Eric Stahlberg: Northampton has a budget problem it needs to fix

Published: 2/11/2020 6:00:20 PM

Northampton has a budget problem it needs to fix

We’ve again arrived at a point where the city apparently can’t live within its budget. It has a problem with the balance sheet for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.

According to the mayor’s budget message for the current fiscal 2020 budget, the city is using $775,874 from the last override to balance the books. In that same message, the city projects to use a large portion of the remaining override balance of approximately $1.9 million for fiscal 2021. Even with this, the budget is projected to leave a shortfall of around $800,000.

So from fiscal 2020 to 2021, the city gets extra revenue from new development, a 2½% increase by law, and at least $1.2 million from the marijuana tax, and yet the numbers are out of balance by about $2.7 million. The plan is to use $1.9 million from stabilization and go begging for the rest.

To add real angst to the story, the deficit for fiscal year 2022 has been projected to be $3.7 million, $4.4 million for fiscal 2023 and $5.2 million in fiscal 2024.

The override request of $2.5 million is just like a “finger in the dike.” This is the third override request in 11 years and based on projected revenues/spending, another request is apt to pop up before fiscal 2024 unless there is a pot of gold hiding somewhere.

I believe we need some “belt” tightening. It’s always more money, perhaps we need to do with a little less. Sometimes it’s necessary to pare budgets.

When someone only gets a 1.6% increase in the Social Security or a minimal pay raise, they pare and do without some things. A municipality is no different and I wish the City Council wasn’t so quick to rubber stamp the mayor’s request. I realize the city’s more affluent citizens may carry the day when it comes to the vote, but at some point this affluence may push this small city beyond its ability to survive.

Eric Stahberg III


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115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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