Friday, February 6, 2004
FinCom balances limited funds and public safety
On Wednesday January 28, the Finance Committee (FinCom) met with public safety leadership, Police Chief David Galvin and Fire Chief David Flannery, to review fiscal year 2005 (FY05) budgets. Also presenting was Bob Koning, who reviewed the Building Commissioner's budget.
Police hope to restore programs
FinCom chair, Lisa Jensen-Fellows, opened the police review by acknowledging that public safety is absolutely essential to Carlisle and thanked Chief Galvin for operating at a high level within tight budget constraints. Galvin presented the requisite "guideline," "level services" and "growth budgets," advocating the growth budget (5.6% over FY04) to avoid deferring key programs for a second year.
The guideline budget increase came in at 1.5% over the FY04 budget, meeting contractual obligations of $34, 535 and a 2% raise for non-contractual employees. However, it reduces the town's traffic enforcement program (radar traps) from 2.5 days per week to 1 day per week. Further, this budget continues for a second year the deferral of a number of important programs, specifically:
• No funds for motor vehicle appearances
• No funds for in-service training/re-certification
• No funds for annual range qualification
• No funds for departmental meetings
• No funds for staff meetings
• No funds for cell watch.
While no final decisions were made, the sentiment of FinCom members was to recommend a modified growth budget. This would provide for the traffic enforcement program, which generates $18,000 per year in fines, to be maintained at 2.5 days per week. Also included would be range qualification, training and some funds for staff and departmental meetings.
Fire requests EMT stipend
Chief Flannery advocated a level services budget of $229,617, which is 3.4% above guideline and 5% above 2004. The major component of this increase ($6,000) is the introduction of an EMT stipend. This program would add $1,200 per EMT over the next three years, so the eventual cost would be $18,000 per year — or roughly 50% of the 2004 ambulance budget. Flannery made a strong case for the stipend based upon a comparison to neighboring towns. Other elements of the level services budget increase would be $1,000 for cistern maintenance and increased vehicle repairs ($370).
FinCom members were inclined to approve the cistern increase as this will reduce insurance costs "$100-$200 per household." Flannery agreed, saying he has begun the re-rating process and feels that the town can move from its current rating of 9 (with 10 being the worst, i.e., unprotected) to 7 or 8. Programs that improve the number and reliability of cisterns are important toward securing a better insurance rating.
Regarding the EMT stipend, FinCom member Deb Belanger, after praising the EMTs based on personal experience, felt the timing of the request was "unfortunate," in that the increase would consume fees generated by the service, and those funds were being counted on by the town. Jensen-Fellows opined that it would need an override vote since stipends were not in current expenses. Belanger volunteered to re-visit the whole ambulance issue, as "it is obviously obsolete."
Communications training request
Flannery and Galvin jointly presented the communications budget. The guideline budget provided for a 2% increase in wages, but required a reduction of training to meet the target. The level services budget ($2,211 over guideline) restored training funds, and the growth budget ($3,822 over guideline) included funds for a phone service maintenance agreement.
FinCom members seemed inclined to recommend the increase for training as the department has experienced turnover in the past, and well-trained dispatchers can save money for the town by effectively screening emergency calls.
Koning OK at guideline
In a short review of the Building Commissioner's budget, Koning eschewed level services and growth budgets, saying the department was comfortable with only a guideline budget.
FinCom discussion centered on fees generated from inspections. Koning commented that fees were up to $168,000 in 2004 from $159,000, this despite a steep decline in housing starts, from 18 to 9. Increased inspection rates, especially for fire detection devices, accounted for the increase.
© 2004 The