AMESBURY — Mayor Ken Gray delivered his fiscal year 2015 operating budget of $53,863,035 to the City Council last night, which represents a spending increase of 2.7 percent from the current year’s adjusted budget.
“This budget is the first step in what will be a long term solution,” Gray wrote. “It’s taken Amesbury many years to get into the position in which we find ourselves and it will take time to dig our way out. This budget is an initial step in the right direction towards improving the quality of life for all our residents and relieving our future tax burden.”
According to the 132 page document, revenues from sources other than the real estate tax levy are up $436,209, resulting in an increase in the property tax levy of $990,562, an increase slightly less than last year.
The cost of meeting union contract obligations with teachers, police, firefighters and office workers accounts for the largest component of spending increases for the new budget, followed by debt payment increases for capital projects such as the new DPW building and fire station rebuild.
The budget requested for the Police Department is $3,843,376 which represents a $102,504 increase from last year. The Fire Department’s budget will rise $97,603 to $3,092,073, representing a 2.5 percent increase in the base pay for both departments. The Police Department has also taken on the one-time cost of certain officers retiring. Also, four firefighters that were funded as part of a grant for the past four years are now coming onto the city’s payroll. Reductions in overtime helped to keep the Fire Department’s increase lower.
“The FY15 budget focuses heavily on schools, with the majority of new spending going to education,” Gray wrote. “Moreover, even with substantial increases in personnel related contractual obligations, the proposed tax levy increase is at a rate slightly less than last year’s increase. We are able to accomplish this in no small part because most of the municipal department heads have been able to rise to my challenge to find creative ways to reduce department costs while maintaining or improving services.”