Friday, January 22, 2010
Public safety and DPW show details of lean FY11 budgets
Carlisle Police Chief John Sullivan had the honor of being the first to explain the details of his department’s spending for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11) at the January 11 Finance Committee (FinCom) hearing. The FinCom is holding budget hearings throughout January and February to review each department’s budget and to evaluate any exceptions to the guideline levy limit budget published in December. The Police Department budget for the previous fiscal year (FY10) totaled $1,160,448 and Sullivan was asked to reduce that amount by $6,000 for FY11.
Sullivan was able to shave off the $6,000 by reducing wages ($3,000), cruiser repair ($1,000), education ($1,000) and electricity ($1,000). “So you’re able to meet your guideline?” asked member David Model. “Yes,” responded Sullivan. Model then inquired, “How did you get $3,000 out of wages?” Sullivan explained that it will be the “extras” that will have to be cut, items such as the Fourth of July parade coverage. “I’d like to see the celebrations committee pay for that.” Less likely cuts include elections, where an officer is required at the booths and another officer is needed to direct traffic. When member Barbara Bjornson whimsically suggested using a volunteer to direct traffic, Sullivan responded, “No, that doesn’t work either – you’re not allowed to direct traffic!”
Regarding the Communications Department budget, plans are to continue with five “full timers” with 24/7 operation. This will require level funding of the $275,129 budget for FY11. “One dispatcher per shift receiving calls for police, fire and ambulance,” said Sullivan. “They also handle the DPW, dog officer, Transfer Station tickets, and open burning. The dispatchers are busy.” The use of a flex person has helped to save money by filling in when one of the dispatchers is sick, thus reducing overtime. One of the more surprising items in the 2009 activity list is 1,958 “911” calls, averaging over five per day. Sullivan wished that the dispatchers were not burdened with issuing dump stickers, “but nobody else wants to do it.”
Fire Chief David Flannery assisted Chief Sullivan with the Communications Department (which they co-manage) budget presentation and then he launched into the details of the Fire Department’s spending for FY11. Flannery has been asked by the FinCom to reduce his FY10 budget of $270,534 by $10,000. Painful as it was, he accomplished this by reducing his salary by $1,239, fire wages by $5,205, additional equipment by $97, EMT stipends by $533, training and meetings by $426 and then transferring $2,500 from ambulance receipts. Regarding fire wages, “One budget killer is a structure fire. It is very labor intensive and you’re talking 15 to 25 of our personnel,” said Flannery. “A hurricane or an ice storm when wires come down and there’s motor vehicle accidents – that’s really a budget killer as well.”
“With that being said,” continued Flannery, “there are two things that I have to address. One problem is that protective clothing went up by $250 per set last year. We do three ensembles a year and we have 30 sets of gear, so over 10 years we replace everyone’s gear.” If this process continues, Flannery will be faced with an annual clothing cost of $8,500 as opposed to the present level funding. The other item that needs to be addressed is the two underground fuel tanks. One is diesel and one is gasoline. “New state and federal regulations require third-party testing and that’s about $1,200.” The sad truth is that even if the Fire Department had a flat budget for FY11, it would receive $2,267 under what is needed.
Flannery stressed that aging equipment may fail at any time and there is no choice but to repair or replace it. “I’m uncomfortable as a manager with this budget,” he explained. Flannery was assured by FinCom Chair David Guarino that the budget would be revisited at the end of February. “The uniqueness of having a volunteer [on call] fire department is not lost on this committee.”
DPW Superintendent Gary Davis was also faced with a FinCom guideline budget that reduces last year’s FY10 spending by $10,000. To accomplish this, Davis reached the FY11 levy limit goal of $1,014,611 by cutting $3,000 from the tree account and $7,000 from road maintenance. The road maintenance consists of small drainage projects and patching whereas major projects are funded by the state through Chapter 90. “Can you live with this budget?” asked Model. “Can I make it work? – Yes,” responded Davis, who is not one to waste words. Thus ended round one of FinCom budget hearings.∆
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