- Close Jackson St & make it the new DPW building, then maybe create more ball fields at the Locust St location.
- Every city building that is capable to handle the adjustment should have solar panels installed.
- I know Smith College is non-profit, but are there any buildings that they own that could be taxed?
- Smith gave a generous 1-time gift to close last year's school budget gap, but as an economically viable institution, could they do more to support Northampton's schools on a more regular basis?
- Could a certain number of days of work without pay mean savings for one department's portion of the budget gap?
- Teachers might consider unpaid days if it kept classes smaller, maybe coordinated with half-days; for ex. unpaid half-days to prepare or conference without students.
- Encourage people to consolidate healthcare within families; i.e. not be using two plans with two employers.
- Can any city office functions be transferred from stand-alone buildings (which could then be closed) to schools where there might be a free classroom?
- Eliminate street sweeping and roadside mowing this year and put them back when they can. Eliminate roadside shade tree trimming
- Is there any wiggle room at the local level for increasing individual and family health insurance deductibles?
- All arts programs should be cut to zero this year, and be put back when we can.
- Perhaps pension fund contributions should be put on hold for current city employees for a while.
- Double the trash fee for most people, except seniors and those who receive free/reduced lunch.
- No new police station for the foreseeable future.
- Can we put acquisition of conservation land on hold for a couple of years and use those funds for more immediate needs?
Close Jackson St & make it the new DPW building, then maybe create more ball fields at the Locust St location.
Making the best use of all city buildings is an absolute priority. One thing that would require a great deal more consideration in this proposal is, of course, whether it would be an actual cost savings. Moving the DPW to a Jackson St location would mean more than just moving trucks and personnel. The city's refueling station is located on Locust St., and moving the DPW would mean moving underground tanks from one place and placing new refueling tanks in a new place. The refueling station services all of the city's vehicles - DPW trucks and equipment as well as Police and Fire vehicles. Certainly the safety of the ground soil, after holding fuel tanks for so long, would need to be stringently tested before recreational fields would be relocated there..
Additionally, the proximity of DPW to the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School has led to an important relationship between the city and the Automotive Shop which has been mutually beneficial.
There are also legal considerations that would take time to accomplish. If Jackson Street School were closed, the School Committee would have to make a determination that the building was not and would not be needed and then begin the steps to surplus the building before the city could begin the process of taking control of the building to use for another purpose. There would need to be sufficient time for public input for those important decisions.
It is absolutely part of the city's long-term plans to make changes that improve energy efficiency in our buildings and reduce our energy costs over the long haul. We now have solar panels on the High School and the Middle School. We have used funds from grants and from the Green Up program and not used taxpayer funds for these projects. We are always looking out for additional grant assistance. There is sometimes federal help available, but it still requires the city to lay out a significant sum of money to complete the job, as well. (you can also check out this page on the city website - http://www.northamptonma.gov/energyresources/ - to see what steps we have taken so far.)
Yes, in fact Smith College is the city's largest property tax payer. The college pays taxes on all the properties it owns which are not used for educational purposes, pursuant to the laws governing non-profit institutions. Also, the college agreed to pay the city a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for all of the residential properties it had purchased and took down to make room for the new engineering building. That building is an educational use of land, and therefore exempt from property tax, but the college agreed to continue paying taxes, which will increase on the property at the rate of the average tax increase in the city overall.
Smith gave a generous 1-time gift to close last year's school budget gap, but as an economically viable institution, could they do more to support Northampton's schools on a more regular basis?
Smith College makes many direct and indirect donations to the city and the Northampton public schools. In addition to being the largest property tax payer, the College is a location to many field trips each year; student teachers serve in our schools and their host teachers are allowed to take a Smith College course free of charge. There is tuition reduction for young women from Northampton attending Smith College. They offer classes to High School students, host city events in their buildings, and co-sponsor the Smith-Northampton Summer School. A full list of the college's in-kind and cash contributions may be found here: http://www.smith.edu/fornorthampton.php. It is also worth noting that recent news articles indicate that the college has felt the hit of the worsening economy. The College is reportedly looking at cutting $30 million from its own budget next year (Boston Globe 1/8/09).
Could a certain number of days of work without pay mean savings for one department's portion of the budget gap?
This suggestion, a furlough, would require the city's labor unions to agree to it in bargaining, and unfortunately would just push the problem down the road a little way, as we would need to find a way to replace that funding in FY2011. There is also no fair way to implement it citywide, as our public safety departments are not able to furlough employees with their 24/7/365 responsibilities.
Teachers might consider unpaid days if it kept classes smaller, maybe coordinated with half-days; for ex. unpaid half-days to prepare or conference without students.
Once again, furloughs of any type would need to be bargained with the city's labor unions, and put us in a negative position to begin budget planning for FY2011. Moreover, consider the challenge of asking some employees in the building (teachers) to work some number of days with no pay while on the same day other employees in the same building (clericals, custodians) are not. That kind of situation could be terrible for morale at a time when challenges are already high. And practically speaking, the savings from such small, targeted furloughs in the targeted year are minimal compared to the budget gap.
Encourage people to consolidate healthcare within families; i.e. not be using two plans with two employers.
Most families do make this kind of calculation on their own, and do find that carrying a single Family Plan makes more sense than each partner carrying an Individual Health Plan. Depending on where the other partner works, of course, it is just as likely as the employee would choose the city's plan as it would be to choose their partner's plan.
Can any city office functions be transferred from stand-alone buildings (which could then be closed) to schools where there might be a free classroom?
We are indeed looking at consolidating city functions, but it might not necessarily lead to the possibility of any building being closed. Most city office buildings are home to multiple departments. By shifting functions we have been able to combine some departments (as we did in combining the City Clerk and Registrar of Voters office several years ago). If the School District recommends closing one of our elementary schools, that building might then be mothballed, at least for the time being.
Eliminate street sweeping and roadside mowing this year and put them back when they can. Eliminate roadside shade tree trimming
Is there any wiggle room at the local level for increasing individual and family health insurance deductibles?
The City is receiving bids on several health insurance plans for FY2010 (the insurance is re-bid annually). The Mayor and the citywide Insurance Advisory Committee are looking at all the bids in terms of increase in premium and services provided. It may be the case that one plan or another will have a different level of deductible for a different cost, and the IAC will have to decide what plan is best on balance for the city and its employees. The Mayor has asked all the city's labor unions to open negotiations to discuss the possibility of employees paying a larger percentage share of their health insurance.
Culture and Recreation accounts for only 3% of our annual city spending. For FY2010, our arts-related appropriations will be taking the same cuts as other city departments. The Mayor has asked them to bring in a budget request with a 12% reduction. The Northampton Arts Council received from the City of Northampton only $37,141 for the entire year (a 5% decrease from the year before). Most of the Arts Council funding comes from the programming they produce (with the help of their volunteer board) and the Massachusetts Cultural Council grant. Expect the appropriation for Arts Council to be reduced but not eliminated. In times of great economic insecurity, communities need art and artists need support.
The law does not allow us to do this. We must fund employee pensions.
All departments who charge fees for services will look at their fee structures this year. However, it is important to note that the Trash Fee goes into the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, and not into the General Fund, so would not reduce the budget gap for FY2010
The city has so far done design work on the proposed new Police Station, which everyone agrees is sorely needed, but we have not yet committed any funds to construction. The Mayor and the Building Committee are keeping vigilant to see if there would be any alternative funding sources available that would allow the project to move forward.
Can we put acquisition of conservation land on hold for a couple of years and use those funds for more immediate needs?
We don’t actually use any general fund monies for land acquisition. Funds come from five sources:
1. CPA funds—these are taxpayer funds, but can only be used for open space, recreation, historic preservation and affordable housing.
2. Capital Improvement funds—these are also taxpayer funds, but we ONLY get these funds to purchase tax title land so that every penny comes immediately back to the city and has a net cost to the city of $0.
3. Grant funds (federal, state, foundation)—Outside funds that we wouldn’t get but for our preservation of land.
4. Donations—All voluntary donations from people who want to preserve land.
5. Limited Development projects—projects where land is being protected with a building lot or two carved out, and the proceeds from the lot helps supplement the above four sources.
Until a few years ago we did sometimes get general fund monies for land acquisition, but that ended with the last fiscal crisis and the passage of the CPA.