It seems impossible that a year has passed since the 2017-18 budget was approved, especially since the State of Connecticut continues to slash the aid expected in our current budget. Yet here we are, presenting the 2018-19 budget. Budgets always face a unique set of challenges and this year includes the following:
• $276,618 (+15%) increase estimated in employee health insurance
• $105,174 increase over the Town’s regular contribution to employee pension plan per the Board of Finance’s decision to decrease annual return assumptions from 7.25% to 6.75%
• $273,903 (+1.7%) increase in Fire and Police “catch-up” pay due to settled union contracts from multiple prior years
These items alone account for an increase of $655,695 or 4.16% over last year.
Also affecting costs is the 4-2 schedule that Police and Dispatch follow per their union contracts. This provides for 4 work days, 2 off and salary commensurate with a 7-day period. This results in the Town paying annually for 17 extra paid days off per officer and dispatcher. All emergency services necessitate staffing all shifts and therefore require back fill for not only the 4-2 schedule but also for vacation, sick and holiday time at an approximate annual cost of $80,000. Back fill represents $352,000 of the combined salary line items for Police, Dispatch and Fire.
I wish I could report this year’s budget was not plagued by ongoing issues affecting the State. Unfortunately, to date, funds are in jeopardy for both FY17-18 ($130,000) and FY18-19 (estimated at $324,000).
Because these substantial costs are embedded in our budget, we worked hard to realize savings in other areas to offset them. The Town’s FY18-19 budget currently delivers a 3.7% increase over last year for a total of $15,754,348 ($561,527). We reduced original town department submissions by $382,992 (-2.48%).
The goal of the budget process is to provide a clear and accurate picture of what it costs to operate each component of the municipal services we deliver, and to look for opportunities for economies of scale among departments. To that end, the FY18-19 budget includes the following improvements versus the prior fiscal year:
• Group purchasing in FY17-18 resulted in 56% savings; include Town computers in FY18-19
• Consolidate Public Works, Highway, Landfill and Tree Warden into one budget; ease administrative burden and provide more accurate picture of expenses
• Preventive maintenance for most Town vehicles move in-house to Highway Department
• Propose capital expenditure to purchase streetlights as long-term cost savings
• Evaluate and renegotiate Verizon contracts for Town-wide phones
• Continue to review union contracts with Human Resources, Finance Director and apply industry standards
• Propose shared services with schools including custodians, human resources, IT support and bulk purchasing of computers
Overall decrease of 4.8% (-$102,750) in non-union employee salaries including these expanded or new positions:
• Expansion of Youth Services Coordinator to Manager, full-time
• Expansion of Town Planner to include Director of Development
• Oversight of Economic Development Consultant, through the Bradley Development League and/or the Connecticut Economic Resource Center
• Addition of Administrative Assistant for Human Resources, full-time
Reorganization of Selectman’s Administrative Assistants from job-share 42.5 hours/week to:
• Administrative Assistant – 30 hours/week
• Communications and Special Projects Manager – 20 hours/week
Reorganization of Public Works Department:
• Eliminate position of Director of Public Works
• Facilities Director and Highway Foreman manage department
• Fill vacant Facilities Manager position to report to Facilities Director to assist with management of Town projects
Over the last three years I have re-organized and streamlined operations where possible to take advantage of efficiencies. This year’s increase represents what is necessary to deliver needed improvements to our municipal services.