In a letter to the City Council dated May 5, she noted city employees, for the fourth consecutive year, will not have to pay any increase for their healthcare premiums.
“Our ability to contain costs and level-fund our premiums for the length of time is unprecedented. This has been financially beneficial to both the city and our employees,” the mayor wrote.
The budget, for the first time, shifts the majority of school support accounts (unemployment compensation, health care costs, Medicare disbursements due to retirements, school committee salaries and life insurance costs), to the School Department.
According to the School Committee, this budget item could approach $8.5 million.
Two weeks ago the School Committee passed a budget of $49,764,206, without considering absorbing a potential $8.5 million.
The majority of school committee members were upset with the mayor because she had not brought up the subject earlier in the budgeting process.
The city budget also calls for a 20 percent increase in the assessor’s budget because of state mandated certification of real estate in FY 2012, and increases in the Department of Public Works for sidewalk and guard rail repairs, trench maintenance due to damage caused by storms this past winter, as well as other ongoing projects.
Fuel costs (gas and diesel) will also be increased, and will be calculated using the price as of May 3 as a benchmark.
Electricity costs also reflect a 17.6 percent increase over the current budget.
Also, the mayor noted cost savings in the newly formed Human Services Department, which has combined the offices of the Veterans Agent, Council on Aging and Human Services.
The mayor also included funding a planner position, which was eliminated last year, in the Dept. of Planning, Community and Economic Development, as well as a part-time clerk position.
And she also included $200,000 to support the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation in its effort to attract new business to the city and formulate a long-term master economic development plan.
The $200,000 expenditure will likely be a temporary solution. The city is awaiting approval for a home rule petition that will set aside 2 percent of the hotel tax charged to consumers into this account, which will then fund the MEDC.
The mayor said the city must appropriate the funds in its operating budget first to use these additional funds for their intended purpose.
The city now has 45 days to approve the budget. A public hearing on the budget will be held at 8 pm, May 23 in the City Council chambers.
In the meantime, the Finance Subcommittee will hold meetings on the proposed budget on May 11, 12, 13, 16, 17 and 18 prior to the May 23 public hearing and several more thereafter.
Mayor Stevens acknowledged Comptroller/Treasurer Thomas Abel, City Auditor Diane Smith and city department managers for their work on the FY2012 budget.
In other business, the City Council approved to transfer money from three different city accounts to pay for accrued vacation time and possible per diem expenses until July 1 for Rosalind Baker, who will be leaving her role as director of the Human Services Dept. on Friday, May 13.
Mayor Stevens said Ms. Baker submitted a two-week notice and submitted the request for the transfers to the City Council as soon as possible.
Because of the timing of her departure, the mayor asked Ms. Baker if she could work on a per diem schedule, if needed, until July 1.
Ward 1 Councilor Joseph F. Delano Jr. questioned why other city employees couldn’t step in on a temporary basis. He also said, “I don’t think there is a maniacal rush to pay off an employee.”
Ward 2 Councilor Paul Ferro also echoed that sentiment and said he hadn’t heard a compelling reason why the city must pay an employee right away.
Stevens said the city is required by law to pay for accrued vacation time. She said people who received money weeks or months after their departure were given compensation through a sick leave buy-back program.
The City Council voted 8-3 to pay Ms. Baker at this time.
Ward 3 Councilor Matt Elder joined Delano and Ferro and opposed the request.
This story originally appeared here