At the most recent Finance Committee Meeting a question arose regarding the best way for the City to budget and account for appropriations made in anticipation of settling collective bargaining agreements. An idea was proposed to eliminate the Mayor’s reserve fund, the account that is currently earmarked for use when collective bargaining the City’s union contracts, and instead establish a stabilization fund as a way to appropriate projections for contractual negotiations. The reason stated was the need for more transparency and more City Council involvement in the collective bargaining for contracts.
While I appreciate and agree with the need for transparency in City business, I want to explain why my administration and I disagree with the proposal. The current method, which has been utilized by several prior administrations, gives the Mayor, as the chief executive officer of the City, the necessary ability and funds to properly negotiate with the City’s unions. It is the Mayor’s right and responsibility to effectively negotiate all City contracts. Having funding available in a reserve fund is more efficient, since it requires a simple majority vote from City Council to make a transfer. With the alternate option of a stabilization fund, any transfer would require a 2/3 vote, a scenario that could delay or inhibit contract settlement.
In terms of transparency, the current system is crystal clear. During the budget process, a dollar amount is forecasted, approved by the City Council, and set aside for negotiations in the reserve fund. The City Council votes on this forecast, and then subsequently votes on all transfers to necessary departments once negotiation settlements are made. This year, my administration even provided a log to the City Council of all items and transfers made from the reserve fund, with the promised intention of ultimate transparency.
Another complication of a stabilization fund lies in the fact that funding allotted to a stabilization account can be repurposed by a 2/3 City Council vote. I do not find this is the best interest of the City. Keeping the funds in a reserve account provides the safeguard that money deemed for use in contract negotiations will be used for just that.
It is my responsibility as Mayor to make sure that these funds are secure and readily available for collective bargaining. The current method has been successfully used for many administrations, giving the Mayor and his team the ability to securely and effectively negotiate, as well as keeping the City Council informed and involved. With no real major benefit, I do not see enough cause for the change.
Carlo DeMaria, Jr. is the Mayor of Everett.