Shrewsbury Seeks Input on Possible Cuts vs. Taxes
Intensive work sessions and a public forum are part of the city's plan to cope with financial shortfalls.
The City of Shrewsbury has already began planning for its 2013 budget with intensive work sessions this month and a public forum scheduled for later this spring.
The Board of Aldermen held an all-day session Feb. 25 that put everything “out on the table,” according to Director of Administration Jonathon Greever. He characterized the discussions as an ongoing, broad conversation about what options the city has to balance its budget if no significant economic development occurs in the next several years.
“Our approach is that the Kenrick Plaza redevelopment is still viable, we just don’t know which way it’s going to go,” Greever said, referring to currently stalled discussions about the construction of a Walmart Supercenter in Shrewsbury. “Contingency planning is the name of the game.”
That planning will continue Tuesday, when the board will meet at the Shrewsbury City Center for its regular work session. The meeting will start earlier than usual at 5 p.m. to accommodate the budget discussions and any public comment.
Alderman Mike Travaglini said the goal of the February meeting was to just float out as many ideas as possible: “Nothing was verboten,” he said. This month’s session will have the board focusing on narrowing down the list of options to erase the red ink.
For 2012, the board approved a budget deficit of about $263,000, marking the third year in a row that the city has experienced a six-figure shortage. The loss was covered by the city’s dwindling reserve fund, but Travaglini said that approach is not sustainable.
“We are looking at everything we do,” Travaglini said, including possible cuts to city departments such as police and fire services, as well as tax increases. “These are the options we have, whether we like them or not.”
Public input sought
Following the board’s discussion, the city will then open up the matter to the citizens of Shrewsbury with a town hall meeting. Greever said the format would be similar to one held in the fall to gather public input about the Kenrick Plaza redevelopment, which allowed citizens to address the board as a whole before breaking down into smaller meetings with each ward’s representatives.
No date has been set yet, but Greever encouraged Shrewsbury residents to consider what combination of cuts and/or revenue increases they would be willing to support. Since the process will involve making “value judgments” about what city services are most important to residents, public input is vital, Greever said.
Updates concerning the date for the town meeting will be posted here on Patch or can be acquired by subscribing to the City of Shrewsbury’s email alerts.