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.
DiGiovanni, who grew up in Newburyport before moving away and returning recently, is a recent graduate of culinary school. She says she plans to add muffins and scones to the menu and eventually put the kitchen back in at the back of the shop.
Meanwhile, there have been some other changes around town. The collectibles shop, the Cuckoo's Nest, has moved from State Street to Pleasant Street; Newburyport Pedicab moved from its space on Merrimac Street and intends to use space at Prince Place this summer to store their cabs; and there's word that a teenage girls clothing store may be moving into the space where The Studio was previously located, said Chamber of Commerce president Ann Ormond.
Like others in the city, Ormond said last week she's wondering about the return of the "Taffy's" sign at the site of the former popular eatery on State Street.
Billy Rymsha, who owns the building and whose family opened Taffy's in 1951, did not immediately return a phone call Friday. The building has a "For Lease" sign on the door directing callers to contact Rymsha.
After Taffy's closed in 2005, the space was occupied by Theory Bistro and briefly by Hopscotch Cafe, which served breakfast and lunch.
Residents interested in filling a vacant seat as the Newburyport representative on the Whittier Regional Technical Vocational School Committee can send a resume and letter of interest to the mayor.
The position will be appointed by the Newburyport School Committee.
Applicants must submit the paperwork by Friday, March 13. Resumes and letters can be sent to the Mayor's Office, 60 Pleasant St., City Hall, attn: Lois Honegger, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Newburyport Republican Committee will meet on Monday, March 16, at Starboard Galley.
From 7 to 7:30 p.m., there will be a mixer, followed by a committee meeting at 7:30 p.m.
The meeting is open to the public.
Barney Keller from the Massachusetts Republican Party will be speaking on Mass GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour's plans for the party within the state.
Contact Larry Giunta at 978-265-0597 or email@example.com for more information.
As the City Council looked to approve the appointment and re-appointment of nine assistant harbormasters recently, At-Large Councilor Tom Jones questioned why so many of the special officers lived outside the area.
"Some are as far away as Quincy," Jones said, questioning the need for nine, and wondering why the positions aren't filled by residents of the city.
"A lot of people boat and live here," Jones said.
Jones said last week he wonders how the positions are approved and what qualifications are needed for the job.
Moak said last week all the assistant harbormasters have undergone training and are qualified for the post. As special police officers, they must enforce water ordinances and laws on the river.
The hours of the job call for many workers, Moak said.
"We man our boats on evenings and weekends," the mayor said. "We need a lot of back-up. Some can only work a half day, or one evening a week." No employee benefits are offered with seasonal work, Moak said.
The mayor said the city always wants to employ from within its own community, but noted that it is sometimes nice to have a non-recognizable face fill a position and out-of-towners can sometimes be more objective when it comes to making decisions on issues like water ordinances.
The City Clerk's Office is reminding residents that dog licenses will be available, beginning March 16, and are due on April 1, Owners are required to present evidence of a rabies certificate¬º. All dogs six months or older require licenses.
Moak and other mayors from throughout the state met with Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo at the recent February meeting of the Mass. Mayors Association.
The discussion focused on the economy, the federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act recently signed into law by President Obama, and the fiscal challenges confronting cities as they work to deliver services despite declining revenue and deep local aid cuts, according to a press release about the meeting.
The following meetings have been scheduled for this week. All are open to the public:
City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers
Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers
Redevelopment Authority, 6 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers
Harbor Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers
Fruit Street Historic District Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall auditorium
Street Tree Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall basement
Katie Farrell covers Newburyport for The Daily News. She can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3232, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.