LAWRENCE — A city councilor last night made more than 60 separate motions to cut Mayor William Lantigua’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, sparing few departments as he scoured for savings of as little as $169 in the $97 million spending plan for the city and its special operations.
After two hours, as Councilor Kendrys Vasquez was putting proposed cut number 61 on the table and the clock ticked past 10 p.m., the council’s budget committee had approved 16 of the proposed cuts totaling $24,348 and rejected 45 totaling $239,964.
Vasquez worked through almost every one of budget’s 226 pages, including $169 for “other services” that he wanted out of the Personnel Department (equal to .00017 percent of total spending), $217 for spending on water and sewer by animal control (00022 percent) and $200 for repairs in the director’s office at public works (.00020). All three proposals failed.
“Every penny adds up,” Vasquez said after proposing the $217 cut to the animal control budget. In almost every instance, Vasquez said his goal was to hold spending to this year’s level.
The three other councilors on the budget committee listened diligently but showed occasional impatience and, as the night work on, a little frustration. Committee chairman Daniel Rivera wiped his brow several times through the evening, and when an Eagle-Tribune reporter left the meeting just after 10 p.m. to meet his deadline, a councilor sent him a text with the protest: “ur gonna miss my motions...”
The budget committee will send whatever cuts they finally approved last night to the full City Council, which will take each of them up on June 26, when it is scheduled to hold a public hearing and then a series of votes on the budget.
The council can only cut the budget for the city, airport, parking, sewer and water funds. It can make no additions and it can’t touch the $156.2 million budget for the schools, which is funded almost entirely by the state.
Rivera was expected to make another round of proposed cuts at last night’s committee meeting. Before the meeting, he said he would seek to remove 10 positions from Lantigua’s budget proposal at a savings of about $485,000. He said the savings would be enough to hire seven police officers, although Lantigua would not be obligated to reallocate the cut to any department.
But the focus last night was on the cuts proposed by the freshman councilor from District C. Vasquez’s biggest victories came when the committee voted to cut $9,600 from the $78,000 Lantigua proposed spending on consulting contracts for the Personnel Office, and $5,000 from the $60,000 Lantigua requested for a program that allows residents to drop off paints and other hazardous wastes at the public works garage. Otherwise, most of the cuts Vasquez proposed that the committee approved were for less than $1,000.
Of the 45 cuts that were rejected, the committee declined to discuss 24 of them. Among the proposed cuts that got no airing were the $39,204 Vasquez wanted removed for the salary of a parks laborer and $15,000 he wanted cut from the $250,000 Lantigua requested for repairs and maintenance at city buildings.
“Our buildings are in much need of repair,” Budget Director Mark Ianello said in an effort to save the line item. “I’m a little concerned — buildings and maintenance, I know they need a lot.”
The new fiscal year begins July 1.