In an in-person meeting that was difficult for the online public to decipher, the Everett City Council voted 7-2 to approve the General Operating City Budget for this fiscal year on Weds., Sept. 30.
The Council voted 7-2 in their City Budget meeting on Sept. 30 to approve the $202,615,099 operating budget, which comes late due to COVID-19 concerns. City leaders had been using an month-by-month budget since July, but had to pass a permanent budget in October. Councilors Fred Capone and Gerly Adrien voted against the City Budget.
Those voting for the City Budget were Councilors John Hanlon, Jimmy Tri Le, Peter Napolitano, Anthony DiPierro, Michael McLaughlin, Stephanie Martins, and Michael Marchese.
One of the hallmarks of the meeting was the desire of the public to participate, but the inability of anyone to hear what was being said or follow what was going on due to the Council being in-person, but the meetings online.
“I think you should fix the sound so constituents can be part of your process,” said one resident, whose name could not be heard completely.
Aside from one gentleman on Ferry Street who was upset by his neighbor keeping the grass too high, most of those that called in wanted to discuss the priorities of the budget – particularly calling for more investment in social services and less investment in the Police Department.
Several constituent – though it couldn’t entirely be heard well enough to quote – said the long lines at the Food Pantry demanded more investment in Social Services. Some of the others wanted that money for such services to be shifted from Police Department salaries to those humanitarian efforts.
One man named Edwin from Jefferson Avenue spoke for more than five minutes on the topic, but what he said could not be heard in total.
However, those requests and comments came too late as the Council had a thorough review of the City Budget – line by line – on a Saturday in September, a marathon session of many hours. By the time the hearing on Sept. 30 came around, the Council could not remove any line items. Even so, the Council is restricted by Charter from shifting any monies within the Budget – which comes to them from Mayor Carlo DeMaria. They can only make cuts, and cannot make additions. That is the case in most municipalities, including Boston. However, in Boston there is a move afoot to put a question on the 2021 City Ballot to change the charter in a way that allows their Council to make more changes to the City Budget. That could be duplicated in Everett, were it brought forward.
Councilor DiPierro sympathized with the many callers who expressed a desire to shift monies to social services, but explained the Council didn’t have that power.
“I certainly appreciate the many residents that called in to make their voices heard, but unfortunately we can’t change the line items and we can’t reallocate funds. I understand some might be frustrated, but all we can do is look at what’s given to us and cut it or not. If there are residents that want to get more involved in the budget process, I suggest they get in touch with the mayor’s office going forward. At this point, what is given to us is what it is, unless we cut it.”
With that, he called the question and the 7-2 vote transpired.
The second piece of the hearing was the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which is vastly smaller than in a normal, non-COVID year. The $18,453,000 CIP Budget was approved also by a 7-2 vote, with Councilors Adrien and Capone voting against.
The Water and Sewer Enterprise Budget of $20,922,321 – which is fully funded by ratepayers in the city – was approved by a vote of 8-1, with Councilor Adrien voting against.
The final vote came for the ECTV Budget of $505,416, and it was the closest vote of the night at 6-3. Those voting against were Councilors Capone, Marchese and McLaughlin.