Mayor’s first budget projects a 6.3% increase | News
Mayor Greg Verga has outlined his first budget as mayor: His $127.6 million spending plan for fiscal 2023 represents a 6.3% increase over the $120.1 million budget for fiscal 2022.
The City Council voted 9-0 to refer Verga’s budget to its Budget and Finance Committee after he presented the plan during a special meeting Tuesday night.
“I’m pleased to be here tonight to present my first budget as your mayor here in the city of Gloucester and I see this as an exciting opportunity to invest in our community and its future while addressing several long-standing issues,” Verga said.
“From Day 1 of this administration, I have been committed to transparency and efficiency, and I believe that is reflected in this proposed FY ’23 budget,” he said. “The past several years have been filled with uncertainty and hardship and it is my hope that this budget will safeguard our city against potential disruption,” he said.
Over the past several years, Verga said the city has seen consistent revenue growth and invested in reserve accounts to protect against both short and long-term uncertainties.
The city’s long-term security, he said, relies on the success of the state’s economy and the state’s changes to Chapter 70 education aid.
“This has allowed us to increase our investment in our schools and better meet the needs of our students,” Verga said.
In addition, his office receives a lot of inquiries about the poor state of Gloucester’s roads, so he hopes an increase in road repair maintenance is “a step in the right direction.” That, coupled with a proposed $300,000 supplemental appropriation for this fiscal year “should significantly impact improvement in our public roads.”
Amid concerns about climate change and resiliency in the coastal community, Verga also outlined a new position of a city sustainability coordinator within the Community Development Department which would work with city departments, boards and community members to evaluate projects.
Verga is also proposing to a project manager position in the Department of Public Works, a position that has been in the budget, but not filled. The goal of this position is to distribute the workload and increase efficiency within the department.
The budget is not all about budget line items, as Vega lauded the work of volunteers in the city, having appointed or reappointed nearly 100 volunteers to committees, boards and commissions since January. Verga cited how Public Works and veterans are working together to relocate the Vietnam War memorial at Gloucester High to Stage Fort Park.
Verga noted the City Council voted to accept $23 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds allocated under the American Rescue Plan Act.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Verga, who said he has put together a Listening Group to host public sessions to solicit feedback from the community on potential projects and priorities.
Verga said the Information Technology Department is working to provide access to online services, such as the new online nonresident beach parking reservation system.
Human Resources will also see two new investments, a classification and compensation study of all positions within the Gloucester Municipal Administrators Association union and an evaluation of safety and preparedness across city departments “to ensure our valued city staff feel safe and secure in their workplace.”
“I appreciate all of the collaboration with city staff, volunteers, you members of the City Council and the School Committee. I know that we will continue to improve the lives of Gloucester’s residents through our work and I’m committed to working together to achieve these goals,” Verga said, recommending adoption of the budget.
The City Council also voted to resume starting meetings at 7 p.m. starting on May 24 which will be a hybrid meeting with the council meeting in person in the Friend Room at Sawyer Public Library with residents participating on Zoom.
Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com.