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Cathy Buono, the city’s Chief Administrative and Financial Officer answers questions posed by Councilors prior to City Council approval of the FY25 budget on May 28 at Springfield City Hall.
Photo credit: FocusSpringfield

SPRINGFIELD — With some trimming by the City Council, a slightly leaner $928 million budget for fiscal year 2025 was passed unanimously at the May 28 meeting by the 11 members in attendance.

In response to the original budget, council members took $750,000 away by cutting 17 funded, but currently vacant, city positions, in response to a nearly 6% proposed increase from the FY24 budget.

In opening remarks presenting his budget proposal, Mayor Domenic Sarno made note of the city’s recovery and resiliency, marking 13 years since a powerful EF3 tornado struck the city and surrounding areas, leaving destruction in its path.

“This is the 10th consecutive year that the budget has been balanced without the use of reserves,” he said, recognizing other nearby municipalities and schools in the state who have and still are cutting staff and services.

“This budget that I offer to you for your consideration; sufficient, effective, strategic and compassionate,” Sarno told council members. “We’ve come from the brink of bankruptcy to the highest bond ratings in the city’s history.”

Sarno also identified 68% of the $928.7 million proposed as directed for schools and 82% of the total as non-discretionary. He also spoke of the impact of the two “budget busters,” $43 million in school busing and transportation, and $67 million in pension liability, which he said amounted to a 2.5% influence.

Among items highlighted in his presentation were a fully funded Code Enforcement Department, 500 units in increased housing and full, universal pre-K throughout the school system, the first city in the commonwealth to offer as much.

In reserve spending, Sarno said that while nearly 8% of the overall budget is dedicated to rainy day funds, that number makes up almost 23% on the city’s end.

City Councilor Timothy Allen thanked Sarno and his administration for their work on the budget proposal, the continuation of city services, while also acknowledging the council’s responsibility for fiscal oversight and their efforts to adequately respond to the needs of the city and the taxpayers.

“How do you make the budget better?” he said. “Nobody wants to lay anybody off, how do you find a place to maybe make it better without impacting any of the services, any of the people?”

Allen read from a memo sent to the council by Cathy Buono, the city’s chief administrative and financial officer, identifying 17 vacant positions that would not be filled in FY25, estimating a surplus of $750,000, which could be committed to tax levy relief. Allen then offered his support for that reduction in the budget.

In response to City Councilor Brian Santaniello’s question as to which jobs would be impacted, Buono said those positions had not yet been recognized.

“It’s going to be the finance team that’s going to identify jobs with the department heads and I made a commitment to the mayor and Councilor Allen that on a monthly basis I will be meeting with department heads and their finance staff.”

Buono also acknowledged the potential for job sharing or outsourcing as they review their options.

City Councilor Zaida Govan spoke to concerns of yearly budget increases, calling it, “not sustainable” as city residents have come to past meetings detailing their struggles to pay rising property taxes.

“This increase, we can’t continue to sustain it,” she said.

Discussions of areas to provide tax relief to vulnerable community members dominated the remainder of the meeting prior to the council vote of 11-0 approving the amended budget.

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