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FRAMINGHAM – City of Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer plans to layoff a total of 13 employees to cut her budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic,in her new budget proposal submitted to the City Council today, May 18.

SOURCE reported on Thursday, May 14, that the City of Framingham had already laid off two DPW employees.

On April 30, Mayor Yvonne Spicer submitted a $301 million budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. That budget was $4.5 million increase.

Several City Councilors have been critical of the budget proposed by the Mayor for fiscal year 2021, and the proposed budget increase during a pandemic.

Last Tuesday night, the Mayor told members of the City Council Finance Subcommittee she was not looking at layoffs or furloughs and would be reviewing her budget for a possible reduction to re-submit next week.

“However, as the pandemic unfolded, it has changed from a one-year “trough” the City needed to withstand to a two- or perhaps three-year budget plan the City will need to manage carefully,” said the Mayor in a statement to SOURCE via the City’s Public Information Officer Kelly McFalls. “In light of the changing fiscal environment, the administration went back to review the budget and reduce the bottom line by $2.8 million, primarily in salaries in municipal budgets, which were cut by $1.2 million or 2.4% of personnel costs.  The General fund budget is increasing $3.84 million or 1.3%.  The actions were not done lightly.”

Today, the Mayor told City Council she will cut $1.56 million from municipal department budgets to reduce her original budget request of $300 million-plus.

And that she is now submittingng a budget of $298.1 million for fiscal year 2021, which starts on July 1.

The City Council must approve the budget in June.

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The Mayor said she plans to “eliminated 10 funded but currently vacant positions in Library, Park and Recreation, DPW Highway and the Mayor’s Office,” including the Mayor’s Chief Diversity Officer position.

The Mayor did hire a replacement for her senior advisor position this spring, who started after City Hall was closed due to the coronavirus.

It is important to note that the Mayor in her letter to the City Council on April 30 wrote “The City has implemented a hiring freeze, which began on March 18th which will continue through FY21. Only positions that directly impact public safety or public health will be considered for hire.”

The Mayor told City Council in a memo this afternoon, May 18, she plans to:

  • Lay off 13 employees across multiple departments saves $420,000 plus $79,000 in benefit costs.
  • Furlough an additional five employees for four months in fiscal year 2021
  • Defer hiring of two firefighter positions for four months
  • Delay hiring Assistant Fire Chief for two months
  • Defer hiring two police officer positions for 11 months
  • Eliminate two part-time seasonal positions in DPW.

The Mayor told in writing to City Council said “there are still three vacant, funded positions in the Library, two in Planning and Community Development, two in the Public Health Department and three in the Fire Department and two in the Police Department. Savings from delayed hiring and not funding vacancies is $699,000.”

The Director of DPW position will be vacant for 8 months, according to the Mayor’s budget documents submitted to the City Council. Peter Sellers retired this spring. Blake Lukais is deputy director of Public Works.

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The Mayor is expected to attend the City Council’s finance subcommittee meeting which will be held on ZOOM remotely, at 7 p.m. to discuss her budget reductions.

“The budget cuts made in this amended budget submission were made based on a two year view of the budget period. That was one reason why layoffs were required versus furloughs of employees,’ said the Mayor to the City Council. A furlough is a short term temporary fix. Most expect a furlough of a couple of weeks to a couple of months with an expectation of a return to work. Looking forward to FY22 we could not make that assurance for employees; therefore the decision to lay off employees was made.”

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“When the initial submission of the FY21 budget was made the extent of the pandemic and the economic, social and environmental impact were barely felt. The state and the economy was going to open up in less than a week. Several federal aid packages had been passed but only the enhanced unemployment program had been implemented. At the state level several laws had been changed to allow for increased financial flexibility. This
included the extension of certified free cash past the usual June 30th expiration date and the ability to apply for deficit spending for unbudgeted pandemic expenditures. Federal and state disaster declarations had been
declared to allow for federal reimbursement of up to 75% of allowable pandemic expenditures. As this pandemic has unfolded over the last two and a half months, it has changed from a one year “trough” the
city needed to withstand to a two or perhaps three-year budget plan that needs to be carefully managed. We have changed the budget for that longer term view. There are still unknowns regarding state aid, additional
federal aid specifically for education and the remaining distribution of municipal CARES Act funding by the state,” wrote the Mayor today, May 18 to the 11-member City Council.

The Mayor told the Council there have been changes in revenue assumptions.

She said that local city revenues have decreased by $2.8 million.

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“Reduced local receipts by another $500,000 in room, meals and excise tax, user fees and Loring Arena revenue,” she wrote.

She wrote the total local receipts estimated at $24.7 million, a 6.5% total reduction from the original FY21 estimate and an 18% or $4.4 million from FY19 actuals.”

The mayor said excise, meals and room tax reduced 10% from original FY21 revenue estimate and 25% from FY19 actuals.”

“As part of original budget reductions Division Head and Department Head
salaries were frozen at FY20 levels; operating expenses were lowered in
office supplies by 50% and decreased most professional development by 50%,” wrote the Mayor.

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“In light of the changing fiscal environment, the administration went back to review the budget and reduced the bottom line by $2.8 million, primarily in salaries in municipal budgets which were cut by $1.2 million or 2.4% of personnel costs. The General fund budget is increasing $3.84 million or 1.3%. The actions taken are not done lightly. The City has built an excellent workforce that provides excellent service. Reduction at this level will not allow the same level of service, but employees will strive to do the best they can with limited colleagues and limited resources. The City must make it through this crisis with at least the core services intact: public safety departments must be staffed to respond to emergency calls from residents and businesses; trash and recycle must be picked up and removed to contracted landfills and recycle centers; and the public health must be maintained. In that light budget cuts were made across almost all departments, except the Public Health Department, both in staffing and
operating costs,” wrote the Mayor.

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“The City is resilient and will withstand this crisis, and our employees will continue the tradition of excellent public service that they provide to the community every day,” said the Mayor in a statement.

If anyone would like to join or watch the City Council’s finance subcommittee meeting tonight where the mayor will discuss her new budget:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 871 7906 5587
Password: 741658

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Meeting ID: 871 7906 5587

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.