The city is facing a moment of truth as Mayor Judith Flanagan-Kennedy is making every effort to avoid layoffs during a budget season when there is less money around than last year.
The raecession and everything else affecting the local economy has caused the mayor to strip away whatever she can in order to put off what many consider as inevitable – municipal employee layoffs and a cut in the amount of money – either that – or a costly raising of the property tax to maintain the status quo.
This is Flanagan-Kennedy’s first budget as the city’s mayor.
She faced a nearly $4 million deficit or spending gap – the difference between what the city has on hand and will raise and what it needs to spend to maintain city services untouched.
So far, she has cut almost $2 million on a variety of city expenses.
She has also cut police and fire budgets by less than 2% each.
The budget presently stands at approximately $240 million.
“I’ve cut $100,000 from the mayor’s budget alone,” she said recently.
According to the mayor, the city now faces a choice.
“There can be municipal furloughs or layoffs,” she said.
Although most people believe municipal employees will do almost anything to avert layoffs, there is a harsh reality to the concept of furloughs.
For instance, the Lynn Teachers Union said last week in a press release that it is not in favor of using furlough days to balance the city budget.
With the new spending year for the city beginning July 1, all eyes are on the city council’s budget hearing in June and the succession of meetings that will be held to finalize the city budget.
Perhaps the most significant line item in the city budget in need of review is the amount the city pays for municipal health care insurance.
It is a line item that has increased more than $6 million in the past three years – and with no end in sight.
Unless municipal unions begin negotiating the bloated health insurance payments and agree to make a larger contribution, then the city will be faced with the necessity of reducing the money it contributes to sustain the health insurance.
The mayor has worked hard to cut away money paid to outside consultants and for out of state travel and stationary.
However, with the state sending 4% less than it sent last year and with the a tremendous rise in the cost for city paid for health insurance, there is quite a way to go.