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  • Acts
  • 2001
  • Chapter 28 AN ACT RELATIVE TO FINANCIAL CONDITIONS IN THE CITY OF PITTSFIELD.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any general or special law, city charter provision, or local ordinance to the contrary, the city of Pittsfield, acting by and through its finance advisory board, in this act referred to as the board, established by section 3, may borrow, at one time or from time to time, such sums, as are approved by the mayor and the city council of the city and then by the board, but in no event in any amount in the aggregate in excess of $10,000,000, to maintain and operate the city while it adjusts the level of its expenses and revenues so as to achieve balanced budgets and fiscal stability. The board may limit such borrowing to an amount or amounts less than the total amount or amounts approved by the mayor and city council. Bonds or notes issued under authority of this act for operating purposes may be issued for a term not in excess of 10 years and shall be backed by the full faith of the city. Such bonds or notes shall be eligible to be issued as qualified bonds pursuant to chapter 44A of the General Laws. Indebtedness incurred under this act shall not be included in determining the statutory limit of indebtedness of the city under section 10 of chapter 44 of the General Laws but, except as provided in this act, shall otherwise be subject to said chapter 44. Amounts raised to pay indebtedness incurred under authority of this section shall be subject to the provisions of section 21C of chapter 59 of the General Laws.

The maturities of each issue of bonds or notes authorized pursuant to this act, including any refunding bonds, may, if approved by the city officers authorized to issue such bonds or notes and the board established by section 3, be arranged so that for each such issue the amounts payable in the several years for principal and interest combined are as nearly equal as is practicable in the opinion of the officers authorized to issue said bonds or notes, or in the alternative, in accordance with a schedule providing for a more rapid amortization of principal.

SECTION 2. All proceeds of any loan authorized by section 1 shall be deposited in a separate fund which shall be set up on the books of the city of Pittsfield and maintained separate and apart from all other funds and accounts of the city. This fund shall be called the City of Pittsfield Finance Advisory Fund, in this act referred to as the fund. The mayor, with the approval of the finance advisory board, established by section 3, may authorize disbursements from the fund for such operating purposes as the mayor deems appropriate to maintain and continue city operations. If the board so votes, funds borrowed for operating purposes may be applied, with the approval of the director of accounts, as general revenue for purposes of section 23 of chapter 59 of the General Laws. The board may establish such rules and procedures as it deems appropriate relating to disbursements from the fund and the reporting and accounting for these disbursements.

SECTION 3. There shall be in the city of Pittsfield a finance advisory board, consisting of the secretary of administration and finance or his designee, the commissioner of revenue or his designee, the deputy commissioner of the division of local services of the department of revenue or his designee, the mayor of the city of Pittsfield or his designee, and the president of the city council of said city or his designee. The board shall initiate and assure the implementation of appropriate initiatives to secure the financial stability of said city, and shall continue in existence until June 30, 2004 unless the members, after consideration of the recommendation of the city council if they choose to offer one, by majority vote shall annually vote to continue the operation of the board from year to year thereafter.

Until the board ceases to exist, no appropriation, loan order or transfer shall take effect until approved by the board. In addition to the authority and powers conferred elsewhere in this act, and notwithstanding any general or special law, city charter provision, or local ordinance to the contrary, the board shall have the following authority:

(a) The authority, subject to the express delegation thereof by the mayor and by the city council by majority vote, to amend at any time any appropriation, loan order, transfer or municipal spending authority. The authority to amend, pursuant to the authority contained in this act, shall include the power to increase or decrease an existing appropriation, loan order, transfer or spending authority; the authority to eliminate an existing appropriation, loan order, transfer or spending authority; and the power to create an appropriation, transfer or spending authority. In exercising its authority under this clause, the board may act with respect to municipal spending purposes which are not the subject of separately identified appropriations. The authority of the board under this clause shall not be subject to the limitations of section 33B of chapter 44 of the General Laws.

(b) If there is no annual budget lawfully established for a fiscal year by the first day of such fiscal year, the authority, subject to the express delegation thereof by the mayor and the city council, by majority vote, to establish appropriations for that fiscal year that it deems appropriate and to amend, as provided for above, such appropriations during that fiscal year.

(c) The authority, subject to the express delegation thereof by the mayor and the city council, by majority vote, to encumber or impound, at any time, any unexpended or unencumbered appropriation or spending authority of any kind notwithstanding the prior approval of the board of such appropriation or spending authority. To the extent that funds previously encumbered or impounded remain encumbered or impounded at the conclusion of the fiscal year, such amounts shall revert to the General Fund.

(d) In addition and without limitation of the other authority in this section, the independent authority, subject to the express delegation thereof by the mayor and the city council, by majority vote, to establish, set, raise or lower any fee, rate or charge, for any service, license, permit or other municipal activity, otherwise within the authority of the city to establish, set, raise or lower. No such fee, rate or charge shall be established, set, raised or lowered without written notice to the mayor and city council at least 45 days before the effective date of such action.

Action by the board, under authority of this act, shall in all respects constitute valid and lawful action by the city for purposes of chapters 40, 41, 44 and 59 of the General Laws and for all municipal finance and other matters.

In each year during which the board continues in existence, the mayor shall, at the same time as the annual budget is submitted to the city council, provide to the board a copy of the proposed annual budget together with a supporting revenue and expenditure statement in such detail as the board may prescribe. The board shall review such budgetary information and may issue a report of its findings.

In order to promote and ensure the fiscal stability of the city of Pittsfield, the board may also require the filing of a detailed annual work plan by each municipal department which shall be approved by the mayor, setting forth certain actions which may be implemented by each such department through its department head to ensure greater efficiency in the delivery of services by the city.

Each work plan shall be in such detail as the board may prescribe, and may include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) a plan for improved financial and spending controls; (2) budget guidelines and objectives for the fiscal year; (3) a professional and nonprofessional staffing plan; (4) a plan for other proposed savings to be implemented. Any such plan submitted by the school department shall be approved by the school committee prior to submission to the board.

During the course of each fiscal year in which the board is in existence, the board may require that a status report be filed with the board by each department head on a quarterly basis.

The board shall have full authority to waive any reporting or filing requirements contained in this section.

The board may prepare reports of its findings and review and issue such recommendations for further action to the mayor, city council, municipal department heads or agencies of the commonwealth that the board determines appropriate. Members of the board who are employees or officers of the commonwealth or the city of Pittsfield shall serve without compensation. The board may establish compensation, subject to the limitations of this act, for members of the board, but no such compensation shall become effective unless and until approved by the commissioner of administration and finance, and to the extent that such compensation is to be paid from city funds, the amount of the compensation shall be approved by a majority vote of the city council. The board may adopt rules and procedures that it deems necessary and appropriate to effectuate the purposes of this act.

SECTION 4. School department budgets, expenditures and other financial matters requiring action by the city council shall be submitted to the mayor for review and comment after they have been acted upon by the school committee.

SECTION 5. The city accountant of the city of Pittsfield shall have the powers and duties vested in this office by general or special law, and in addition, the powers and duties provided in this act. To the extent not otherwise inconsistent with this act, the office of the city accountant shall also have the powers and duties provided by local ordinance.

The city accountant shall, in addition to his other duties, provide, upon majority vote and at the written request of either the city council or its finance committee, within a reasonable time period from such request, an oral or written assessment, or both, as the city council or its finance committee may request, of the current and future financial impact of the cost of any proposed appropriation order, lease or contract arrangement for a term including more than 1 fiscal year, collective bargaining agreement or borrowing authorization, particularly, but not limited to, as a cost item would relate to the continuous provision of the existing level of municipal services. To the extent reasonable, this assessment shall include an analysis or other information of a financial nature as is specifically requested by a vote of the city council or its finance committee. The assessment and analysis shall be provided by the accountant as his professional opinion, and he shall not be obligated to represent the opinion of the mayor.

The city council, by majority vote, may request this assessment, analysis or other financial information, without otherwise limiting its authority to request it, at any time it receives formal or informal notice of: (i) an expenditure which is or may be in excess of an appropriation; or (ii) any actions with respect to temporary or permanent indebtedness.

SECTION 6. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law, city charter provision or local ordinance to the contrary, but subject to section 21C of chapter 59 of the General Laws, the city of Pittsfield shall establish a Special Reserve Fund for extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures, which fund shall be called the Supplemental Reserve Fund to ensure fiscal stability. This fund shall be separate and in addition to any amounts appropriated pursuant to section 5A of chapter 40 of the General Laws.

(b) Commencing with fiscal year 2002 and for all fiscal years thereafter, before the date when the tax rate is fixed, the board of assessors shall include in the amounts to be raised pursuant to section 23 of chapter 59 of the General Laws for such fiscal year an amount, the supplemental reserve fund sum, as determined under this act, and to be certified to the board of assessors by the city accountant.

(c) The supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2002 shall be an amount equal to 0.25 per cent of the gross amount to be raised for the prior fiscal year for the General Operating Fund as appearing on the city's tax rate recapitulation for that prior year; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2003 shall be an amount equal to 0.50 per cent of the gross amount to be raised for the prior fiscal year for the General Operating Fund as appearing on the city's tax rate recapitulation for that prior year; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2004 shall be an amount equal to 0.75 per cent of the gross amount to be raised for the prior fiscal year for the General Operating Fund as appearing on the city's tax rate recapitulation for that prior year; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2005 shall be an amount equal to 1 per cent of the gross amount to be raised for the prior fiscal year for the General Operating Fund as appearing on the city's tax rate recapitulation for that prior year; and the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2006 and each subsequent fiscal year shall be an amount equal to 1.5 per cent of the gross amount to be raised for the prior fiscal year for the General Operating Fund as appearing on the city's tax rate recapitulation for that prior year.

(d) In each year the amount required to be raised for such Special Reserve Fund may be reduced by the amount, if any, remaining in the Reserve Fund established for the preceding year after all expenditures have been made therefrom as authorized in this act, and such remaining amount shall be retained in such Special Reserve Fund provided for the then current fiscal year.

(e) Transfers or expenditures may be made from the Special Reserve Fund of any fiscal year during that fiscal year only, and then only by the mayor with the approval of the city council, and if the finance advisory board continues in existence at the time of such transfer or expenditure, only with the approval of the board. Each such transfer or expenditure request by the mayor shall be accompanied by a written statement detailing the amount and the reason for the transfer or expenditure. Except for such transfers or expenditures as authorized in this act, there shall be no other transfers or reductions in the amount of this fund.

(f) All amounts required by this act to be raised for each fiscal year shall be certified to the board of assessors by the city accountant before the establishment of the tax rate for the then current fiscal year. While the board remains in existence, the board, to the extent it deems it appropriate to effectuate the purposes of this act, may waive in part or in whole the requirement of this section.

SECTION 7. No official of the city of Pittsfield, except in the case of an emergency involving the health and safety of the people or their property, shall knowingly expend or cause to be expended in any fiscal year any sum in excess of that official's departmental or other governmental units appropriation duly made in accordance with law, nor commit the city, nor cause it to be committed, to any obligation for the future payment of money in excess of that appropriation, with the exception of court judgments.

Any official who intentionally violates this section shall be personally liable to the city for any amounts expended in excess of an appropriation to the extent that the city does not recover such amounts from the person or persons to whom such amounts were paid. The trial court or a single justice of the supreme judicial court shall have jurisdiction to adjudicate claims brought by the city under this act and to order relief that the court finds appropriate to prevent further violations of this section. Any violation of this section shall be deemed sufficient cause for removal.

SECTION 8. For the purposes of this act, the word "official" shall mean a city department head, permanent, temporary or acting, including the superintendent of schools, and all municipal boards, committees, including the school committee, and commissions which recommend, authorize or approve the expenditure of funds, and the word "emergency" shall mean a major disaster, including but not limited to, flood, drought, fire, hurricane, earthquake, storm or other catastrophe, whether natural or otherwise, which poses an unexpected and immediate threat to the health or safety of persons or property.

SECTION 9. In any year during which bonds or notes authorized under this act remain outstanding, the commissioner of revenue shall not certify the annual tax rate of the city of Pittsfield until an audit report for the preceding fiscal year has been received and accepted by the commissioner. This audit report shall be prepared by a certified public accountant in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards and include accompanying financial statements.

In any year during which bonds or notes authorized under this act remain outstanding, the city shall submit to the commissioner quarterly reports presenting a budget to actual comparison of revenues and expenditures. Such written reports shall be submitted within 30 days of the conclusion of each fiscal quarter and shall be in such form and include such information and detail as the commissioner may prescribe.

In any year during which bonds or notes authorized under this act remain outstanding, the city shall not issue any bond, note or other form of indebtedness without written notification to, and the approval of the commissioner.

Upon the city's demonstrating, to the commissioner of revenue evidence of the city achieving a balanced budget for 3 consecutive fiscal years, the city shall not be required to notify or seek the approval of said commissioner before the issuance of any bond, note or other form of indebtedness.

SECTION 10. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Approved July 3, 2001.