At a recent North Adams Finance Committee meeting, Scanlon & Associates conducted what I would term a real "State of the City" address. It was very eye-opening as Mr. Thomas Scanlon presented a report on the economic and financial conditions in North Adams, without sugar-coating the facts.
In a Transcript article, Mayor Richard Alcombright stated that at the time we were $360,000 over budget for the fiscal year.
At the time of this meeting, the revenues for the city were down nearly $240,000 in local receipts. Mayor Alcombright stated that next year's budget will see a so-called modest 2.5 percent increase. This increase will amount to nearly an additional $1 million in city spending. I ask, how many years can the residents of North Adams continue to handle these various budgetary overruns, as the city continues to operate in a deficit?
At that meeting Mr. Scanlon urged the city to change its spending habits and move away from year-end transfers to bolster its financial future.
He also noted we need to have more in our reserve accounts, as bond companies will not look upon North Adams favorably. He noted we should have a minimum of 3 to 5 percent, or nearly $1 million, in reserve. In the future, bond companies may require as much as 10 percent. Mr. Scanlon clearly points out the tone of city finances is going down.
With the information provided by Scanlon & Associates, and the fact that:
We are a community faced with millions of dollars in Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated requirements by the U.S. Department of Justice
Failing infrastructure throughout the city
An additional school (Greylock) in dire need of major renovations.
A declining population and tax base
Budget deficits yearly Is now the time for the Conte school project? Can we the taxpayers really afford this project as the city continues to run budget deficits, while faced with many other growing financial obligations?
The school project has been advertised as a $6.5 million bargain by the Friends of North Adams.
Shouldn't the priority of the mayor and city council begin with stabilizing the city's financial future and rectifying the budgetary problems before taking on more debt? The Conte School project is nearly a $30 million taxpayer-paid renovation that is flawed, and will not resolve all of the school department needs.
The mayor recently stated at an informational meeting at MCLA that the project only eliminates 50 percent of the overcrowding. That is just one of many problems with this project. Is the renovation of the Conte School indeed a wise choice at this time, and the best solution in light of the big picture?