be supporting it.”

Mercadante echoed much of what Calabrese said, and stated that he thought Mayor William Sapelli and his administration did a great job putting the budget together. “With all that was thrown at the administration this year, with COVID, I think they’ve come up with a solid budget. I’m going to support it, and hopefully down the road we’ll make the necessary adjustments as they come aboard,” he said.

Council President Christoher Johnson also thanked the mayor and his administration for putting together the budget and communicating with the council regarding the budget. Ultimately, the budget was passed by the council with a unanimous vote of 11-0.

Next, the council voted unanimously in favor of confirming resident Jeremy Casey to the Agawam Housing Committee. Johnson said Casey would fill the realtor slot on the board, and his term would expire on May 31, 2023. Following the vote, Johnson thanked Casey for his willingness to serve on the committee.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution to allow Sapelli to enter into a Project Funding Agreement with the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) Accelerated Repair Program. The agreement, according to the resolution, would be for the Boiler Repair Project at the Agawam Junior High School.

The last item on the agenda for the night included a resolution to approve the “reservation and appropriation of funds from the Community Preservation Fund (CPA).” Johnson explained that the resolution “is simply the reservation of funds for the upcoming fiscal year according to the allocation set forth in the state statued.” Letellier pointed out that the funds totaled “over $610,000.”

The vote from the council, once again, was unanimous, and passed the resolution. In closing, each councilor remarked on how special the Agawam Senior High School graduation, which took place on June 14, was and wished the graduates good luck.

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