$2M budget deficit looms at the start of election season.

Position:LOCAL NEWS
 
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Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

COLUMN: POLITICS AND THE CITY

With the arrival of the Labor Day weekend, marking the unofficial end of summer, it's time to empty out the old notebook and get ready for what is shaping up to be a rather interesting fall at Worcester City Hall.

Just one week from Tuesday, voters go to the polls to reduce the number of at-large City Council candidates from 18 to 12 and to trim the fields in the races for the District 1 and 5 seats from three to two. The preliminary will set the stage for what should be one of the more intriguing municipal elections in years.

Incumbent city councilors, meanwhile, also have to bring some resolution to the city's budget before setting the fiscal 2008 tax rates this fall. Unless some new revenues make their way to the city coffers in the next few months, the council may end up having to find a way to balance this year's municipal budget, which is almost $2 million out of whack.

So, fasten your seat belts, folks. It could be a wild ride.

For what people pay in property taxes, all most of them ask is safe and passable streets and sidewalks. But more than a few folks will tell you they're not getting that in Worcester. In fact, they contend the condition of the city's streets and sidewalks leaves a lot to be desired.

"I've seen better streets and sidewalks in Baghdad than I've seen in some parts of the city," District 1 Councilor Joffrey A. Smith said last week.

The big problem has been a lack of funding.

The city's master sidewalk reconstruction list consists of 235,099 feet of sidewalks in need of repair, at a total cost of $9.4 million - and that was before the City Council approved several other sidewalk repair petitions last Tuesday night. Those

sidewalks will push the cost of approved sidewalk repairs to more than $10 million.

But only $600,000 has been set aside in the city budget for sidewalk reconstruction - a drop in the bucket, compared to what is needed.

"I don't see many of these sidewalks getting done in the near future," said District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr., chairman of the council's Public Works Committee. "It could be years. We can't ask the city manager for additional money because it simply isn't there. In order to get all these sidewalks done, we will need major help from our legislative partners. We need to come up with some kind of program that is outside of city funding."

In an effort to bolster the

sidewalk program, Robert L. Moylan Jr., commissioner of public...

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