By SCOTT JACKSON
Quincy city councillors on Wednesday completed their review of Mayor Thomas Koch’s proposed $405.78 million budget for fiscal year 2024, approving the budgets for the city’s Health Department, Department of Public of Works and the city clerk’s office, among others. As part of the budget hearings, city officials announced the hiring of a new community liaison and that funding would be available for new events at the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater.
While they have concluded the departmental hearings, councillors still have to review proposed raises for department heads and other appointees and are slated to do so on June 12.
Koch had proposed increasing the budget for the Health Department from $1.4 million to $1.76 million.
The increase provides an additional $150,000 for rodent control, bringing that line item up to $450,000, as well as funding for a tobacco control officer. Health Commissioner Marli Caslli said his department has already hired the tobacco control officer using funds from a state grant.
“This employee has been in our department for the last few months with a grant from the state. They’ve been terrific in getting programs up and running,” Caslli said.
“We feel adding this to our budget is very important. We have 102 licensed tobacco establishments in the city. In some wards, we do get complaints of the establishments selling to minors or illegal products being sold – flavored tobacco products or vape products.”
Five separate general fund budgets fall under the purview of the Department of Public Works – engineering, public works, snow and ice removal, waste collection and disposal, and the drain department.
The engineering budget, with a proposed increase from $928,669 to $1.04 million, includes the elimination of an engineer in training position and the addition of a new junior civil engineer, bringing the total number of those positions to four. Public Works Commissioner Al Grazioso said the city tried for over a year to fill the engineer in training post but was unable to do so and upgrading the position should make it easier to hire a qualified candidate.
Councillors made one change to the engineering budget, adding about $2,800 to the line item for education pay to correct an error at Grazioso’s request.
The public works budget has a proposed increase from $5.67 million to $5.73 million. Grazioso said the budget would consolidate some of the masonry positions within the department but would not add any new positions.
The snow and ice budget will decrease from $2.72 million this fiscal year to $2.24 million next year. Grazioso said the city has spent less than the budgeted amount on snow and ice removal in three of the last four fiscal year, finishing with a surplus of $500,000 or more each time. Under state law, communities can deficit spend on snow and ice removal if necessary.
The budget for waste collection and disposal is set to increase, from $8.42 milion this year to $9.39 million next year, as those costs continue to increase.
The budget for the drain department includes a proposed increase from $1.7 million to $1.76 million.
The budget for the city clerk’s office is likewise split between several different categories.
Koch had proposed increasing the budget for the clerk from $486,082 to $527,500, with the increase set aside for pay raises and other personnel line items.
The elections budget has a proposed increase from $973,819 to $1.17 million. City Clerk Nicole Crispo said the budget would pay for three separate elections, a preliminary city election in August, the final city election in November, and the presidential primary in March.
The budget for the licensing commission would increase from $78,636 to $85,026 while the budget for the city census would be level funded at $100,000.
Also approved on Thursday was the budget for the mayor’s office, which has a proposed increase from $931,053 to $1.06 million.
The budget includes proposed raises – which the council still must approve – for each employee in the mayor’s office, though there is no raise for the mayor himself. They include a raise of $30,000 to $153,000 for the mayor’s chief of staff, a raise of $34,000 to $139,000 for his director of operations, and $13,000 to $118,000 for his communications director.
The budget also includes a proposed raise of $12,000, to $87,000, for the community liaison position. That position had been vacant since its creation last year but on Thursday Chris Walker, Koch’s chief of staff, announced the mayor has hired Damion Outar to fill that position.
“We do believe pretty firmly that patience was a virtue in this case,” Walker said. “Damion was a real find. He is immigrant to this country, he’s been living her 20 years, he’s a social worker by trade and has a lot of experience.”
Outar most recently worked as an independent life coach, trainer and consultant. He was formerly a therapeutic coach for Fathers’ Uplift in Boston and previously worked for the state Department of Mental Health.
Also approved on Thursday was the celebrations budget, which will increase by $50,000 to $300,000. Walker said $10,000 of that increase will be used for events on Fridays this summer at the Ruth Gordon Amphitheater, and funding for additional events there may also be available.
The final budget approved on Thursday was the City Council’s budget, which has a proposed increase of about $40,000 to $63,700. The budget includes pay raises for several employees, like the auditor and clerk of committees, but not councillors themselves.