LOWELL – Many communities have struggled to find good tax news during the pandemic, but that’s exactly what City Manager Eileen Donoghue and CFO Conor Baldwin delivered to city council on Tuesday.
âSurprisingly, (fiscal 2021) has been a great year for the city,â said Baldwin.
Providing highlights from his year-end review for fiscal 2021, which ended on June 30, Baldwin said the city’s undesignated fund balance – which he called “good financial indicator for the city’s financial health â- ended the year at $ 18.9 million. .
“To put that into perspective, over the past few years the unspecified fund balance has hovered around $ 5 (million) or $ 6 million,” Baldwin said.
He said the fund balance is “the starting point” for calculating the city’s available money, or excess funding remaining at the end of the fiscal year, which means the city will have a substantial amount available. when the number will be certified by the State Revenue Department. .
Baldwin said the revenues were over budget by $ 6.14 million, thanks in large part to federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. On the other side of the ledger, he said, there was $ 18.8 million in unspent credit, in part due to tax controls and a hiring freeze put in place during the pandemic. , as well as savings resulting from the refinancing of outstanding debt. Baldwin also praised the board for the streak of smaller credits it made during the pandemic, which he said played a big part in the outcome.
The stabilization fund also stands at $ 12.8 million, which he says is a high for the city.
âThis is probably the best tax news we’ve seen in a long time, and in the midst of all of this pandemic COVID crisis,â said Councilor Rodney Elliott, who chairs the council’s finance subcommittee, l ‘calling “a will” to Donoghue and his administration.
Despite the overall rosy picture for fiscal 2021, Baldwin stressed the need to continue to address pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEBs). He said the OPEB Trust stands at $ 13.5 million – an increase of $ 2.9 million from the previous year – but the city’s unpaid liability exceeds $ 800 million. The city also needs to watch for declining corporate fund balances, Baldwin said.
In other matters, counsel:
– Approved new collective agreements for nurses, firefighters, public works and other employees, providing for a 2.5% wage increase for each of the three years covered by the agreements, retroactive to July 1 of that year until ‘as of June 30, 2024. The board also approved the same increases for prescription employees not covered by collective agreements.
-Approved a city redevelopment plan that will come into effect in 2022.
-Voted to accept and spend three grants for the policing service, including a federal Edward Byrne Memorial Aid to Justice grant of $ 35,439, $ 125,000 from the Federal Office of Community-Based Policing and 57,183 $ from the state prison diversion grant program.
Motions approved Tuesday wanted:
-Donoghue will work with Superintendent of Schools Joel Boyd to expedite the removal and replacement of trailers at Cawley Stadium.
-The appropriate service to work with National Grid and others who need to close portions of streets for maintenance in order to schedule such work outside of heavy traffic hours and to consider advance warning signage to give motorists a chance to find an alternate route.
– Discuss the recent publication of the State’s Solid Waste Master Plan 2030 and consider establishing a solid waste subcommittee to address the costs of illegal landfills, increase recycling, enforce illegal landfills and improve garden waste and garbage collection.
-Investigate the installation of a crosswalk on Stevens Street at the intersection of Fairfax Street in front of Lowell Catholic.
-Act to replace the missing lamppost on the pole at the intersection of Pine and Wilder streets.