Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia presents his state of the city address inside Holyoke City Hall on May 9.
Photo credit: Holyoke Media.

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia presented his proposed fiscal year 2025 city budget during his State of the City address on May 9 and also spoke about his hopes to work with the city to make a lasting impact for the city of Holyoke during his tenure.

“In reality, the heart and soul of any community is its people. Folks you might not read about in the textbooks, or only once in a while in the papers. Here in Holyoke, we’re blessed day in and day out, by citizens who are just trying to do the right thing,” Garcia said. “So, it is my hope that when future generations recall this moment in our history, they will see that we were a determined, decent people. That we faced challenges but were not defined by them. That whenever we were knocked down, we got right back up.”

Garcia added he was proud to report the city has strengthened its finical position in the last year and the city has kicked off a comprehensive master planning process to guide the city for the next 25 years.

“The budget is balanced. City services are being delivered. The state of the city is strong,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s initial proposed budget in full is $172.32 million, divided between $76.15 million for the city side and a $96.14 million proposal for the schools.

“Our local economy keeps getting stronger. Our schools are on their way back into local hands. Our budget is in surplus for a third straight year,” Garcia said.

Notable budget items include a reduction in the city’s debt, salary increases for staff and the addition of a chief financial administrative officer for the mayor’s office and crime analyst for the city. Garcia also asked the council through his address to place on the ballot the question of making the treasurer a position appointed by the City Council.

“These recommendations are not new and are part of my efforts to strengthen financial controls across all departments,” Garcia added.

Garcia said he anticipates moderate growth in local revenues and that the city would have a better understanding of revenue growth as the current fiscal year comes to a close next month. The proposed budget for 2025 began undergoing adjustments during a May 16 budget hearing by the City Council, the first of three — two more scheduled May 28 and 29 — where the council can cut from the mayor’s budget but cannot add to it.
The city will provide salary increases under negotiated union contracts, a 2% cost of living adjustment, as well as increases for non-union employees, health insurance, school transportation, leases and a 13% rise in local contributions to the School Department.

Garcia said the certification of free cash by the state Department of Revenue is pending but once it was certified, he plans to propose strategic investments to the City Council, aiming to allocate funds for capital improvements and reserve accounts, as well as one-time expenditures.

Garcia added this budget is not dependent on ARPA revenue replacement and does not propose a Proposition 2½ override or any reduction in services and has a small surplus.

“Across every important metric, Holyoke is solidly and decisively moving in the right direction,” Garcia said. “Our local economy keeps getting stronger. Our schools are on their way back into local hands. Our budget is in surplus for a third straight year, and we didn’t need to use any reserves, free cash or ARPA revenue replacement.”

Garcia also took time to shine a light on the growth in investments made in Holyoke, citing new industries like Sublime Systems and Clean Crop Technologies that have made their way to the city to build their business and help change the city into a leader into a greener future.

“This is a sign of a healthy community: new industries setting up shop here because they know they can succeed here,” Garcia said. “There is still more to come, we’re showing that America’s economic future is now happening in Holyoke.”

Garcia also spoke favorably about the important strides made by the city in developing quality housing.
During Garcia’s tenure as mayor, over 100 new units have been developed and he said he is looking forward to another 100 more in the years ahead.

Garcia also noted big projects like the new middle school and the future state-of-the-art sports complex and new home to the Volleyball Hall of Fame are both “poised to do wonders for the local economy.”

The full proposed budget can be viewed on the city’s website and the entire state of the city address is available on the Holyoke Media YouTube channel.

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