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Jan. 2, 2013 |

I offer a number of corrections and supporting facts concerning your tax break article of Dec. 19, 2012. As mayor of West Springfield I submitted the fiscal year 2013 budget to the city council that lowered taxes to fiscal year 2011 levels. This was no small accomplishment considering I had been in office only a few months and despite many claims that it could not be done. I could have lowered taxes even more by tapping into reserve accounts but our chief financial officer strongly advised against it. I then came up with a plan to reduce taxes over a three-year period by modestly reducing spending and drawing down the overfunded health insurance trust fund. The purpose of these modest reductions were twofold. First, I calculated that the reductions in taxes should not be too large otherwise it could require a sudden tax increase in the following years. Second, it follows my principle of making modest changes every year so as not to cause instability in our municipal government. As of today West Springfield is the only city in Massachusetts that I know of which has lowered taxes this year. That was my campaign promise to the people of West Springfield and I am happy that we were able to accomplish this. The tax reductions in my budget were accomplished with virtually no input from the city councilor that criticized me in your article though I had repeatedly invited all city councilors to join me in producing a joint budget together. The budget does not stand alone but rather requires a holistic approach. A reduction or increase of any one department's budget will have an affect on many other departments. Most cuts to my budget by the city council did not take this into account and in my opinion were reckless. For example, the Council's cut to the Senior Center cleaning budget would have required reducing programs for the seniors. I vetoed that cut and through much hard work I was able to have the cleaning funds restored to the budget. I am currently working on the fiscal year 2014 budget, which is due May of 2013 and we are projecting that we will lower taxes again. As before I welcome participation by the City Council in the budget process so that we can insure the proper reduction in taxes and spending while providing efficient services for our residences. With many hopes for a good and prosperous new year, Gregory Neffinger Mayor, West Springfield

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