Monday night, the City Council approved a $212 million operating budget for the city that creates 13 new positions in the municipal government.
The budget funds city expenditures at $94,108,013 and School Department expenditures at $118,236,617, for a total budget of $212,344,630. The School Department budget increased by 8.97%, most of it paid from new Chapter 70 funding generated by the Student Opportunity Act. The City expenditures increased by 5.62%.
The council voted 9-0 to approve the budget as presented by City Manager Thomas Ambrosino.
“I have heard clearly from the council that there are certain departments for which the council would like me to consider even additional positions, including (inspectional services), the City Clerk, and DPW,” said Ambrosino. “I have committed to the council that I will look carefully at these departments over the course of FY23 and will take appropriate steps to address the concerns raised by the council.”
Ambrosino said the budget is fully supported by anticipated revenues in FY23.
“It is the first budget I’ve presented in my seven years that does not rely at all on the use of any reserves,” said Ambrosino. “This budget is balanced and fully funded with anticipated FY23 revenues.”
The full list of the new municipal positions includes a new floater position in the assessor’s office, a technical project lead in the IT department, the full-time elections commissioner, four new full-time police officers, a new housing inspector in the inspectional services department, a junior business manager for the DPW, two water and sewer junior operators for the DPW, a Health and Human Services Director, and a part-time assistant in veteran’s services.
District 7 Councilor Tanairi Garcia presented a motion to reduce the budget by nearly $100,000 in the public works structures and grounds department, eliminating a new superintendent position in the DPW division. However, following the vote and brief recess, Garcia withdrew the motion and several others she had planned to make amending the budget.
Garcia raised concerns about the salary for the position in comparison to other public works salaries.
Ambrosino noted that while the position is new under the structures and grounds division, it is actually an existing position that was funded as the Capital Projects Manager in the FY 22 budget that had previously been vacant.
“The focus of that position was on external capital projects,” said Ambrosino. “We didn’t have a need for that, our need was for internal building capital projects. With ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money, we are funding a $3 million renovation of the E911 building, and we’re about to design and start funding a probably $3 million renovation to this attic in City Hall.”
Ambrosino also noted that there is currently a Chelsea resident in the union position, and that the union contract dictates the pay scale.
“I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s job, or obviously the work that is to be done,” said Garcia. “There are a ton of projects, the city is growing and we definitely need this. I just didn’t understand the morale of it and didn’t understand the huge amount of money for this position when others in the DPW deserve as much.”
Garcia said she also believed that beautifying and cleaning the parks and providing programs for the city’s youth needs to be a top priority in the city.
The council voted 9-0 to approve the operating budget, with Council President Roy Avellaneda and District 4 Councilor Enio Lopez absent.