By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
Lynn Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron informed the Council Ways and means Committee this week that the city’s FY 2017 budget, which just began on July 1, is already projected to be $4.2 million in deficit, without additional appropriation or budget cuts.
However, when asked after the meeting how the city could be in such a bug hole less than two months into the fiscal year, he expounded on the point.
“The original budget was out of balance,” stated Caron. “The only way to close the budget deficit was to reduce personnel and Mayor Kennedy took the position that she was not going to layoff staff, especially in the area of public safety.”
According to Caron, the deficit actually has little if anything to do with the recent police union contract that was signed earlier this month. Rather, the city’s projected deficits go back to the net school spending issue and the city’s need to reallocate resources to the school department to meet state spending thresholds for education.
“We’ve actually been able to close larger deficits the last several years by using free cash and reserves,” said Caron.
Questioned about changes in police staffing that were also announced this week by Chief Kevin Coppinger, Caron noted that the changes amount to a reallocation of personnel, rather than a reduction in current manpower.
“There are actually several unfilled positions currently in the police department,” said Caron.
By closing down special units and task forces, as announced by Coppinger, the Chief will be able to fully staff patrols in the city without having to hire more officers or pay as much in police overtime, two items that could be budget killers for the department.
The units being proposed for closure include the Warrant Task Force, Traffic Safety Unit and Community Liaison Team. Combined the three units include 12 officers who can be reassigned to patrol shifts.
Caron also noted that there may be other options, such as adoption of the local option meals tax and revenues that could be generated by the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, which could be used later in the year tom help close the gap.