EASTHAMPTON — In a lengthy four-hour meeting, the Easthampton City Council passed the fiscal year 2025 budget and 17 supplemental appropriations at its June 5 meeting.

Totaling just over $55 million, the budget, which begins on July 1, includes $20.7 million for the school department, $8.5 million for public safety and $3.6 million for general government.

Councilor Thomas Peake, chair of the Finance Committee, noted that none of the budget sections had any significant changes from the FY24 budget. Many had operational and contractual salary negotiations. He called it a “thoughtful budget” and explained that the city is probably entering a time of uncertainty as federal funds during the COVID-19 pandemic will be ending.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle shared her happiness with the budget, noting that nobody lost a job, everyone got a raise and the employees continue to have good benefits like great health care.

“We’ve right-sized the budget,” said LaChappelle.

Nick Bernier, director of business services for Easthampton schools, explained that the school budget had increased nearly 10% from the previous year. One of the reasons for the increase was the absorption of about seven positions that ESSER monies had previously funded, but those were ending. He also noted that although enrollment has decreased the needs of students continue to increase and the district expects those needs to continue for the next several years. Another large item of the budget is special education transportation which continues to increase.

Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti noted that his department’s budget reflected a fully staffed department and called the budget itself “very conservative.”

The culture and recreation portion of the budget, which includes the library and parks department, received $772,700. This reflects a 10% increase for the library, which comes on the heels of a 10% increase last year. The mayor explained that she will continue to ask for that increase until the library is adequately funded.

The council approved $834,321 for human services, which includes the board of health, council on aging and veterans services.

Employee benefits, which includes health and dental insurance and retirement benefits for all city employees, received a $11.4 million budget. This reflects a roughly 8% increase in health insurance costs.

Supplemental appropriations

After the passing of the entire budget, the council turned its attention to a slew of supplemental appropriations for many different areas of the city.

The council appropriated $20,000 for veterans services now that the role has moved from district-based back to the city and has also seen an increase from 25 to 34 hours weekly.

For a homeland security grant match, the fire department will receive $287,000 for a new brush truck, self-sustained breathing apparatuses and a filling station for those.

The city will use $60,642 for maintenance at the three schools that closed when Mountainview School opened and at the Town Lodging House.

The City Council also appropriated $37, 541 for COVID-19 vaccines and $120,581 for vehicles bought to help deliver meals during the coronavirus pandemic. Both were purchased with COVID-19 funds but then the guidelines changed and the money had to be paid back.

The council also established an account for the city’s opioid settlement money and deposited $59,520.71 into it.
Per the settlements, this money can only be used for front-line support for those struggling with opioids.

Tina Lesniak
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