LOWELL -- City Manager Kevin Murphy has instructed department heads that he will not approve any new hires or the backfilling of positions until the new fiscal year beginning July 1.
Murphy, who said he will only consider "emergency exceptions" to his hiring stance, wrote in a Wednesday memo to department leaders that the directive was part of efforts to address the city's snow-and-ice deficit and close the current fiscal year in balance.
The manager also said he will scrutinize all non-salary expenditure requests for "necessity" instead of "convenience."
"There are two months left in the fiscal year and we want to have a balanced budget at the end of the year," Murphy told The Sun. "We are going to closely watch every hire and expenditure until the end of the fiscal year."
Interim Chief Financial Officer Robert Healy said of the spending directive, "Essential items will be approved, but the intent is to save some money if people have balances in their expenses budgets."
As of late April, the city showed a snow-and-ice deficit of $3.2 million, according to a memo Healy provided to the City Council.
Healy wrote that figure included more than $2 million in open purchase orders that would be closed out, and expected the deficit to be closer to $1.6 million.
The canceling of purchase orders is helping the city reduce the deficit further, and the city is also waiting on an approximately $500,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement for winter-storm Nemo in February, 2013, said Healy.
The total amount expended for snow-and-ice removal this fiscal year is $2,751,332, while $1.35 million was budgeted, said Healy.
State law allows snow-and-ice removal accounts to be overspent, but the deficit has to be raised in the following year.
Healy said Lynch's preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 called for $500,000 to be raised to cover the deficit, a number Murphy and Healy are trying to reduce in the budget that will be proposed to the council.
To overspend the snow-and-ice account, communities must appropriate at least the same amount as they did in the prior budget year. Healy said the city administration will likely propose spending the same amount on snow-and-ice removal as it did in fiscal 2014.
Healy hopes to have next fiscal year's budget to the council for their review and approval at their June 3 meeting. He and Murphy will meet with top School Department officials early next week, with one topic of discussion expected to be how to address the city's multimillion net-school spending shortfall.
Mayor Rodney Elliott, chairman of the council's Finance Subcommittee, praised Murphy for his plans to limit hiring and spending in the last months of the fiscal year.
"I think it is a prudent move considering we have a significant snow-and-ice removal deficit we have to address," Elliott said. "It is always good to close the year out without any deficits."
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