Town May Ask School District To Take Bigger Budget Hit
By: Mary Stanley
The board of selectmen has directed the town manager and superintendent of schools to create budgets for the 2011 fiscal year that reflect a one percent decrease from this year’s budget.
To create such a budget, Town Manager George H. Dunham said as many as 10 town workers will lose their jobs, along with 21 school workers. In addition to staffing cuts, Mr. Dunham has proposed taking $1.25 million out of the town’s stabilization account to make up for any shortfalls.
Finance committee members met on Tuesday night to discuss the decreases to the operating budget and the impact it will have on municipal employees.
Finance committee member Paul C. Kilty expressed concern that both the town and the school departments are receiving the same decrease, even though all six of the town’s unions as well as department heads gave up salary increases this year in an effort to save their jobs or the job of a colleague while the schools’ teachers and administrators did not.
“We are overlooking one important piece. The municipal unions gave up pay increases for Fiscal Year 2010 [current fiscal year]. We need to do more than just say thank you. We really need to consider that and look at it in terms of fairness and integrity as we look at Fiscal Year 2011,” Mr. Kilty said.
Fellow committee member William Diedering III agreed.
“There was an expectation when the unions made this concession that it was to save jobs. In the spirit of good faith, we should respect that. They didn’t make this [concession] so another department could continue to give raises. Here we are a year later, talking about cutting jobs.
“The concept that we adjust the operating budgets equally among the school and town each year needs to be explored,” Mr. Diedering said.
He said the town might want to consider requiring the schools to shoulder more of the coming year’s cuts.
He pointed out that school enrollment has declined in recent years, while the number of roads in town that need to be maintained is still the same. He said the overall population has risen slightly, putting more of a need on police and fire departments.
Chairman of the Finance Committee Hank P. Tuohy asked if something could be done in terms of offering employees some kind of time off or reduced shifts in an effort to save positions.
“We want to keep as many employees as we can. Is there an alternative in lieu of actual cash that we can consider, so we don’t have to let people go?” Mr. Tuohy asked.
“Our departments are so thin that it’s a sham to say we are going to work 30 hours a week when our people are already working more than 40 hours. We have departments that [are so minimally staffed] when you reduce hours, you have to shut the door to that department,” Mr. Dunham said.
Mr. Diedering asked the committee members to consider sending a letter to the board of selectmen suggesting that it consider not applying the same budget adjustment for both the school and the town.
“When the town manager goes in front of the unions to renegotiate, it would be a show of good faith if we had something that recognizes the sacrifices that the six unions made,” Mr. Diedering said.
The finance committee did not vote on Mr. Diedering’s suggestion, but Mr. Tuohy indicated that he would informally suggest it to the chairman of the board of selectmen.
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