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North Adams Finance Committee Endorses Additional Positions in $49M Budget
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:51PM / Friday, May 17, 2024
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The Finance Committee begins review of the fiscal 2025 budget on Wednesday night.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The $49 million fiscal 2025 budget proposed by Mayor Jennifer Macksey restores some positions at City Hall lost during leaner years. 
But not enough for Finance Committee member Andrew Fitch, who voted against the compensation and classification plan because it did not include a city planner. 
He was quick to say he wouldn't vote against the budget, but rather wanted to stress how important he thought the Community Development Office is. 
"I just I really want to advocate for strengthening that department. I just see so many things connected to it and is able to get ourselves out of a fairly impoverished state if we can, if we can get that so I'm really serious about investing heavily in that office as much as possible," he said. 
The mayor presented a spending plan to the City Council on Tuesday that is $48,851,888, up $1.4 million, or 3 percent, over this year. 
The Finance Committee on Wednesday began its review by endorsing a new compensation and classification plan for city employees and getting a review on how the budget is put together and the people behind it. 
Macksey said there had been six or seven people in the Community Development Office but more recently it's been down to two. There had more recently been a project coordinator who had taken on some planning responsibilities but left for a job with the state. 
William Shanahan, who graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday with a degree in urban studies, will shift from his role as an intern in the mayor's office to project coordinator. This will bring the department back up to three full-time employees: a director, project coordinator and a fiscal compliance officer and grants manager.
"So I totally agree the Community Development Office needs a designated person ... I'm thinking more of a transition plan as an assistant director, and we talked about that internally, but we're not quite there yet," she said. "I appreciate your passion for adding more staff in that office. But this budget cycle has priorities in the clerk's office, the treasurer's office and also in the highway department."
Grant funding for Community Development positions are already locked up in grants for this cycle, the mayor added. 
Committee member Ashley Shade said she agreed with Fitch and that other departments need help as well. 
"But I also understand that Community Development is limited based on grants and where they're at in that process," she said. "Perhaps next year, we can apply that to another position and get more funding to do that."
Plus, she said, the budget is increasing more than a million dollars "and we have less taxpayers than we did a year ago. ... if we were to create a new position and find funding for it outside of a grant from the city budget, where are we taking that from in the city budget?"
The full committee was supportive of the mayor's beefing up departments and raising the pay grades of several positions. 
This includes upgrading the auditor and assistant auditor to S-34B and S-22A (the current auditor's grade), respectively, to better attract candidates.
Auditor David Fierro is leaving for Williamstown but is staying on for the moment as a consultant until his position can be filled. Macksey said she's currently interviewing candidates for the full-time position. 
"I'm really focused on having a city auditor that can really work the numbers, do forecasts and not have to worry about payables," said the mayor. "[The assistant auditor] has been doing dual roles for many years."
She's also asking for another full-time position and a shared part-time position in the city clerk's office. That office has been understaffed for a number of years and saw significant turnover in a short period. 
"When I arrived to City Hall, I was just very concerned that the city clerk's office only had two people. And I think we've all felt that over the years," said the mayor. Clerk positions will start higher than has been the case "because we're trying to have a competitive wage." 
She's also proposing the part-time clerk would be shared with the auditor's office.
The grants and communications specialist added part-time last year in the mayor's office has been upgraded to a full-time grants and procurement specialist when the city was unable to hire a full-time administrative officer (currently filled part time by a former holder of the post Mary Katherine Eade.)
Another clerk is proposed for the treasurer's office to take on payroll administration and other functions including some human resources.
"Mrs. [Beverly] Cooper, as I did when I was treasurer here, processes the payroll and that really shouldn't be the function of a treasurer/tax collector with a community our size," said Macksey. "Many many moons ago, we had a designated payroll administrator and then through retirements and people leaving, that position was never filled. So I'd like to restore that position to get back into doing some high-end collections, working more foreclosures in Land Court, that kind of stuff."
The committee and mayor discussed some updates to titles and she explained that titles listed in the classification plan did not mean those positions were filled. But they agreed some needed to be clarified and the mayor said that would be worked on prior to the presentation to the full council. 
The manager of information systems has asked to have his title changed to chief technology officer and his assistant to senior systems engineer to align with how those posts are referred to in the field. 
"I'm told ... when I'm signing documents that we need to be more current with what we call people as they relate to who gets invited to meetings and who doesn't sign for grants and procurement and things like that," said Macksey.
The mayor is proposing a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for nonunion employees. The Department of Public Works and the Police or Fire department union contracts are still being negotiated. 
"None of them are really asking for unreasonable things for education or stipends for specialized certifications. Even for clothing allowance, the cost of everything is gone up, but right now we're working on wages," the mayor said, noting that the salary lines for those department are highlighted and unchanged at this point. 
"The big focus is on public services wages. We're having a hard time finding people and we are losing good people to our neighboring communities. We won't be there in one year but we are trying over a three-year cycle to get there."
The Finance Committee will meet five more times all at 5:30 in Council Chambers. 
  • Tuesday, May 21: McCann Technical School budget and General Government. 
  • Wednesday, May 22: IT and Public Safety
  • Tuesday, May 28: School Department (a public hearing and School Committee vote is set for May 23)
  • Wednesday, May 29: Public Services, Health, Building, Weights, HWQD, Wire & Alarm
  • Monday, June 3: Unclassified, Debt and Pensions
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