Friday, February 26, 1999
General gov't $100K over budget
There was little joy when the finance committee heard that combined increases for communications, the building inspector and general expenses would exceed the guideline by over $100,000.
Fire chief Bob Koning submitted an FY00 fire department budget of $119,967 at the February 10 finance committee hearing, representing an increase of $3,355 or 2.87 percent over the previous year. The cost of operating the ambulance is estimated to be $35,359, resulting in a total budget of $155,326. This falls within the three- percent guideline and elicited a favorable reaction from FinCom.
Not so favorable was the proposed FY00 communications department budget, which increased by 17.58 percent over FY99. "This is a rather substantial overrun from the dollars we gave you," said FinCom chair Charles Parker. "It's disturbing." Police chief Dave Galvin and Koning, co-directors of the communications department, explained that the $26,719 increase is mostly due to unexpected personnel turnover during the 1999 fiscal year. The department was forced to hire a new employee at a rate that exceeded the budget. In addition, in order to maintain parity with the remaining employees, a rate adjustment of $1.50 an hour was made to the two other dispatchers.
"This has been a problem for years," explained selectman Mike Fitzgerald. "To get qualified people, we need to pay a reasonable market wage." Galvin added, "We're still not paying top dollar. We're in the lower end of the pay scale at $12 to $14 an hour. Concord pays $15 to $16 an hour." Referring to the almost $27,000 in additional spending, Parker responded, "This is big enough to force an override, someplace."
Galvin eased the situation somewhat by reporting that the police budget, while up $15,438 over the previous year, is $5,000 under the FinCom guideline. Fitzgerald warned that negotiations with the Police Association have not been completed. "The contract is up for renewal on June 30. If we haven't agreed by then, we'll roll over with a step increase," he explained.
Koning put on his building inspector's hat and, to Parker's dismay, reported another overrun. "The building inspector's budget for FY00 has increased by $10,260, or 24.3 percent, to $52,444," stated Koning. "Part of this increase is for the addition of an assistant building inspector." He explained that the assistant would fill in if he were out of town or running late at the Town Hall, adding 28 hours at $35 per hour to the annual cost.
General expense increase
Town administrator David DeManche had more bad news for the FinCom members. The general expense budget, which includes town counsel and all boards and commissions, increased 16.5 percent to $209,440. Town counsel alone amounted to $46,000, an increase of 53 percent over the previous year. "Part of this is due to the change from Kopelman and Paige to Deutsch Williams," said DeManche. The board of selectmen budget also increased dramatically by 78 percent to $30,654, reflecting additional work load and a full-time secretary.
"We seem to be trying to fix everything in one year," lamented Parker as he updated his running total. DeManche was not finished. "The Town Hall budget has increased by 51 percent$22,843 above last year," said DeManche. "However, $16,600 of the $69,000 total includes telephone charges formerly budgeted by individual boards and committees." The remaining general government largesse reported by DeManche was a cost of $339,000 for employee pensions and benefits, an increase of over ten percent from FY99.
Parker stared at his scratch sheet and exclaimed, "That's a total of more than $100,000 in general government override!" The town faces a challenge when this is added onto K-8 and high school overrides and an additional $400,000 in library cost. "This was the year to improve everything," reiterated Parker.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito