Lynn City Council Approves $319.5 Million Budget

Following two public hearing where various department heads offered testimony on Mayor Thomas McGee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 city budget the Lynn City Council on Thursday voted to approve the $319.5 million budget.

McGee said while the FY19 budget isn’t ‘idea’ it will start Lynn down the road to financial security and economic growth.

The balanced FY19 budget includes an $847,564 in reserves, fully funds the city’s net school spending requirement for education. The approved budget correctly budgets the City’s  share of health insurance costs based on projected 100 percent utilization at a cost of $47.3 million.

The FY19 budget includes the addition of essential financial and public safety staff, specifically, the city’s first fulltime Chief Financial Officer, twenty new firefighters pending the awarding of a federal grant, and ten new police officers.

Again, McGee said to close the city’s growing fiscal crisis the city will borrow $9.5 million to close the FY 2018 budget gap and will borrow another $4 million for FY 2019. Back in February the Council voted in favor of a home rule petition that will allow the city to borrow up to $14 million from the Department of Revenue to close the city’s $8.1 million budget gap. The home rule petition that passed and was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker also raised some fees on residents and lifted a restriction that requires voter approval before the city can borrow more than $4 million.

“Obviously bonding is not the ideal situation to address operating expenses, but we were faced with a problem that needed to be solved immediately for the sake of the city,” said McGee. “We came to the conclusion that legislation was the best and only option.”

The city will add ten new officers plus an additional nine through a federal COPS grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. This will strengthen Lynn’s police force to 183 officers, just 10 shy of Lynn’s police force size back in the 1990s. Having 193 officers would be the ‘optimal’ number of officers for a city of Lynn’s size.

The budget includes a $300,000 increase for the city’s snow removal and ice budget for Public Works (DPW) and will allow the Department of Public Works to hire one more full time employee.

The budget also allows the city to hire a full time Chief Financial Officer to replace CFO Peter Caron, who is retiring. McGee said hiring a full time CFO will put Lynn in a better position to start getting a handle on its finances, plan for the future and become more financially stable.

The budget has allotted between $155,000 to $165,000 per year for the new CFO position.

Also on Thursday, the Lynn School Committee, which McGee chairs as mayor, approved a $147.2 million budget.

For years Lynn has been faced with the daunting challenge of addressing the city’s enrollment issue. The student population has increased by 4,000 students since 1993 according to Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham. This has put a tremendous strain on Lynn school’s aging educational facilities and the schools are quickly running out of space.

The school’s budget will fully fund net school spending, something the school department has struggled with in past years. The budget is $2 million above the school department’s spending requirement under Chapter 70 of the state’s general laws. This laws establishes what the school department must spend each year or be faced with loss of state aid. Since FY13 Lynn has struggled to meet the requirement and in 2016 was actually $800,000 short and was penalized by the state.

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