Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is projecting a $100 increase in the average family’s property tax bill next fiscal year, revenue that will support the staffing of teachers, police officers, and city employees.
The tax increase, which is in line with other increases in recent years, is part of the mayor's $258 million budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1, up 4.4 percent from this year. The city is also expecting $3.2 million in revenue from new growth.
“There are some increases in various areas that bring us back – not fully – to previous levels,” Koch said to the City Council on Monday night. “I believe this budget reflects the values of our city.”
Koch said that financial advisers have recommended that the city tax residents at much higher rates, but chose to keep the number low.
“They aren’t on the ballot; we are,” Koch quipped.
Though the taxes won't rise much, the budget calls for a slew of increases. Among them, Quincy Public Schools will see a $3.6 million jump in its budget.
In addition to funding new state mandates and absorbing previous cuts to federal grants, the budget provides for more teachers.
“We’ve prioritized in the school system that class size is very important, continues to be the first priority, so you’ll see more teachers as we respond to growing enrollment, particularly at the elementary school level,” Koch said.
Yet the schools weren’t Koch’s only focuses in detailing the budget growth. Public safety budgets will also increase.
For the Police Department, Koch said the new budget will allow the city to hire a sergeant and six new patrol positions. New equipment will also be purchased.
At the Fire Department, the budget will provide for nine firefighters previously funded by a federal grant.
With troubling increases in overtime, Koch also accounted for a $200,000 increase in the overtime budget to prevent the department from running out midyear. Firefighters will also get new equipment.
Part of the plan is to borrow money for a new $1 million ladder truck, Koch said. Koch said he also plans to come back before the council for money to train firefighters for situations that may arise as the new Quincy Center is constructed.
“During construction, when you’re building a 15-story building, the Fire Department has to be trained to handle [any accidents. We’ll be] coming back to this body when we figure out what that need will be as far as dollars go,” Koch said.
The budget will also bolster many city departments, bringing in a new energy manager and system technician to help make buildings more energy-efficient.
Noting that the energy-efficiency contract with Honeywell is now voided, Koch said, "I believe this budget will deal with some of those issues, maintaining our buildings in a far more efficient, less expensive way."
Three additional laborers in the Park Department will also be added, as well as the restoration of a program manager, to help handle an increase in open space managed by the city and also replace cuts from previous years, Koch said.
Funding is also being provided to conduct street line painting twice a year, clean catch-basins, and conduct tide gate repairs.
The budget followed a lengthy discussion with the city’s representatives in State government, who came out to discuss everything from budget projections to sequester cuts to marijuana legislation.
According to state Senator John Keenan, House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, and State Representative Tackey Chan, Quincy can expect $24 million in funding for schools from the state, along with $16 million in general local aid.
The mayor's proposal requires approval by the City Council, which will review the budget in upcoming meetings. The council can remove items from the budget, but not add to it.