By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
The Everett City Council’s Committee on the Budget wrapped up its deliberations on Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s $205.5 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2017, with a 10-1 vote of the members to accept the budget as submitted and refer it to the next meeting of the full council on June 13 for a final vote.
The unprecedented vote followed two very brief public hearings on the proposed 2017 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and budget and the budget for the 2017 water and sewer enterprise fund. Both public hearings were notable for the complete lack of public comment, as no residents or voters asked to speak either in favor of or against the proposed CIP and Water and Sewer Enterprise budget. Both were also referred to the June 13 meeting for a final vote.
The Committee on the Budget is a Committee of the Whole, which means that all members of the Council are members of the subcommittee and take part in budget hearings and deliberations.
Following the two public hearings, the Council had prepared to delve deeper into the departmental budgets by asking that all department heads be available to answer final questions about their departmental requests and needs.
However, at the outset of the meeting Councilor Rosa DiFlorio asked to have Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas appear before the Committee, where she asked him a direct question, “For the entire budget as proposed, the entire $205 million budget, how much has to be raised (in taxes)?” asked DiFlorio. “And, what does that do to the tax rate?”
Demas then told the Committee that the amount of money that has to be raised in taxes to balance the $205.5 million budget proposal is approximately $98 million, which based on current single family home values in Everett is expected to result in an average tax increase for homeowners of between $120 and $150 in FY 2017.
DiFlorio then noted that in order for the Council to meaningfully impact the tax rate in a positive way for homeowners, the Council would have to make millions of dollars of cuts in the proposed budget.
“We’d basically have to cut the entire Capital Improvement Budget and make other cuts, just to hold taxes where they were this year” said DiFlorio. “I don’t want to do that. We are finally making progress in this city and I don’t want us to go backwards.”
DiFlorio then moved to accept the entire budget as proposed, with the motion seconded by Councilor John Hanlon.
Councilor Fred Capone was the only vote against the motion to accept the budget as proposed.
Following the meeting, DiFlorio said, “If $100,000 in cuts would make a difference to the taxpayers, we would have sat here and gone through the budget and found places to make cuts, but it won’t. In order to make real cuts, we’d have shut down the city and that is too much. We’re moving forward.”