Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Chief Administrative and Financial Officer (CAFO) TJ Plante today submitted to the city council for approval an austerity budget for FY21.
Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) was forced to revisit its original revenue assumptions. The recommended austerity budget takes into consideration the reductions in local receipts and expected revenue shortfall from state and federal aid to the city, which could potentially result in a loss of $11.4 million in local aid. The FY21 budget will be balanced without any layoffs, furloughs or cut to essential city core services.
The recommended FY21 budget totals $728.6 million, a $36.9 million or 5.3% increase over the FY20 adopted budget.
The budget growth is driven primarily by the School Department $33 million increase (7.4%), in line with funding increases from the PROMISE Act reform bill. The City budget (minus School Department) grew by just $3.9 million (1.6%) from FY20 to FY21. This growth was driven by increases in non-discretionary spending categories. Excluding key non-discretionary obligation items, (i.e. the City’s pension contribution and increases in the City’s health insurance budget), the City’s budget shrunk by $1.2M (-0.7%).
Mayor Sarno said, “These are unprecedented and surreal times. However, thanks to our strong fiscal management and proactive planning and response to the pandemic the City of Springfield is well prepared to adopt a balanced budget for approval without any layoffs, furloughs or cuts to essential city services. The FY21 budget will also not have to dip into our healthy reserves or ‘rainy day’ funds. The budget places a continued emphasis on education, public safety, healthy neighborhoods and community services. Though it is an austerity budget, it continues to fund core services and all non-discretionary obligations, while holding the line on spending in the event of a protracted economic downturn due to the pandemic and strengthening our city’s resolve to weather a major recession.”
T.J. Plante stated, “Our goal is to maintain core services with an eye on fiscal sustainability, while also tracking and monitoring all COVID-19 related expenses through deficit spending so we can go after any and all relief and recovery funding options that may become available on the state or federal level. I strongly believe that this austerity budget is needed and is a well thoughtful budget that lives within our means and doesn’t mortgage the future. As a testament to Springfield’s commitment to strong fiscal discipline and sustainability, the FY21 Budget was balanced, for the sixth consecutive year, without the use of stabilization reserve funds. Saving our reserves for future years will allow the City to weather a protracted recession, and sends a strong message that the City is committed to fiscal sustainability.”
“I am proud of our CAFO TJ Plante and his finance team for doing their due diligence and being prepared to deal with ‘the ebb and flow’ of our local, state and national economic landscape. Our fiscal leadership and model has been recognized and acknowledged time and time again, and I strongly believe that this budget reflects the outstanding fiscal management the City of Springfield has during these challenging times. Our municipal bond rating has remained strong and we continue to maintain a strong and healthy reserve,” Mayor Sarno added. “My Administration will continue to provide leadership for an efficient, effective, strategic and compassionate way to assure that city services continue to be provided for our residents and business community, and that we go after any and all relief and recovery aspects for our residents and business community.”
Some notable investments in the FY21 budget include:
Department of Public Works
- Continued funding of the Sidewalk Crew: A great addition to DPW, which works to keep sidewalk areas safe. The crew completes routine sidewalk repairs in all neighborhoods throughout the City.
- New Vehicles: Funding will continue for lease payments on 26 vehicles, which were added in FY20.
- Core Services: Single-stream recycling and yard waste pick-up will continue. Street Sweepers will also continue to keep the neighborhoods clean and clear. While the cost to dispose of recycling will increase significantly in FY21, adding $800K to the City’s Trash Enterprise Fund budget, the FY21 budget fully funds this new expense without increasing the trash fee.
- All cleaning services for municipal buildings will continue to be completed in-house. This change began saving the City $180K per year in FY20.
- The FY21 budget provides continued funding for the maintenance of newly completed buildings, such as the new East Forest Park Library.
Capital Asset Construction
- MSBA: The City continues to collaborate with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Through the MSBA’s Accelerated Repair Program, the City has been able to undertake numerous school renovation projects around the City over the past several years. In FY21 there will be new repair projects (replacement of HVAC systems) beginning at the Sumner Ave., Frederick Harris, and Indian Orchard elementary schools. Additionally, construction will continue at the site of the joint campus for the new Brightwood and Lincoln elementary schools. This summer, initial construction will begin as part of the interconnected projects that will replace the Homer and DeBerry elementary schools, create a new DeBerry Park, and demolish the now derelict former site of the Massachusetts Career Development Institute.
Parks & Recreation
- The Terrace Maintenance Program will be fully funded through FY21.
- While public health considerations related to COVID-19 have forced the City to cancel Camp STAR and the summer pool program, splash pads will remain open for residents and families to enjoy.
- Funding will continue for the newest Parks crew, who maintain the downtown park areas including, Angelina “Angie” Florian Park, DaVinci Park, Emerson Wright, Riverfront Park, Court Square, Stearns Square, and Pynchon Plaza. Pynchon Plaza is currently under construction, and will provide a direct walkway from many downtown restaurants and the casino to the Quadrangle and the Springfield Museums.
- The Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center will continue to maintain funding for essential operations, while also servicing our neighboring cities, Chicopee and Holyoke.
- Funding for a full complement of administrative and inspectional personnel positions is included for FY21. This helps to ensure healthy neighborhoods and safe buildings throughout the City.
- This department has been fully funded. The department also has access to considerable amounts of new grant funding as part of the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Funding will continue for one nurse supervisor and one gambling outreach coordinator to provide assistance to those at risk for gambling addictions. Forty percent of the Nurse Practitioner’s salary is now paid through grant funding.
- Cold Weather Task Force: $6K that was added in FY20 was kept in the FY21 Budget to ensure that this new initiative would continue to provide the safety and protection for homeless individuals in the event of severe cold weather.
- New Vehicle: Funding will continue for the operation of a new minibus, purchased in FY20.
- Meal Program: The senior meals program has been fully funded, and the City is pursuing ways to deliver meals to seniors while senior centers are closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- This department will continue to fully fund services to our veterans. The addition of newer staff in recent years has allowed this department to serve our veterans more efficiently, through proper case management.
- The three employees that were added to provide services at the new East Forest Park Library will continue to be funded in FY21.
- In collaboration with the Davis Foundation, the Springfield Public Libraries have taken over management of the award-winning Read! Reading Success by 4th Grade program.
- The City will continue to fund the Read/Write/Now adult literacy program.
- We are pleased to announce that Springfield received the “Distinguished Budget Award” from the Government Finance Officers Association for the 12th year in a row. The City also received the “Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting” for issuance of the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the seventh consecutive year.
- Pension: $47.3M contribution towards pension liability; a 9.0% increase over the FY20 Adopted Budget.
- Honors all contractual obligations including collective bargaining agreements, and agreements such as the SPS food service contract and Police Department Assessment Center.
- Responsible Employer Ordinance: Two Project Managers will continue to ensure diversity in hiring practices for City construction projects. These individuals will also ensure compliance with all Federal and State rules and regulations.
- $620,000 for the Springfield Police Department’s new body-worn camera program. With the introduction of body worn cameras, Springfield has become the first city in the Commonwealth to employ this new technology across its police force. Body worn cameras will increase transparency and accountability. Footage from body worn cameras can also be used to enhance police training. This investment in technology will improve residents’ safety, and highlight Springfield as a city on the cutting edge of law enforcement strategies. This new program was rolled out in FY20, and a dozen officers are currently piloting the cameras on our streets. By then end of this summer, the entire force to be equipped with these important new devices.
- Funding has also been provided to run a new police academy of 40 recruits, beginning in October 2020.
- The City has purchased 19 new police vehicles in FY20 to replace aging vehicles in the department’s fleet.
- This year’s budget also includes $125K in funding for Taser replacements.
- $800K for the lease of a new firearms training facility. Proper training with firearms is essential for public safety, and this investment will help ensure that officers can conduct necessary training on firearms use in a safe, state of the art facility.
- For FY21, the Springfield Fire Department will also be hiring new recruits in order to stay ahead of attrition. The Department will run two academies this year, in August and October. Recruits will also continually be sent to the state-run academy program. The department’s compliment will be increased, with the addition of eight new firefighters, which are primarily funded through SAFER Grant.
- $60K increase in funding to proactively replace equipment such as firefighter turnout gear; this gear ensures the safety of our first responders.
- Additionally, a lease payment for a new fire apparatus, begun in FY20, has been fully funded in the budget.
- The SFD has also budgeted $75K to replace SCBA air bottles used while fighting fires, allowing for additional air capacity and aligning with NFPA standards. While purchasing this new equipment, the department will continue to deploy the O2X program, which aims at promoting the physical and mental health of our first responders. Active participation in these programs helps to decrease the number of work related injuries.