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Agawam largely eludes FY10 economic catastrophes

Date: 6/16/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- Mayor Susan Dawson has proposed a fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget that largely eludes the economic catastrophes incurred by neighboring municipalities.

The $77.6 million budget requires no personnel layoffs despite significant cuts to local aid totaling almost $2 million.

"Careful planning has gone into this proposed budget with the consideration that this may be the first of several very difficult years until the economy stabilizes," Dawson said.

"As I prepared my second budget in these difficult times, I wanted to keep the quality of life standards high, provide a premier education for our children and maintain safety for all of our community members while always remaining cognizant of the fiduciary responsibilities that I am responsible for as your mayor," she continued.

Dawson said her untimely release of the budget -- only 19 days before the end of the current fiscal year -- was caused by previously inconclusive figures from the state.

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month, allowing a Continuing Appropriation Budget to fund town's operations until the complete FY10 budget is passed later this summer.

Dawson noted that her priorities for FY10 were to fund three major departments: schools, police and fire.

Superintendent of Agawam Public Schools Mary Czajkowski called the federal stimulus funds "a Godsend," which prevented layoffs, the retention of services and a level-funded $33.6 million budget.

She noted that the town required the department to cut $1.4 million from its budget while also incurring reductions in Chapter 70 funding.

"The bottom line is we didn't have to send out layoff notices," Czajkowski said. "We're funding six positions with stimulus money and we're going to be very frugal this coming [fiscal] year."

When asked how the department plans to fund those positions when the stimulus money is depleted she replied that creative restructuring, program elimination and user fees may be needed.

Other departments that absorbed significant cuts include Data Processing, Treasurer-Collector, the library, the Municipal Golf Course, Highways and Grounds, Motor Vehicle Maintenance, Wastewater and Emergency Management.

Judy Clini, director of Agawam Public Library, said she had "no comment about the FY10 budget" and the cuts her department was required to make.

Dawson noted that she has allocated $489,815 from the Stabilization Fund for capital improvements including data processing equipment, the replacement of Benjamin J. Phelps Elementary School's gym floor and various other upgrades.

"I'd like to think not that there isn't any fat in the [FY10] budget," City Council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese, also a member of the Finance Committee, said. "I've not made up my mind if I will vote in favor of it or not."

She added that she'll wait until the conclusion of the budget subcommittee meetings before making a decision.

Calls to other members of the Finance Committee were not returned by press time.

Budget subcommittee meetings will take place throughout the summer, prior to the public hearing on July 27.