LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua yesterday proposed a $237 million budget for the city, its schools and special funds that contains none of the layoffs, service cuts, deficit borrowing and other miseries that were needed to balance the current budget.
The budget proposal would hike spending 5.4 percent, much of it due to an enrollment increase in the schools that will trigger a $10.3 million jump in Chapter 70 aid from the state. Property taxes would increase 2.59 percent — within a fraction of the maximum allowed by state law — while leaving water and sewer rates flat.
Lantigua's budget proposal also would extend a pay freeze for all city employees, add three public works employees and encourages City Council to rent space on city buildings for advertising and cell phone antennas.
The budget proposal is a sharp contrast to the one Lantigua presented last May for the current fiscal year, when he resolved a $15 million shortfall by laying off 80 employees, slashing city services such as garbage collection, chasing down tax deadbeats and borrowing $3.4 million. The state allowed the borrowing - along with another $24 million in borrowing to cover other budget deficits accumulated under former Mayor Michael Sullivan — as part of a deal that also called for cutting health care costs and accepting a fiscal overseer at City Hall.
"Last year, I asked for shared sacrifice so we could get to this fiscal year," Lantigua said in a 40-minute PowerPoint presentation of his budget to the council last night, which he delivered in both English and Spanish. "This budget before you is without any borrowing. We're not laying off one single person. The deficit has been eliminated. (These are) real numbers, not make-believe. Not hiding. Not duplicating and nothing phony about it." However, the budget does include $200,000 that would be raised by increasing overtime parking fines from $15 to $25, an increase the City Council is considering but has not approved.