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December 2, 2013

Zanni warns of layoffs in Methuen

METHUEN — Two dozen fire, police and public works employees could be laid off if the budget is cut to achieve an average property tax increase of $100, Mayor Stephen Zanni warned yesterday.

City councilors are putting pressure on Zanni to keep the tax increase to the $100 figure he cited when the budget passed in June. City officials estimate the hike would be $194 based on spending, tax revenue and state funding, but have said they would offset that by taking some money from city reserve funds to soften the increase to $137.

Zanni, citing state funding that came in $1 million lower than he originally budgeted for, said he did not want to reopen the budget and warned that hitting that $100 target would require a 3.5 percent cut across the board, totaling about $705,000.

“What that would mean, in DPW a layoff of nine laborers; police, a layoff of eight patrolmen, and in fire services, seven firefighters,” Zanni said.

He said most departments in the city are too small to make cuts that would get close to $705,000, meaning they could not offset public safety and public works cuts. “You’re talking small money,” he said. “A lot of these departments only have a few people in it.”

Councilor Thomas Ciulla said he did not want to cut public safety and public works departments.

“Police, fire, DPW, those departments will be impacted if the city council wants to do that,” he said. “Those are vital services we have. I don’t want to see those services impacted. Those are important departments.”

But many other councilors, in interviews yesterday, said they wanted to keep the tax increase to about $100 and waited for a proposal from the mayor on how to get there.

“I want to see the cuts the mayor expects, unless he wants the citizens to pay $194 more,” said Councilor Jennifer Kannan.

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