Council Discusses Taxes:Budget Shortfall May Lead to Lay-Offs,Override

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

The Lynn City Council met for close to two hours Tuesday night with Lynn Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron, in an effort to get a handle on the depth and breadth of the city’s financial challenges, as the city prepares to set the 2017 tax rate and deal with a budget shortfall of more than $8 million.

The end result of the meeting is that the city will seek approval from the state to issue preliminary tax bills to property owners before the end of the calendar year, while discussions about cost cutting in city departments and a possible Proposition 2 ½ override are further investigated.

“There’s a storm on the horizon and I’m very unhappy with what is coming down the road,” said Ward One Councilor Wayne Lozzi, referring to recent talk from the administration about the possible need for an override. “The buck has to stop somewhere and what I haven’t heard are the steps that are being taken to save money now.”

Lozzi and his fellow councilors were distressed to learn that a $7.5 million shortfall in school spending, which was announced earlier this year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), coupled with a recently negotiated wage increase for Lynn police and on-going negotiations with the city’s Fire union are just some of the costs that are causing stress on the city’s budget.

Without finding some way to raise new revenues, the city will be forced to consider laying off employees in the police, fire and public works departments, an option that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has opposed since taking office in 2010.

For now, Caron told the Council that the request to send preliminary tax bills before the end of the year can buy the city time to consider other options, such as implementing a local option meals tax at local restaurants or raising fees in the Inspectional Services Department. The meals tax proposal alone could net the city an additional $600,000 per year.

A second meeting on the city’s property tax rate will be held in December.

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