It doesn’t appear that the budget battle between Mayor Domenic Sarno and the City Council is cooling down.
Earlier this week, Sarno and Lee Erdmann, the city’s chief administrative and financial officer, sent a letter to councilors calling on them to make certain budget transfers in order to get the municipal budget balanced by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The Council recently sent to committee the mayor’s request to transfer $16 million from free cash to a stabilization fund; a number of councilors would like to see part of that money instead go to offset tax increases for residents. (Check out the Springfield Intruder for coverage of the ongoing budget fight.)
The mayor’s letter even raised the possibility of the state imposing, yet again, a Control Board to oversee city finances, as it had back in 2004. “At this point in time, the Springfield City Council has not fulfilled its statutory responsibilities to adopt a balanced budget. The City Council is in danger of ceding its authority to the Commonwealth,” Sarno and Erdmann warned.
Council President Jose Tosado has said he’ll hold a meeting about the transfers before June 30, the deadline for the city to submit the fiscal 2011 budget to the state Department of Revenue. Tosado—who’s widely expected to challenge Sarno for the mayor’s seat next year—also publicly asserted that the Council would not simply “rubber stamp” mayoral proposals.
Meanwhile, Councilor Tim Rooke responded to Sarno’s letter to the Council with his own noting that DOR officials will be in town tomorrow to meet with the mayor and his financial team. “I would like to attend this meeting with the DOR. What time and where is the meeting? Have any City Councilors been invited to attend?”
Rooke also questioned references made by the mayor to additional cuts in state aid. “I thought the City had already based an anticipated cut of 4% from the State into the proposed budget? If we are anticipating additional cuts I would like to know about this.
“The fact that the City does not have a balanced budget is of concern. However, so is the amount being transferred and borrowed so close to the Fiscal Year end,” he continued. ‘Going forward I would recommend that that no financial transfers be presented to the City Council 60 days prior to the fiscal year ending. I will also recommend and ask for the full City Council’s consideration that any anticipated borrowing of funds to balance the City budget be done 60 days in advance of the fiscal year ending.”
So will Rooke and other councilors (he suggests that members of the Finance Committee, which includes himself, Michael Fenton and Tim Allen, be included, as well as Councilors Jimmy Ferrera, Melvin Edwards, Keith Wright and John Lisak) be allowed into the DOR meeting? Or will they be left fuming outside a closed door?