In a tense meeting that lasted more than three hours, the Quincy City Council approved an almost $230 million budget for fiscal 2011 Monday night by an 8-0 vote.
Councilors did not have the authority to add or change any budget items, only to cut departments. They made no changes to the budget Mayor Thomas P. Koch delivered last month, which slashed the schools by 3.6 percent, the police and fire departments by 3.7 percent, and the libraries by almost 10 percent from their budgets for fiscal 2010, which ends June 30.
While he eventually voted to approve the school budget, Councilor Daniel G. Raymondi repeatedly criticized Superintendent Dr. Richard DeCristofaro and School Committee members for their methods in closing a roughly $7 million budget deficit in their overall budget of about $85.5 million.
Residents should be charged for full-day kindergarten, Raymondi argued, to help avoid the anticipated 100 layoffs the schools and the expected larger class sizes on all grade levels.
“Reasonable people could have made reasonable decisions that could have made this a lot better for the Quincy Public Schools,” Raymondi said.
City Councilor John F. Keenan, who was presiding over the budget hearings, had to gavel the meeting to order as DeCristofaro and Raymondi spoke over one another.
“They are incredibly professional at how they go at their budget,” DeCristofaro said of the School Committee, drawing applause from the handful of spectators in the City Council Chambers.
Other councilors disagreed with Raymondi’s approach.
“I’m offended that we would weigh into school committee deliberations at this point,” said Councilor Douglas S. Gutro.
The most contentious interactions of the evening came when Raymondi invited Anne M. Mahoney, the chairman of the budget and finance subcommittee, to defend her recent criticisms of the cuts to the school budgets and her support of two contracts that ended the 2007 strike by the Quincy teachers that guaranteed a series of pay raises for teachers and administrators.
“It’s similar to a child who kills his mother and father, and then complains that he is an orphan,” Raymondi told Mahoney as the audience members groaned.
“That’s a pretty poor analogy,” Mahoney said after Keenan again banged the gavel to bring the session to order.
In an interview after the councilors approved the school budget, Mahoney said Raymondi’s criticisms were misguided.
“If he spent more time doing his budget and less time antagonizing me, maybe he’s be able to find more resources in the city,” Mahoney said.
Mayor Koch, who was not present at the meeting, would not raise taxes to plug the roughly $12 million hole in the city’s overall $230 million budget, but has mentioned the possibility of an “incremental” tax increase for fiscal 2012. See earlier story.