By Barbara Taormina
The City Council Ways and Means Subcommittee began a long, deep dive into the 2024 budget proposal at their meeting Monday night. City CFO Richard Viscay came armed with a PowerPoint presentation and slews of facts and figures. He gave the committee an overview of the $262 million budget plan, which he described as responsible and balanced. A handful of city department heads also presented individual reports of their department budgets.
Viscay buzzed through a series of slides showing millions of dollars of appropriations. He started with the big numbers: $49.2 million for city departments and services; $124 million for schools, which includes Revere’s share of the costs for Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School. Fixed costs, which include employee health insurance, pension obligations and debt service, were listed as $53.2 million, and water and sewer costs – covered by ratepayers – were $35.6 million.
Viscay also showed slides that explained the city’s revenue. An estimated $112.7 million is expected from property tax payments. Local receipts include excise taxes and taxes on hotel rooms and meals. State aid, aka Cherry Sheet revenue, is $114 million with $98 million going exclusively toward education. Another $12.2 million in state aid is for general unrestricted government use.
Viscay hit on some key factors affecting next year’s budget. In addition to hiring 11 new firefighters, which brings the total force to 119, the city plans to hire five new police officers, which increases the department to a total of 115 officers. The travel and tourism department has been merged back into the parks and recreation department, while the building commissioner and city inspectors have been branched off into a unique and separate department. Viscay also noted that the city’s health insurance costs have increased six percent since last year and the property and casualty insurance bill is up nine percent but now includes costly new cyber insurance.
Viscay stressed that no other money from grants or federal aid programs has been worked in to balance the budget. He described the budget proposal as “vanilla,” with no big new initiatives, or hot-topic spending. He suggested that as residents mull over who should be the next mayor, the goal is a level-funded budget that keeps things moving. It will be up to the new mayor to provide some direction for the new high school or other major projects.
Committee members had the chance to ask questions to City Solicitor Paul Capizzi about the legal department. Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito asked about a more than $500,000 line item for legal services. “It’s an enormous jump,” said Morabito. “What you want for your department in settlement fees is so much more than the mayor recommended.”
Capizzi said the money needed for legal settlements was impossible to predict and he asked for a large amount just in case it was needed.
Election Commissioner Paul Fahey explained a few differences in his budget due to state mandates for early and mail-in voting. The three upcoming elections, which include the Presidential primary in the spring, are the major reasons for the increase in that department’s budget.
The committee had few questions or comments until City Clerk Ashley Melnick presented her department’s level-funded budget. Committee members took the opportunity to praise Melnick. Calling her the greatest city clerk in the state, they thanked her for her support, assistance, guidance and expertise.