Springfield City Council passes budget, tempers flare - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Springfield City Council passes budget, tempers flare over residency

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Springfield City Council approved Mayor Domenic Sarno's $571.8 million budget Wednesday night at City Hall.

Councilors overwhelmingly approved the mayor's budget, with only two voting against it.

The issue that had tempers flaring was the newest residency requirement proposal.

This week City Council President James Ferrera had proposed cutting the salaries of 32 non-union employees in six months if they don't move into the city.

"If you live off the city's dime, you should be living in the city of Springfield," he said.

The 32 job listings were ready before the council one by one Wednesday night. Each time, city councilors rejected the proposal to cut the salaries of those employees.

Ferrera pointed to the city's nearly 11 percent unemployment rate as to why those salaries need to be cut. Others who are in support of a residency requirement say doing it that way is flat out illegal.

"The proposal was quite obviously to everyone in the room an election tactic and unconstitutional, in violation of city contracts and unreasonably unfair to existing city employees," said City Councilor Michael Fenton.

Ferrera argued that the law department would step in if the city got sued.

"The city law department is defending us, that's why we have city lawyers here," he said.

The mayor weighed in on the residency requirement.

"This is illegal to be done and we put the city in line for a possible suit," Sarno said.

But he was far more relieved a budget free of layoffs passed easily through the council.

"Many times there's a spirited and emotional conversation on this and I think people mean well on that and we have an exchange and constructive criticism, but overall the budget has been passed."

The budget does fund 22 more police cadets and eight more firefighters.

It goes into effect on July 1.

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