Saturday with the Budget
Oddly, the Saturday morning budget workshop of the Tiverton Town Council has plenty of open seats, despite the box of donuts provided by Councilor Jay Lambert. I note, also, that the meeting did not begin early.
The upshot of the hot-off-the-presses new “administrator recommended” budget is an increase of the municipal budget from $16,397,109 to $16,922,951.33. The previous budget for 09-10 requested $17,800,966.96.
According to the town administrator, the major differences between the previous request and this one were a decrease in the projected cost of fuel and a reduction in payments to the unfunded police pension liability of $9,894 from last year and $211,225 from the recent recommended budget.
The fire chief just explained the reasons for his overtime projection, notably minimum manning and the ability for multiple firefighters to take vacation at the same time, as well as a firefighter death and a departure of another.
The town administrator just explained that he and the firechief had asked the union to waive the contractual requirement of seven-person minimum manning to six, waiving the ability of multiple firefighters to take vacations at the same time, and giving back a recent raise of (I think) 1.4%. In total, these concessions would have saved the town $75,000 by June 30.
Councilor Lambert asked whether it is the case that the town received “no concessions at all from the union.” Administrator Goncalo: “Pretty much.”
Citizens should take note that the contract is up for renewal at the end of June.
The chief is defending his request for a ladder truck ($800,000), and he made the point that the town currently relies on equipment from neighboring towns and gave the example of a saw shop business that is no longer in the town because a fire took the building down, in part because the firefighters couldn’t open up the roof as part of the firefighting strategy. He offered a recent counterexample of music store fire in which opening up the roof enabled other businesses in the same building to open the next day: “saved businesses, saved jobs, kept a business in Tiverton.”
Council President Don Bollin mentioned that the there’s more cost to such equipment than just the initial cost. He also noted that the union won’t help out in hard times, and that will be remembered in better times.
I should note that the fire department budget is now proposed to increase from $2,291,151 last year to $2,419,310.64.
The head of the department of public works is discussing the department’s current over-budget status due to snow and ice costs for this year.
The DPW budget is now slated to go from $2,062,851 to $2,064,305, which is down from $2,125,292 in the previous proposal.
The DPW head says he’s convinced people from surrounding towns are putting out trash in Tiverton. (One house put out a box spring for collection every week.
Louise Durfee is now talking about the problem of people not recycling, with the conclusion being possibly a refusal to pick up from houses that don’t recycle.
At issue is that our landfill will have to close down in a few years, with a cost of $4 million. In 2025, the DPW head says, there will be nowhere in Rhode Island to dump rubbish.
Councilor Cecil Leonard just asked if anybody talks about burning waste to create energy, as in Europe. DPW head Stephen Berlucchi responded that doing so is against state law. Louise Durfee stated that it was a matter of some controversy in the early ’90s.
Leonard is saying that you can’t even tell where the incinerators are in Europe. Durfee stated that there is no “emission free” technology.
In response to a question from Ms. Durfee, Mr. Berlucchi just suggested that people in nearby towns that would have to pay for rubbish removal may be bringing their garbage to the homes of friends and family in Tiverton. I can’t help but wonder what the difference is between that and bringing trash to a dump.
I don’t know how my fellow Tivertonians, or even the reformers among them, would feel about it, but I wouldn’t mind having to bring my trash to the dump, provided some improvements were made. Right now, one must literally drive up onto the mound, sometimes getting stuck in the mud, and throw trash directly into the pile. If there were a way to make that less daunting of a proposition, I’d be for saving the town the requested $573,601 for trash collection.
To the confirmation of the council, Berlucchi just praised his workers, pointing out that there are just a few guys covering 100 miles of roads, and the town’s had none of that “teamster baloney” of grievances and such.
The department of Senior Citizen Services is up. Their budget last year was $111,600, the recent proposal was $144,707, and the request is now $114,311.
One thing the director noted was that the roofs are high, and the building burns a lot of oil. Why not lower the ceiling? Installing a suspended ceiling is quick and easy work.
I’m not sure why the town can’t find volunteers for that sort of thing… or to help out around the senior center, even young people doing community service work. I wonder if this starts to get into the essentials of political philosophy, wherein high taxes and a “government will step in” view of social challenges decrease a general inclination toward community involvement and charitable work.
The tax assessor is up and just mentioned that the value of the residental end of the town is about to drop 15-20%. That means that the tax rate for each property will go up, but the actual amount that a household pays will remain the same.
The assessor’s office, by the way, is now to receive $140,363, which is down from $142,169 last year and $146,363 in the previous request for the coming year. (Incidentally, when I say “last year” in this post, I mean the current budget year of 08-09.)
The building and zoning inspector’s office is now proposed to go to $103,140, from $101,472 last year and $108,390 in the previous proposal.
A brief break, and now the treasurer is up, discussing his now-$140,363 budget, down from $142,169 in the last budget and $146,363 in the previous draft of this one.
The number of councilors actually in the room has now dropped from six to four, with only Jay Lambert, Ed Roderick, Louise Durfee, and Don Bollin remaining.
Police department is up. The previous budget was $2,568,038, the previous proposal for this budget was $2,608,851.43, and the current proposal is $2,581,647.33.
I had expected the police discussion to be much like the fire one, but nobody asked whether labor had been approached for concessions. The council merely confirmed that most items in the police budget were required by law or by contract.
Several departments have come and gone without event. The head of the library (whose budget is slated to increase by about $2,000) is explaining that usage of the library and its Web services have exploded, with the hard times that families face.