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Sarno presents FY12 budget, oppponents react

Date: 5/24/2011

May 25, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic Sarno presented his fiscal year 2012 (FY12) budget to the City Council on May 16 and the two mayoral challengers had questions about Sarno's proposal for layoffs and furloughs.

Sarno's nearly $545 million budget represents a 2.1 percent increase over the fiscal year 2011 (FY11) budget. Sarno proposed a wage freeze for 330 non-union city workers — including himself — as well as the defunding of 48.5 vacant positions and the layoff of 33.5 staff members.

Also, the 330 non-union employees would be required to take one day off each month without pay. There will also be reductions to training, travel and professional development funds.

Other highlights from the budget include funding for: 490 police officers and supervisors including 100 percent funding for the Quinn Bill benefit at $3.7 million; roughly 15,000 deterrent crime deployments by the Police Department; the recruit classes brought on by both the Police Department and Fire Department recently hired in FY11; the School Department, including meeting all state mandated funding requirements; keeping the branch libraries open but at reduced hours; events including Bright Nights, Fabulous February, Stone Soul Festival, The Caribbean Festival and the Hoop City Jazz Festival; the programs and activities of the Parks Department; curbside pickup and disposal of trash; yard waste removal; and animal control.

City Councilor President Jose Tosado told Reminder Publications the City Council will conduct three public meetings about the budget and predicted the body will make cuts to it.

Tosado noted that all of the eliminated positions are from collective bargaining units and he said that management positions should have been considered. He used as an example the four spokespeople for the School Department, Mayor's Office, Police Department and Fire Department that he believes could be consolidated.

He added there are many positions in the Finance Department "and yet they continue to make errors."

Tosado said that he and the other members of the City Council would be taking a closer look at the budget proposal.

School Committee member Antonette Pepe asserted the mayor should have gone through every department to eliminate duplication. Although Pepe said she couldn't rule out layoffs, she wouldn't advocate any such action until every employee had been scrutinized.

Pepe questioned why Sarno has hired 150 people in these financially unstable times and adding some of these hires were given waivers from the requirement that they live in the city.

On the school side of the budget, she said that two assistance school superintendents were given increases in salary and, despite the management resources of the School Department, an outside consultant has been brought in at a cost of $800,000 to assist in elevating the failing status of the High School of Commerce.

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