Friday, January 22, 1999
Selectmen hear budgets: police, fire, communications, building inspector
In anticipation of the February 8 finance committee budget hearing, town administrator David DeManche reviewed a draft FY00 budget for the police, fire, communications and building inspector departments.
Police chief David Galvin and fire chief Bob Koning were both on hand to answer any questions from the board of selectmen, who have authority over the budgets.
Police contract uncertain
The proposed police budget shows a 2.6 percent increase, within the guidelines established by the FinCom. But, DeManche stressed, the $11,000 proposed increase includes only a 3- percent wage increase for non-union workers and step increases for union workers. It does not include funding for union wage increases specified in a new police contract which is currently under negotiation. If the new contract is finalized before the Annual Town Meeting, the proposed budget will have to be revised upwards to reflect any salary increases, selectman Michael Fitzgerald observed. If negotiations stretch beyond the Annual Town Meeting, the selectmen will need to request a free cash transfer to fund any difference.
Budget items the selectmen examined closely were $1,800 for new uniforms and $4,200 for equipment expenses. DeManche explained that a portion of the uniform budget would be used to cover new holsters for the officers. The current holsters are ten years old, according to DeManche, and are beginning to show their age. The town would purchase Level 3 holsters, which are designed to prevent an officer's gun from being pulled out by someone else during a scuffle.
Roughly $3,000 of the proposed equipment budget would be spent to purchase a monitor that flashes the speed of oncoming traffic. Galvin explained that the unit sits on the trunk of a cruiser and plugs into a cigarette lighter. Galvin said that the department had tested a monitor and found that it was effective in slowing traffic. He also noted that the smaller trunk model was considerably less expensive that the larger $12,000 trailer model, which is seen periodically in Concord.
Both Fitzgerald and fellow member John Ballantine, former FinCom members, suggested that the one-time equipment purchase be requested in a Warrant article and not built into the operating budget.
When asked if there were any other items that Galvin would like to see funded this year, Galvin immediately responded, "air conditioning." For the past several years, Galvin has been requesting $10,000 to install air conditioning at the police station. He has advocated that air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury, for the officers, who must wear bullet proof vests inside the building.
Hike in communications
DeManche presented the communications department budget, with a proposed increase of 19.43 percent, or roughly $29,500. Communications employees would receive a 3-percent salary increase in addition to a $.75 per hour increase across the board, to bring the salaries in line with surrounding towns. DeManche and Koning explained that they had to hire a new employee at a higher rate of pay than some current employees to draw qualified applicants for the vacancy, necessitating the increase. All three hope that the salary adjustments will help curb the steady turnover the department has seen in recent years. Koning and Galvin said that while the personnel department did not review the salaries of each individual employee, the board did approve the range of salaries.
In past years, the communications budget has been exceeding their budget by approximately $3,000, DeManche said, because of costs associated with training new employees. Since Galvin and Koning agreed that there would still be turnover, even with the salary adjustments, they recommended against cutting the proposed budget for training.
"You are tacking on an awful lot in one year," selectman Doug Stevenson observed, sparking a debate on how to reduce the proposed budget increase. Fitzgerald suggested eliminating funding for uniforms to "take the sting out." Stevenson suggested that the salary increase could be phased in, with only a $.50 per hour increase the first year. Koning said that it would not be worth the risk of losing the current qualified staff, adding that costs associated with replacing employees would just create additional expenses later on.
Fire department within guideline
The proposed budget for the fire department and ambulance of $155,325 is within the FinCom's 3-percent guideline. Wages would increase by 3- percent across the board, DeManche said. An increase of $400 for training and meetings would cover the increased costs associated with training at Middlesex Community College.
Selectmen had few questions about the budget, but Fitzgerald used the opportunity to ask Koning how much longer the town could continue to rely on a volunteer fire department. Koning, who estimated that there were roughly 30 staff currently, said the department is "not doing too badly." Koning noted that Carlisle is the last community within Route 495 that has not converted to a full-time fire department.
Increase for assistant inspector
Koning then switched hats to present the building inspector's proposed budget. The FYOO proposal would increase the budget by 24.32 percent to $52,449. Salaries for both the inspector and secretary would increase by 3 percent, DeManche said, but additional money would fund a new part-time position of assistant inspector. When Koning is away, the town is left without coverage and has relied on coverage from Concord. Koning suggested that funds be incorporated into the budget to cover these costs. The remainder of the increase would fund education and increased legal expenses.
Koning proposed that inspection fees could be increased to offset some expenses. According to Koning, fees haven't been increased in 19 years. DeManche, however, said that he was uneasy supporting Koning's suggestion that the fees be increased from $12 to $25. "It appears that the fees are somewhat low," admitted DeManche, who said he would look at neighboring communities to consider how the fees could be adjusted.
The selectmen are scheduled to present all of the budgets which fall under their guidance to the FinCom on February 8 at 7:30 p.m.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito