Dennis Bidwell: It's time to approve the mayor's budget

Northampton High School students

Northampton High School students STAFF FILE PHOTO

Published: 06-19-2024 5:15 PM

I watched the special meeting of the City Council on June 17, eager to hear Councilor Quaverly Rothenberg’s promised plan for addressing the city’s looming budget deficit without cutting positions in the School Department and without requiring a budget override. Instead, what was presented were aspirational thoughts on a revised process for budget preparation and review in the future, and hints of a possible use of more one-time revenues that would only dig our fiscal hole deeper. I heard absolutely nothing from the Ward 3 councilor that addresses the current gap between the School Committee’s spending requests and revenues available to support them. Nor did I hear any specifics about ways in future years to deal with the deficits that will be a structural inevitability based on the realities of costs exceeding Proposition 2½’s limits on revenue growth.

The only plan I’ve seen that deals with the pressing need to have a budget for fiscal year 2025 in place by July 1 and that addresses future needs is the plan carefully crafted by the mayor — a budget and override proposal that deal with our fiscal reality rather than wishing it away. When the mayor’s budget was scheduled for a first vote on June 6, two councilors used a procedural maneuver to postpone that vote, leaving the council precious little time to approve a budget. And every day that is lost in approving a budget is another day of uncertainty for teachers who, having received “pink slips” based on a worst case scenario of layoffs, have begun searching for jobs elsewhere. I have worked closely with our mayor and her staff, and trust their numbers. These are sound numbers that add up. Numbers based on uncomfortable financial realities. I urge the City Council to approve without further delay the mayor’s budget and the proposal to place a $3 million override on the November ballot. Dennis BidwellBidwell served as the Ward 2 City Councilor from 2016 to 2020.

Dennis Bidwell

Former Northampton Ward 2 city councilor (2016-2020)

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