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Officials to face budget crisis as a team

Date: 2/11/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Last week, Mayor Susan Dawson announced that eight town officials have agreed to participate in her fiscal year 2010 (FY10) Budget Team, with a mission to attack the current fiscal crisis head on.

City Council President Gina Letellier, School Committee members Anthony Bonavita and Diane Juzba, Superintendent Mary Czajkowski, Assistant Superintendent Gregg Barrs, Department of Public Works Superintendent John Stone, Personnel Director Coleen Gruska and Treasurer/Collector Laurel Placzek will join Dawson in her efforts to absorb the approximately $1 million reduction in state aid and balance the FY10 budget.

"I am putting together the budget team because it is important for communication during these tough times to be clear between all areas of government," Dawson said. "I will be able to meet with [this team to ensure that] we can all stay on the same page [during this budget process]."

Bonavita explained that he will provide communication between the Budget Team and the School Committee, which will attempt to cut $1.4 million from the School Department's FY10 budget.

"My biggest concern is trying to keep the educational system intact while coming to realize that we are in a global economic crisis and we have to be fiscally responsible," he said.

Bonavita noted that Czakjowski has proposed a comprehensive list of cuts for the School Committee's consideration, which includes elimination of personnel and services. He noted that user fees are also being considered as a means to generate revenue.

"It's certainly all on the table at this point," Bonavita said.

Gruska explained that she will be focusing her efforts on maintaining personnel during FY10. She noted that over six town positions have yet to be filled due to Dawson's hiring freeze.

Placzek said this year's budget process should prove more taxing than previous year's due to the current economic climate as well as state budget cuts.

"The biggest challenge will be coming out with a balanced budget," she said, adding that in addition to decreased state aid, local revenues will also be down from previous years.

The town's FY10 budget must be approved by the City Council no later than June 30, the last day of FY09.