Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra presented to the City Council on May 16 a $136,903,512 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, an increase of $4,590,520 or about 3.45 percent from this year.

The budget includes $39,673,835 for the School Department, up by about $1.9 million from this year’s total appropriation, which included $1.2 million from the city’s stabilization fund. To address a continuing deficit in Northampton Public Schools spending, the proposed budget for next year includes $1.24 million from the stabilization fund, which Sciarra recommends “be rolled permanently into the base of the NPS annual budget. To do so, recurring revenues will need to be secured for the coming fiscal years or it will again create a deficit.”

As a result, Sciarra also announced that she will request that the City Council approve placing a $3 million Proposition 2 1/2 general budget override on the Nov. 5, 2024, presidential election ballot. If approved, that would result in increased property taxes for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2025.

The proposed School Department budget is about $3 million less than the $42,805,908 approved April 11 by a majority of the School Committee in an effort to avoid eliminating jobs. Because the mayor had originally sought to limit the School Department’s budget increase to 4 percent, some 40 employees were notified this month that their jobs could be eliminated or that they may be involuntarily transferred to a different position. It is not yet known how many jobs might be affected by the mayor’s actual proposed budget.

Sciarra also proposed creating a new stabilization fund for special education costs in the Northampton Public Schools, which often change unpredictably from year to year. That requires approval by both the School Committee and City Council, and the mayor proposes to start the fund with $800,000 from free cash.

Also on Thursday, Sciarra announced that Smith College again will give $500,000 to the city to support the schools. The original donation of $500,000 was spent over three years beginning in 2021. The new $500,000 pledge from Smith also will be spent over three years to support the Northampton Public Schools operating budget.

Meanwhile, the City Council voted 6-3 against adopting state legislation contained in the provisions of Chapter 329 of the Acts of 1987 that would have allowed the council to override the mayor and increase the school budget by up to the amount approved by the School Committee. Voting to approve the measure were Quaverly Rothenberg of Ward 3, Jeremy Dubs of Ward 4 and Rachel Maiore of Ward 7. I joined at-large councilors Marissa Elkins and Garrick Perry, and Deborah Klemer of Ward 2, Alex Jarrett of Ward 5, and Marianne LaBarge of Ward 6 in opposing it. I objected because it is too late in the budget process to consider such a change this year and noted that it would not increase the amount of reliable, recurring funding that is available to the city.

Under the city charter, the City Council may only delete or decrease amounts, except expenditures required by law, in the budget proposed by the mayor. The charter states that “except on the recommendation of the mayor, the City Council shall not increase any item in or the total of the proposed operating budget.”

Smaller increases are proposed for other municipal departments. The total budgeted for Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School is $11,306,817; Fire/Rescue, $7,398,083; Police, $6,996,182; Public Works, $4,240,265; Central Services, $1,987,958; Information Technology Services, $1,707,907; Forbes Library, $1,571,340; and Health and Human Services, $1,315,747.

Here is a link to the fiscal year 2025 budget:

The budget also is available in print at the city clerk’s office, 210 Main St.; Forbes Library, 20 West St.; and Lilly Library, 19 Meadow St., Florence.

The City Council’s Committee on Finance, of which I am vice chair, will hold budget hearings at 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, and Thursday, May 30, in the City Council chambers, 212 Main St.

Here is the Zoom link for both hearings (passcode 731931):

These budgets will be presented May 29: Health and Human Services, School Department

These budgets will be presented May 30: Fire/Rescue, Police, Public Works, Central Services, Climate Action and Project Administration

I will be available to discuss the budget between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Tuesday, May 28, in the City Council office at City Hall, 210 Main St.

Opioid settlement fund survey

The Department of Health and Human Services is conducting a survey about how to spend the city’s opioid settlement money. People who live or work in the city are encouraged to complete the survey, which should take no more than 10 minutes, by May 31.

Responses will be compiled to help determine strategies for addressing the impact of opioid addiction and overdose loss in the community. Beginning in July 2021, the Massachusetts attorney general initiated a series of legal settlements with pharmaceutical companies and opioid distributors that allocate funds directly to communities. Northampton has received $239,024.44 and will eventually get a total of just over $2 million in annual payments through 2038.

Surveys in English and Spanish are available here:

Anyone who needs assistance to take the survey by phone, or who wants a mailed copy, may call 413-587-1314 or email [email protected].

Memorial Day parade

The 156th annual Memorial Day parade in Florence will begin at 10 a.m., Monday, May 27, from Trinity Row. Organized by the Veterans Council of Northampton, the parade will proceed to the Park Street Cemetery for a ceremony honoring fallen service members.

The parade will include units from local veterans groups, Northampton police and fire departments, civic and youth organizations, and elected officials. I look forward to being among them.

Downtown summer music

Again, this summer, free concerts and Salsa instruction will be featured at downtown venues.

Strong Avenue is closed to motor vehicle traffic starting Wednesday, May 22, through the summer to allow for outdoor dining and live music. The Summer on Strong schedule is available here:

Also returning is Bands on Brewster in the Brewster Court walkway between the E.J. Gare Parking Garage and Northampton Brewery. The concert series will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays from May 30 through Aug. 29 as a partnership between the city and Northampton Brewery. The schedule is available here:

The city also is sponsoring Salsa in the Plaza, 44 Kirkland Ave., between the garage and Thornes Marketplace from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays in June, July and August.

The free Salsa classes and dancing will be led by McCoy Jamison. More information is available here: