EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 11, 2014

Despite threatened cuts, Lawrence council OKs $78M budget

Rivera proposal gets unanimous 9-0 vote

LAWRENCE — The city council last night approved Mayor Daniel Rivera’s $78 million budget proposal for the city in a 9-0 vote that will hold property and personal taxes flat, add up to 10 police officers to the force and cut total spending by $1.1 million.

The unanimous vote followed a three-hour discussion in which several councilors backed off earlier proposals to cut $511,000 from the police, fire and public works budgets, but in the end agreed to cut just $46,000 that would have paid for an added building inspector Rivera requested.

The budget document also includes $169.2 million for city schools, an $11 million increase that will be funded largely by the state. The schools are in receivership and are run by the state, so the council had no authority to amend the budget Receiver Jeff Riley sent to them.

In three more unanimous votes that followed, the council approved without changes Rivera’s budget proposals for the special funds that operate the city’s airport and parking facilities and its sewer and water systems, which total just over $17 million.

The votes last night were the first time in recent memory that the council unanimously approved a mayor’s budget proposal with virtually no changes, and it represented an important victory for a new mayor still finding his way on the council, where he served for four years.

Rivera also easily won what was shaping up to be a first showdown with the council last month over the hiring of a new Planning Director, and last night’s slap on the back by the council gives him momentum as he heads for a third major vote next week over his proposal to reorganize the city departments that oversee development.

“We hammered them all out,” Rivera said after the council cast its last vote at about 10:30, referring to the concerns the council’s budget committee raised when it endorsed the $511,000 in cuts last month.

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