June 19, 2007



Council OKs mayor's budget, cuts economic development position

By Nick Pinto
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT - The City Council voted last night to approve Mayor John Moak's recommended budget, cutting only $558,245 from Moak's request of nearly $55 million.
The approved budget of $54,156,921.46 exceeds last year's spending plan by 3 percent.

Councilors eliminated the economic development coordinator job, currently held by Peter Abair. The position, charged with attracting business and industry to the city, had been jointly funded by the city and the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but the chamber voted this year to end its support for the post.

Moak said the vote to eliminate the position was the single greatest disappointment of this budget cycle.

"It's really discouraging," he said. "I'm going to try to find some grant money just so that we can get someone in for a few days a week to keep the ball rolling on this."

Ray Nippes and Esther Sayer of the chamber addressed the council at the beginning of the meeting to ask councilors to retain funding for the economic development director's $64,000 salary.

"We think the seed has been planted," Nippes said. "I don't see the city's tax base expanding, so the only way we're going to grow is with economic development."

The single largest cut to the mayor's budget was the elimination of the $464,995 assessment the city pays to the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. The city is legally obligated to pay the assessment and councilors acknowledged that voting it out of the budget was a purely symbolic gesture.

"This is to get ink so other people will know that we are not satisfied," Councilor Greg Earls said.

Councilors Erford Fowler, Larry McCavitt and James Shanley voted unsuccessfully against the measure.

"It may be a great symbolic gesture, but we'll have to pay the bill, so I'd prefer to have it in the budget," McCavitt said.

The next-largest cut made to the mayor's budget was the denial of Moak's request for a human resources and payroll clerk at a $35,000 salary.

The only other decreases were a reduction of the legal budget from $94,000 to $80,000 and the lowering of the emergency management director's salary from $40,250 to $30,000.

To the mayor's relief, councilors opted not to pare the salary of the management information system's director in half as the Budget and Finance Subcommittee had recommended.

"I'm not sure how we would have handled it if we had lost that position," Moak said. "It's critical to our ability to do our business every day."

With the council's vote of approval last night, the budget will now go to the mayor for his signature before it goes into effect.


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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