Friday, January 21, 2000
Finance committee leans toward leniency on public safety budgets
Managers of Carlisle's public safety departments told the finance committee on January 12 in order to permit salary increases, maintain personnel and still meet the severely restricted budget guidelines FinCom issued in December, they would reduce training and maintenance expenses.
Police chief David Galvin proposed a major increase of over 10 percent in the FY01 police department budget, to allow for mandated salary increases for union workers and 3-percent increase for nonunion workers. Similarly, most of the 12-percent fire department increase proposed by fire chief Bob Koning was due to increases in wages and salaries, including an 82 percent increase for training meetings.
"My biggest job is to keep the firefighters interested," and these meetings "keep us together as a department," he said. Since there are not many fires in Carlisle, constant drill is critical, Koning added. Koning also proposed a large increase of 13.5 percent in ambulance costs, again almost entirely to cover training meetings and course fees for emergency medical technicians.
Galvin and Koning also argued that keeping salaries for the communications department competitive with nearby towns avoids the costs of replacing dispatchers who leave. They proposed a 3-percent "cost-of-living" increase for department employees.
To avoid training cuts
FinCom member Tom Bilotta and others questioned the wisdom of cutting back on training in emergency departments. FinCom's distress over reducing training for police officers and eliminating traffic enforcement was relieved somewhat when they realized that in setting the police guideline they had not accounted for state reimbursement for Quinn Bill expenses. Provisions of that bill, allowing police employees additional pay based on education, were adopted at last year's Annual Town Meeting. The state is expected to reimburse the town for one-half of the benefits paid to employees.
FinCom members discussed adding the $33,438 anticipated reimbursement to the police department guideline to avoid any reduction in police training or traffic enforcement. According to Galvin, traffic reinforcement yields $12-15,000 annually in revenues to the town.
For the communications department, FinCom's guideline had actually cut this year's budget by $5,000, resulting in a nearly $10,000 gap between Galvin and Koning's request and the FinCom target. The guideline budget, the chiefs said, would eliminate all in-service training and reduce service and supply budgets.
FinCom member Simon Platt reminded the committee of their expectation last year that raising communications salaries would eventually reduce expenses for personnel turnover. Chair Tony Allison suggested that restoring the December cut of $5,000 and allowing the 1.4-percent increase granted other town departments would provide the funds required to avoid cutting training.
Fire and ambulance
For the fire department to close the gap of $16,722 between the guideline and the proposed budget, Koning said he would reduce training expenses by $8,127 and cut $8,595 from maintenance and repair of the municipal fire alarm system, vehicles and other equipment. For ambulance services, Koning did not indicate how he would meet the guideline budget, indicating that ambulance fees would finance part of the increase.
In the past, officials have assumed that rises in costs to run the ambulance were at least partly offset by a corresponding increase in the fees collected for use of the service. However, ambulance fees, recently raised to over $420, are now set aside in a fund established two years ago for ambulance replacement. Thus, it is harder for the town budget to absorb increases in costs since the increased fees collected are no longer available to cover higher expenses.
Higher inspection fees
For building inspections, Koning also proposed an increase of over 6 percent, again to allow for wage increases and to add secretarial hours. In this case, higher fees for building permits could cover these cost increases. To meet the FinCom's guideline, Koning would reduce the budgets for legal expenses and education, resulting in "a violation of the law mandating re-certification training for license renewals."
In other discussion at the meeting, members Phil Conti and Bilotta expressed unhappiness at the report that the Carlisle Public School will propose a "level service" budget with an increase of 10.5 percent. FinCom should insist that the school cut some program or administrative expenses to meet the guideline, Bilotta said, suggesting that the newly added principal and full-time special education director position might be eliminated.
Bilotta and Platt also suggested that the FinCom ask the selectmen that any proceeds from the sale of a town-owned lot on East Riding Drive be returned to the general fund or placed in a stabilization fund, rather than designated for some other purpose.
Proposed increases; reductions to meet guidelines
Proposed budget increase Cuts to meet FinCom guidelines
Police 8% over FY00 or $57,134 · Reduce in-service training 50%
· Virtually all to cover 10.5% ($16,625)
increase (10.2% for union, · Eliminate traffic enforcement
3.6% for non-union workers) ($8,240)
· State reimbursement would
reduce increase to 4.8%, or
Fire 12% or $14,146 · Reduce training ($8,595)
· Mostly firefighter pay · Reduce maintenance & repair
· Begin payment to auxiliary & equipment ($8,127)
firefighters for training
Ambulance 13.45% or $4,758 None described
Communi- 2.6% or $4,677 · Eliminate in-service training
cations · 3% increase for all ($5,000)
employees · Reduce legal expenses & supply
Building 6.3% or $4,526 · Reduce legal expenses ($2,000)
Inspector · 3% wage increase · Reduce mandated recertfication
· increase in secretarial training ($1,521)
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito