AMESBURY — The mayor is looking for an additional $2.8 million for the next operating budget.
The city has been functioning on a $66.3 million operating budget for fiscal 2021. Mayor Kassandra Gove is expected to present her recommended $69.1 million operating budget for fiscal 2022 to the City Council on Wednesday night.
The request represents $2.8 million in new spending, up 4.3% over the current operating budget, and on average would cost the owner of a single-family home an additional $281 in annual property tax.
Gove was unavailable for comment Monday but wrote an introductory letter in her budget book.
Gove stated in the letter that she has reviewed the budget line by line to make cuts where possible. The city would see a tax rate reduction from $18.25 to $18.03 per $1,000, according to the letter.
“My recommended budget reduces the department budget requests by $675,957, saving taxpayers $123 annually,” Gove wrote.
The School Committee unanimously approved a proposed $34.7 million operating budget in April — up 4% from the current $33.4 million allocation.
Gove’s budget recommendation cuts roughly $300,00 from that amount, giving the schools $34.4 million — up 2.9%.
The committee voted on Thursday to drop its request by $300,000 to match the mayor’s number.
The mayor’s proposed school district budget makes no cuts in services and prioritizes one-to-one technology, increased and enhanced communication, as well as consistent “social emotional learning.” It would restore an assistant principal at Amesbury Middle School.
The mayor’s budget adds positions in the Public Works Department, includes information technology upgrades, and provides a new human resources coordinator for the city and school district.
“It’s long past time for us, the largest employer in Amesbury, to have a formal human resources division,” Gove wrote.
Money would be included in the mayor’s proposed budget for the Office of Information Technology, with funding for computer system support jumping 110% from $98,600 to $207,114.
“Our students, teachers and city staff need better IT resources and structure in order to successfully deliver services,” Gove wrote. “To that end, we have combined the city and school IT departments into one.”
She said the increase in the computer system support budget reflects the work necessary to bring all of the city’s computer systems up to date per the recommendation of a 2020 National Guard cybersecurity review.
Equipment for additional internet technology would be funded by federal Department of Energy and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants in the city’s capital plan.
“Information technology has been stretched thin this year, as the pandemic pushed the limits of our current infrastructure and hardware,” the mayor wrote. “We were fortunate to have CARES Act money in FY21 which allowed us to start upgrading many of our systems for remote learning and working and received grants for cybersecurity training which helps us protect our community’s data and money.”
The mayor accepted a 15% pay cut last year and will continue to earn a $93,500 salary if her budget is approved.
Gove’s proposed budget also sees a shuffling of many departments and line items. For example, Animal Control has been moved under the Police Department; and the health inspector and health nurses will now report to the Inspectional Services Department.
The mayor also wrote that she intends to have the city invest close to $10 million in capital projects, such as paving and sidewalk improvements and information technology infrastructure.
“Capital will be funded by long-term borrowing, but also through grant funding and ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds,” Gove wrote. “Leveraging alternative funding is necessary to ensure that full burden of these projects is not placed on the taxpayers, while also understanding that as a city, we have to invest in ourselves.”
The City Council is expected to give the mayor’s budget recommendation a first reading Wednesday with a public hearing expected to be held June 8.
“We are doing a lot of hard work here, and I hope you can see that we are focused and driven to making Amesbury the best place we can be,” Gove wrote. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited for the direction we are heading in. As we continue forward, I hope you’ll join us.”
To see the mayor’s budget: www.amesburyma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6891/f/uploads/fy_2022_budget_book_0.pdf.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.