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Big Votes Await Pittsfield City Council
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
06:42PM / Monday, June 10, 2024
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tuesday is a big day for Pittsfield, as the City Council will take a final vote on the fiscal 2025 budget, a five-year trash contract, and water and sewer rates.

These will be taken in council chambers at the meeting beginning at 6 p.m.

The proposed $215,955,210 spending plan is a 5 percent increase from the previous year and includes a $200,000 cut to the schools. Councilors preliminarily OKed the number a couple of weeks ago with a last-minute cut to the district's budget after "unprofessional" comments from School Committee members.

This drops the school budget to $82.6 million.

All other city departments were preliminarily approved without adjustments over four hearings.

The Pittsfield Police Department budget is proposed to rise 4 percent from $14,364,673 in FY24 to $14,998,410, an increase of about $614,000. A 2.5 percent increase is proposed for the Department of Public Services, rising about $287,000 from $11,095,563 in FY24 to $11,382,122.

Mayor Peter Marchetti has also submitted orders to appropriate $2.5 million from certified free cash to reduce the FY25 tax rate, borrow an aggregate sum not exceeding $10,192,500 for general fund capital expenditures, borrow an aggregate sum not exceeding $7,700,000 for enterprise fund capital expenditures, and transfer and appropriate $234,000 from the public works stabilization fund to the Department of Public Services.

Councilors will also be tasked with the city's trash collection for the next five years, with contracts on the table between the City of Pittsfield and Casella Waste Management, Inc. for solid waste and recyclables collection and for the operation of the Casella-owned transfer station at 500 Hubbard Avenue.

Following three community meetings to engage residents, the council preliminarily approved the five-year contracts with Casella last week. This agreement uses automated collection instead of unlimited trash pickup VIA 48-gallon trash and recycling toters provided at no cost.

The city currently spends about $5.2 million on trash per year and the new contract would trim the budget by about $600,000 to $4.6 million.

Officials say Pittsfield's nearly 17,400 households produce about 1,800 pounds of trash per household annually, collectively generating close to 20 tons as a community. The proposal aims to reduce each household's waste to 1,370 pounds annually.

Last week, the council also preliminarily approved a new calculation for water and sewer rates as well as an eight percent increase for both.

Marchetti has proposed a formula-based approach that aims to fairly adjust rates yearly using the Consumer Price Index Factor (CPIF) and the Operational Stability Factor (OSF.)

The CPIF is a way to adjust for inflation or deflation and is calculated by comparing the year-over-year change in February of the CPI index for water and sewer, the administration says, and the OSF aims at ensuring enough funding for future capital upgrades, maintenance, and unexpected challenges with a ten percent cap.

The council voted to change that to an 8 percent cap, as motioned by Councilor at Large Earl Persip III.

Currently, the city ordinance states that sewer and water charges are established from time to time by the commissioner of public services and utilities and adopted by the City Council. Rates are computed based on the total amount budgeted for sewer works operation and administration plus equipment replacement, capital improvements, depreciation, and projections of water use and wastewater discharge by system users and other necessary factors.

The proposed water and sewer rates would raise the average water bill for one toilet by about $24 per year, rising from $295.52 in FY24 to $322.44, and the average sewer bill by about $30, rising from $378.80 in FY24 to $409.12. The annual bill would total around $732.

Additional toilets would rise from about $149 in FY24 to about $161 for water and about $190 in FY24 to about $205 for sewer, totaling about $366 annually. Metered water would rise from $2.16 per cubic foot in FY24 to $2.33 for water and from $4.50 to $4.86 for sewer.

In FY24, water rates rose 12 percent and sewer rates 25 percent.

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