Northampton mayor seeks override vote on November ballot

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, right, walks March 17, 2019 in the 68th annual St. Patrick's Parade in Holyoke.

  • Northampton City Hall, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2019 11:03:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz said he will campaign for a property tax override on the Nov. 5 election ballot to establish a new fiscal stability plan for the city.

While he wouldn’t give a firm number for the override, the mayor told the Gazette Thursday that it would be for at least $2.5 million.

Narkewicz delivered his annual budget message and fiscal year 2020 spending plan to the City Council at its Thursday meeting. In an interview earlier in the day, the mayor said he has been reminding people for years that the city’s current financial plan is finite.

“This is not coming out of left field,” Narkewicz said.

The proposed fiscal 2020 budget is $116.8 million, comprising a $100.5 million general fund, and more than $16 million in water, sewer, stormwater and flood control, and solid waste enterprise funds. The proposed budget is a 4.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget, which ends June 30.

In his budget message, Narkewicz went through the history of the city’s current fiscal stability plan funded with the help of a $2.5 million property tax override in 2013 that he championed.

The override created a stabilization fund that was supposed to last for four years, after which another override or budget reductions would be required to balance a budget in fiscal year 2018. Instead, fiscal year 2019 was the first year the city had to tap into the fund to cover a deficit in the budget.

In the new fiscal year that begins July 1, the city tap the stabilization fund to the tune of $775,874, according to the mayor’s proposed budget. While this will leave $1.88 million in the fund, the following fiscal year is projected to require all of it, after which the city would still face an $838,589 budget shortfall, according to the mayor’s budget projections.

The budget also accounts for revenues generated by the city’s recreational marijuana industry. In building next year’s proposed budget, the mayor said a “conservative revenue estimate” of $1.2 million in recreational marijuana excise tax revenue for the city was used.

Narkewicz said this figure was projected from the revenue the city already has received in the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget also contains a $1,339,782 increase over the current appropriation for Northampton Public Schools. This is $301,137 more than the figure the School Committee approved in April. Narkewicz told the council that this 4.5 percent increase would be the largest percentage increase in six years to the schools and that it is intended to support the new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated with the school employees.

The mayor said in an interview that if the City Council approves the budget, the School Committee would have to pass the school budget again.

The mayor said he will submit a new four-year fiscal stability plan that would be funded by a successful override after more information, such as additional recreational marijuana numbers and state education funding policy, has come into focus.

“Please know,” Narkewicz said at Thursday’s council meeting, “that I do not take this step of proposing another override lightly and have worked day and night with our financial team, department heads, employees, and the City Council to forestall it for as long as possible.”

On his call for an override in the November election instead of next year, the mayor said it would give more time to build the budget around the result, and give people a good amount of notice prior to the vote. He also said that it would save the city the expense of holding another election. Nov. 5 is the date for city elections in Northampton in 2019.

“It’s a time when we make decisions about our government,” Narkewicz told the Gazette.

The 2013 override vote was held on June 25, and the city passed a budget with cuts to city services prior to the vote in case the override failed.

City Council President Ryan O’Donnell said public hearings on the proposed budget will be held June 5 and 6.

Staff writer Greta Jochem contributed to this report.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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