Easthampton council approves ‘tight’ budget for new fiscal year

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2021 12:28:56 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The City Council has approved a $45.9 million budget, described by Mayor Nicole LaChapelle as purposefully tight, for fiscal 2022.

The budget presents a decrease of about 3% from the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, but will preserve staffing and anticipates COVID-19 recovery expenses, according to LaChapelle.

“Our revenues are fluid, and they are for everybody,” LaChapelle said. “I like to budget tight. This budget is (3.2%) lower than last year’s budget, and that was purposeful.”

As part of the budgeting process, LaChapelle last year directed all city department heads to trim their budgets by 2.5% without laying off, eliminating or furloughing any staff.

The budget does not implement “significant or remarkable changes,” City Council Vice President and Finance Committee Chairman Dan Rist said at the council’s June 16 meeting, emphasizing that it includes no layoffs.

Some financial reductions also come from department overtime budgets, according to LaChapelle. City departments will be able to request more overtime funding if needed but must make a public request to the City Council for approval.

“It’s really important for department heads to be held to their budget,” LaChapelle said, “and if they need to go back for something that is unexpected … they have to say, ‘This is the money I’m asking for, this is why,’ and provide documentation.”

Sections of the budget needed minor adjustments due to an error in calculating the library budget and rounding for bigger departments, LaChapelle said, but the changes were not “glaring.” The originally proposed budget was $45.46 million, which increased to $45.94 million in May, then down to $45.9 million in its final version.

“It was an unusual thing, but financially not significant,” the mayor said.

Under the fiscal 2022 budget, which begins July 1, the police department is allocated $2.64 million, down slightly from $2.67 million in fiscal 2021. The city budget also implements an almost 20% decrease to the ambulance allocation. The overall public safety budget increased by about 1.8%.

The budget allocated about $17 million to the city’s schools, placing the department at a 2.5% decrease from fiscal 2022. Some of this loss will be covered by federal funding, such as the federal CARES Act and FEMA funding, according to LaChapelle.

The City Council unanimously approved all sections of the budget.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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