Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is looking for a 4 percent increase in the city budget this year, increasing the average single family’s property taxes by $112.
Koch said budget priorities include education, public safety, and infrastructure, with a $2.6 million increase in the Schools Department budget, the addition of two police officers and $222,000 in overtime for the Fire Department, and $250,000 to catch up on sidewalk repair throughout the city.
Sunday hours have also been partially restored to the library, and funding to the Parks Department has been partially restored – adding two more laborers, a tree removal/planting program, and funding for some summer jobs.
The mayor also hopes to add a clerk to City Hall, which would move from department to department depending on who needed the help.
Koch also said he has a plan to deal with the city’s structural deficits, specifically that of the snow and ice accounts.
“We’ve decided in my tenure we’ve taken care of it with free cash. I don’t want to see that deficit. It was about $300,000 in the budget over the last few years. We brought it to $1 million, with proposed $1.25 for this yr,” he said. “We want to get a five year average.”
Administrators have also planned to dedicate 20 percent of free cash to Other Post Employee Benefits, a fund which is largely underfunded currently, to dedicate 10 percent of free cash to an inclement weather reserve, and commit 20 percent of free cash to the city’s stabilization account to raise the city’s bond rating.
All this is being done while the city continues to spend money to pay for projects. Currently, the city’s debt service is 5-6 percent of the budget, where Koch hopes to have it stay over the next several years.
Koch said he also hoped to push the city forward with a series of other changes, including the possible merger of the school and city’s Maintenance Departments, the creation of a capital outlay budget to help pay for police cruisers, and consolidation of Department of Traffic and Parking and Department of Public Works.
All the new initiatives will mean a tax hike of $112 for the average single family home – a 2.7 percent increase in the last three years, compared to a 14 percent increase in a statewide average.
“[Our financial advisor] was suggesting we go up much higher to get that money in the bank…the reality is we’ve done a good job and recognized that people need a break,” Koch said. “Going forward, we do not plan to have the crazy [tax] spikes that happened many years ago.”
To help pay for the increases, the budget also assumes a projected $4.5 million in new growth, a large part of which was the addition of Quincy Medical Center to the city’s property tax rolls now that it is no longer a non-profit organization.
Koch also expects a $2 million increase in Chapter 70 money from the state, and a $1 million increase in unrestricted local aid.
The budget will be reviewed by the Finance Committee over the next few weeks. Meetings will be held on specific departments on May 14 at 7:30 p.m., May 29 at 7 p.m., and June 11 at 7 p.m.a