By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
One week after City Council members voted 10-1 to forward the fiscal year 2017 budget proposal of $173,774,839 to the full body “as presented”, the same Councilors voted just 7-4 on Monday night in favor of passing that budget.
Unfortunately, that created some confusion as to whether the budget had indeed passed, as some members felt that all votes on appropriations need a two-thirds majority, or eight votes, in order to be passed.
However, on Tuesday morning City Clerk Michael Matarazzo clarified the matter, stating
“The budget did indeed pass last evening 7-4. A two-thirds vote is not required,” said Matarazzo.
According to the Clerk, Section 2-6 of the City Charter, does require 8 affirmative votes to pass an appropriation, but also states “Except as otherwise provided by general law.”
Matarazzo also noted that Massachusetts General Law Chapter 44 section 32 clearly states in paragraph seven, “The city council may by majority vote make appropriations for the purposes recommended and may reduce or reject any amount recommended in the annual budget.”
There are no other restrictions in the Everett Charter regarding the passage of the budget.
The budget impasse began when Councilor Fred Capone asked his colleagues if they would entertain several budget amendments, before voting on the final budget. His fellow councilors then voted to allow him to make his recommendations line by line and he made his first pair of amendments, which if they had passed would have cut a total of $215,000 out of the proposed $173.7 million budget.
The first amendment was to eliminate a new position of grant writer, which was funded in the budget at $65,000./ That amendment failed 4-7. Capone’s next motion was to cut a $100,000 line item for marketing the city to developers and new businesses and also to pare back the city’s request for the celebrations line item from $135,000 to $85,000, saving the city a combined $150,000.
Debate on that amendment stalled, as the Councilors began arguing about the value of the cut to taxpayers.
Capone made an impassioned plea when he told his colleagues, “the bottom line is that it is not our money, it is the taxpayers money and we have a solemn obligation to respect that.”
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio argued that in order to impact the tax rate in a way that tax payers would feel it, the council would need to cut $4 to $5 million from the budget, an assertion that was supported by testimony from City Auditor Eric Demas.
“If we’re going to just sit up here and cut $250,000 like we normally do, it is not going tom affect (the taxpayer) at all,” said DiFlorio.
Capone’s second set of recommendations was then split into two recommendations. The $100,000 cut for marketing failed by a vote of 5-6 and the $50,000 cut to the celebrations account failed 4-7.
Councilor Anthony DiPierro then moved to accept the budget as presented and Councilor Michael Mangan moved to end debate.
DiPierro noted that the FY 2017 budget had been debated and researched in committee for four weeks and that his fellow councilors had ample opportunity to make recommendations for cuts in committee, but none had done so.
“If we’re just going to open the entire budget up again and go through it line by line tonight, then what is the value of our committee structure,” asked DiPierro.
By Charter both motions require a two-thirds majority, or eight votes, to succeed but both motions received only 7-4 majority votes. However, the Council ended the discussion about the budget, and now according to the Clerk the FY 2017b budget is passed.