Mayor James E. Harrington said the city faces a $28 million deficit next year and 300 city workers will be laid off unless drastic steps are taken.
The message came in the state of the city address during which Harrington called for a freeze on wages, higher contributions to health insurance along with new revenue sources from the state Legislature.
“Financing a deficit of $28 million dollars will greatly compromise our city functions and impact our quality of life,” Harrington said. But, without the changes, this will happen, he said.
He called on all Brockton “stakeholders” to support him.
Mayor’s budget plan
A standing-room-only crowd sat silent as Harrington put forth his plan to meet the deficit head on. School and city workers listened as he told of the 40 percent budget cuts he has instructed his department heads to make next year.
“He gave an accurate description of our bleak financial picture,” said Councilor-at-Large Linda Balzotti. “People are going to have to realize, a job is better than no job.”
“Time will tell,” said Ward 5 Councilor Dennis DeNapoli. “The clock is ticking.”
It was a tough pill to swallow, and most left the room wondering what all of this meant.
“Bad times,” said Bill Hill, treasurer of the firefighters union.
James Young, vice president of the Brockton Firefighters Local 144, said the union is open to talking, but they want guarantees of safety.
The mayor said 180 of the 300 layoffs would come in public safety. Young said if that was split evenly between police and fire, that would mean half the department.
He said the plan was both “devastating” and “criminal.”
“It can’t be done on the back of city employees,” said Young.
There will be lots of talking in the coming weeks as unions try to unravel just what is in the plan.
Besides contributing 40 percent as opposed to most city employees who now pay 25 percent, Harrington wants them to accept a different insurance plan. He plans to ask the state legislature to make the health insurance changes.
The legislature will also be asked to approve hotel and meals tax increases of 1 percent and a property tax for telephone utility equipment.
And, the mayor will be proposing changes in school spending, seeking to transfer the busing costs to the schools and limiting busing to those for which it is required.
State Sen. Thomas Kennedy, D-Brockton, was in the audience.
He complimented the mayor for a painting a clear and factual picture of what needs to be done.
“It is a lot to digest and we will have to bring his proposals to the body,” Kennedy said. “It’s tough. We’ll do our best to save as many jobs as possible.”
Pat Hill, business agent for Local 1162, representing some 400 city workers, was on hand for the speech, but said, “It all requires conversation.”