NORTH ADAMS -- The Finance Committee will begin reviewing a draft version of the city's $36.6 million fiscal 2014 budget next week.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to refer the draft budget to the Finance Committee, at the request of Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, with the understanding that those meetings will be informational only. The meetings, which are open to the public, are scheduled for May 20, 22 and 28, all at 5:30 p.m., at City Hall.
The mayor, who was not present at the meeting, stated in a letter accompanying the budget, that a formal fiscal 2014 budget would be submitted as an order at the June 11 meeting, along with the city's Compensation and Classification Plans.
Council President Michael Bloom, who read the mayor's letter into the record, said Alcombright was at the hospital with his mother, who had fallen ill.
In his letter to the council, Alcombright wrote the only major financial differences in the budget are a decrease in health insurance costs and increases in pensions, veterans benefits, Hoosac Water Quality District costs and public safety departmental costs.
In addition, the mayor wrote that the budget is "out of balance with anticipated revenues by approximately $453,123" and is reflective of six reductions in staff, both full- and part-time.
Councilor John Barrett III objected to the budget being submitted in "draft" form and to not having the classification and compensation plans submitted at the same time.
"I know I'm not going to be successful with this, because I wasn't last year, but that draft budget is not a draft budget," he said. "That budget should be submitted to us, it should become our document as it is with the legislature and every other city and town in Massachusetts.
Councilor Alan Marden, chairman of the finance committee, assured Barrett that formal budget hearings would be held following the June 11 meeting, when the budget is officially submitted.
"My understanding is that the mayor wants to get this information before the council and the public," Marden said.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer requested that Marden urge the mayor to submit the compensation and classification plans within the next week, allowing the finance committee and council to have ample time to review them.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to refer the Traffic Commission's communication and ordinance change requests for parking meters in downtown to the mayor's office.
During the open forum portion of the meeting, a time when members of the public are given two minutes to speak on any subject, resident Robert Cardimino called for Councilor Jennifer Breen's resignation, alleging that she made a racist remark about his wife at a "recent vote."
"She said ‘my wife should go back where she came from.' This goes well beyond bigotry and racism My wife is an American citizen," he said.
In addition, Cardimino demanded that Breen give: An explanation of what "her highly offensive and hurtful comment" meant; an explanation of why she made "this highly disgusting remark;" and an apology to his wife and himself, as well as other couples "of similar backgrounds."
"I think you should resign, not only because of your racist remark, but because you broke your oath of office ," he said. "I am going to bring formal charges You are a racist councilor."
Breen did not reply, as the portion of the meeting does not allow the council to respond.
"The comments Mr. Cardimino makes are complete lunacy, however he has the First Amendment right to say basically anything he wants about an elected official," Breen said in a telephone interview after the meeting. "I made the decision to run for office and I will face opposition. I'm choosing to ignore him and will continue to govern. We have a lot to do in North Adams. I am running reelection this year and my goal is to counter negativity and move forward for North Adams."
She declined to comment further on the issue.