Council Approves City Budget of $163.39 Million

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea City Council voted 10-0 to approve the City Budget for fiscal year 2018 during its meeting on Monday night, approving an increase in the budget to $163.39 million.

The Council also approved a Water Enterprise Fund of $7.7 million and a Sewer Enterprise Fund of $11.74 million – all of which is funded by the ratepayers and the tax levy.

The budget is slightly out of balance, with an expenditure of $674,154 in Free Cash necessary to balance the books – less than has been used in year’s past despite an aggressive spending plan put forth by City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

“This budget re-affirms our commitment to provide good services to the resident of Chelsea,” he said.

Some of the budget priorities include the downtown initiative, the downtown coordinator position, social service contracts, two new firefighters, youth programming, summer jobs for youth and additional positions and administrative support at City Hall.

However, the main expenditure comes to the Chelsea Public Schools, which was hit over the head with a funding hammer by the state in that the funding formula statewide has changed and to the detriment of Chelsea and other urban schools that have poor students who aren’t on welfare programs. The old funding system allowed for students in the district to self-report being low income. However, the new system requires students to be on an official welfare program to qualify as low income – unlocking additional funds for the schools.

This year, the City gave $4 million to help make up the gap created by this discrepancy in the state funding formula. Last year, the City gave $2 million for the same cause.

In a previous budget hearing, Ambrosino said it cannot continue forever.

“I want the school administration to hear this clearly, this cannot be sustained,” he said. “We cannot continue to make these expenditures to fill these funding gaps out of the City Budget.”

That will likely be a hot topic of debate next year as Budget season rolls around if the state has once again not taken action to fix the funding problem.

The budget officially goes into effect on July 1.

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