In my first months as Mayor, I have made the city budget my top priority. As someone who has spent the last decade of my career working on budgets, I understand firsthand the importance of having a budget that addresses the city’s needs while keeping the taxpayer in mind. The residents of Revere pay significant taxes and they should trust their elected officials to spend those tax dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in recent years.
Upon entering office, I asked city departments to provide information showing their spending to date. I wanted to know how much of their budgeted dollars had been spent as of the end of December. I quickly realized that, at the same spending rate, the city would easily be looking at a $2 million dollar deficit by the end of the fiscal year. The City’s Chief Executive is required by law to submit a balanced budget at the beginning of the fiscal year. However, it doesn’t matter what you write down in your budget document - if you actually spend more than you take in, you have a deficit. That is just common sense.
To reiterate, if the city were to continue spending at the rate we were as of the end of December, we would be $2 million in the hole at the end of the year. So, I took immediate steps to begin to close this gap. My administration has identified a number of practices that need to be changed going forward to save taxpayers money and get our budget in order.
A sizeable chunk of our deficit projection – approximately $900,000 - can be attributed to employee overtime costs that went over what was initially budgeted for. I have instituted a new policy for all city departments, requiring that information about all overtime and the justification for awarding it be reported to my office each month. We have already noticed savings in the last few weeks.
We have also identified a disregard of procurement law in various city departments, which has cost the taxpayers immensely. My administration will ensure that all procurement laws are followed, guaranteeing a fair, transparent and legal process. This has not always been the case in previous years.
Through two months in office I have identified many practices that need to be changed in order to save taxpayers’ money and start building the city government that our residents deserve. On my first day in office, inappropriate hiring procedures from the previous administration were uncovered. Individuals were placed in positions without following the required process. I rescinded those appointments and made sure that new hiring procedures were put in place to avoid similar situations in the future. I have also learned of unpaid contractual obligations the City has not followed through on; my administration is in the process of resolving those issues to make sure the city is not legally liable. These are the practices and actions that erode trust in government and take sorely needed funds away from more important priorities.
Over the next few months, an independent audit will be conducted to identify and root out more inefficiencies and wasteful practices. This audit should help us identify more of the City’s operational deficiencies and get our house in order as we prepare for FY 2017. In addition, I have asked every department in the city to submit an initial FY 2017 budget estimate that includes a 5% across-the-board reduction in spending. This is one way for departments and city staff to identify key priorities and start becoming more efficient in their service delivery to residents.
I look forward to implementing long-needed changes and instituting management practices that will serve the city and its residents. For me, this is the only reason one should do this job. It is a privilege and an honor to be given the chance to serve this great city, and my pledge to my fellow residents is that I will make sure that your interests and the city’s are put first.