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March 9, 2009

Mayor struggling to balance next year's budget without layoffs

Mayor John Moak doesn't mince words when it comes to talking about the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

"It's a very difficult budget," Moak said.

The city is looking at figures showing a cut of $1 million might be needed to maintain a balanced budget next year. Revenue and state aid is still up in the air right now, Moak said, and the budget likely won't be able to be compiled until April — a month normally reserved for fine-tuning it before it gets sent to the City Council in May.

While projections show that deficit down around $750,000, if state aid doesn't come through, the city will be back up to the $1 million figure, the mayor said last week.

Even still, if the deficit stays, the consequences will be significant, Moak said.

"I'm not creative enough to make up that deficit without some kind of layoffs," the mayor said.

The city is exploring all ways to fill in that gap, Moak said, including the idea of adding fees, such as for trash collection. "For me not to consider that would be pretty foolish," Moak said.

An upcoming vote by the city's unions on whether to change health-care plans would also lower that deficit, Moak said.

"My deepest intent is not to add people to the unemployment lines, or to minimize it," the mayor said. "There's no magical way to close the gap."

¢¢¢

Souffles, the kitchen supply and coffee shop in Market Square, has a new owner.

Jessie Caven sold her business last Thursday to Newburyport resident Gina DiGiovanni.

Caven spent her final two days at the shop Friday and Saturday, saying it was always her intention to own Souffles for a few years and move onto a new chapter. While she would definitely want to own another business at some point, she isn't sure what yet, she said. But after three years keeping up the grind of owning Souffles, her immediate plans include a vacation to Europe to visit family.

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