Friday, January 10, 2003
Police, fire, DPW report FY04 no-override budget requires cuts
A preliminary review of budgets revealed it will be difficult to maintain all current police and fire services at the guideline budget level recommended by the town Finance Committee (FinCom). On December 17, the selectmen met to review police, fire, DPW, and communications budgets, with members of the FinCom available to comment. Department heads had been asked to itemize what budget items, programs or services could not be accomodated in the FinCom guideline budget (the no-override or levy limit budget). In addition, the selectmen asked that cost-of-living salary increases be adjusted from 1.5 %, to 2% while maintaining the guideline.
Expensive police contract
Sticking to the guideline proved especially difficult for police chief David Galvin, as the new police contract contains a number of cost drivers. These include a base pay increase of 3.5%, longevity pay of 4-8%, as well as additional vacation, sick day, and compensatory days off that must be covered. In addition, several officers are eligible for career incentive pay (Quinn Bill) and additional pay for specialty assignments. In total, these costs represent $48,000, a 10% increase over last year. To keep to the guideline, Galvin recommended reducing court appearances, details, and education, and eliminating cell watch, staff meetings, and all in-house training (a $33,478 cost last year).
Chair Doug Stevenson questioned eliminating all training and asked if consideration had been given to limiting shifts to reduce costs. "I can't go down that road," said Galvin. "Not to have someone to respond when a member of the community needs help..." Selectman John Ballantine noted "This year is tough, and next year will be as tough. It feels like we're cutting for one year, and I'm not sure that's realistic. . . You're going to have to start cutting service." Responded Galvin, "My guideline budget stresses essential service to the community."
FinCom member Lisa Jensen-Fellows asked if the union could be approached to re-negotiate the contract. Since the the contract was signed only recently, this was not deemed possible.
The police guideline budget was approved, a level at which cuts will be necessary. Stevenson noted, however, "That $48,000 gap needs to be looked at" and suggested an override may be considered at a later date.
Fire, DPW, dispatcher
New fire chief David Flannery recommended a growth budget 12.6% over last year's. This includes much-needed secretarial help, fire inspection, hours increases for training, and a program for reducing false home alarms. A minimal guideline budget was approved and Flannery was asked to detail what items would be lost .
The DPW presented a $892,000 guideline budget, $12,000 below level services and $22,000 below the growth budget. At the growth level, needed road and equipment maintenance could be undertaken. The guideline level requires a reduction in road maintenance, a particular concern given a recent drop-off in Chapter 90 state funds. The guideline level, at which maintenance would be deferred, was approved.
The communications department budget, presented by Galvin, was also approved at the guideline level. An increase in dispatcher salary in order to reduce turnover was discussed, but no decision was made. Said Flannery, "You want a long-term person who knows the town. A dispatcher not trained can turn a department like ours upside down."
The selectmen will continue to consider these budgets in preparation for departmental presentations to the FinCom starting in January. After evaluating the losses to road maintenance, police training, and other areas, the selectmen will determine if an override recommendation should be made to maintain some services.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito