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May 16, 2014

Rivera proposes $78M city budget

Plan calls for no tax hike

LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera yesterday proposed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would hold property taxes flat, hire 10 more cops and cut total city spending by $1.1 million, to $78 million.

The budget plan also includes nearly $11 million in new spending at the public schools, a 7 percent jump that would bring total spending on education to $169.2 million. All but a fraction of that will be paid for by the state, which has long picked up nearly all of the cost of education in the state’s poorest city and put the school system in receivership three years ago.

In hand-delivering his first budget to the City Council last night, Rivera noted that it fulfills two key campaign promises he made when he ran for mayor last year – more cops, no new taxes – and also includes pay hikes for unionized workers that he voted against while a city councilor. He said the flat-tax budget is the city’s first in 13 years.

“I ran on a platform to make our city safer, to focus on bringing jobs to our community and to support the turn-around effort in our schools,” Rivera told the councilors. “This budget reflects these priorities.”

The new patrolmen would increase the number of sworn officers to 129, continuing the rebuilding of a department that was decimated by loss of 40 officers through attrition and layoffs under former Mayors William Lantigua and Michael Sullivan.

Salaries for the 10 new cops would be funded initially by the state, but the city would have to pick up the salaries before Fiscal Year 2015 runs out if the state grant is not renewed. The new budget includes the money to do that, and Rivera promised yesterday that the cops will remain on the city payroll into the following year.

“We need 10 new cops,” he said. “We have to pay for it. That’s the bottom line. Next year, if we have to layoff clerks to pay for the cops, we’ll do it.”

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