LYNN — The city’s $3.94 million in health insurance savings for this year will cover retroactive fiscal year 2019 raises for its employees.
The rest of the insurance savings will go toward hiring new police officers, repairing sidewalks and the school department.
Changes in the city’s health insurance plan and 1.5 percent raises were negotiated through collective bargaining, with an agreement between Lynn and its dozen unions reached over the summer.
Raises were given despite an assertion from the city’s fiscal stability officer, Sean Cronin, senior deputy commissioner of local services for the Department of Revenue, last spring that the FY20 budget didn’t allow for wage increases through collective bargaining.
“We’re happy to put money into the infrastructure and public safety,” said Michael Bertino, the city’s chief financial officer. “Those are the things that are important to everybody.”
The City Council has amended the $367.93 million FY20 budget, which transferred the savings from the health insurance budget to cover $1.24 million in payroll increases.
About half of that payroll increase covers FY19 raises and the other half is to cover the increase in salaries in FY20, according Bertino.
The remainder of the savings will be used for hiring 10 new police officers at a cost of $720,000, repairing sidewalks at $300,000, and legal expenses at $75,000, with $100,000 going toward the Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School tuition, part of the school department budget.
An additional $1.5 million was transferred to cover the city’s increase in required net school spending, which resulted from a higher amount of Chapter 70 state aid for the Lynn Public Schools than initially budgeted for.
“They’re using (the savings) to help balance the budget,” said City Council President Darren Cyr. “Our biggest concern was making sure we got cops on the street, so we hired new cops with the money.”
The agreement reached over the summer, the Health Insurance Memorandum of Agreement, provides coverage from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022, but did not include raises beyond FY19.
The city and the majority of its unions are still in negotiations for new contracts, which could potentially include raises for FY20 and subsequent years.
An agreement was reached between the School Committee and Lynn Teachers Union, the city’s largest union, for a new two-year contract last week, which includes 2 percent raises for FY20 and FY21.
But future raises aren’t a certainty for all city employees. To balance the FY20 budget, city officials had to bridge a projected $5 million budget gap, and Lynn’s finances are still considered unstable.
Bertino would not comment on ongoing negotiations, explaining that it would be an unfair labor practice, other than to say, “we just have to continue to negotiate in good faith.”