Zeroing the Budget
I’ve arrived late to a Budget Committee meeting, having had other obligations. I feel like I’ve missed something; somehow the predicted tax levy increase for the coming year has dropped from low-to-mid teens to 3.75%.
I know the school department has laid off some people. The town has made a bunch of cuts. But that seems like a large shave. Of course, I’m pretty sure that the three big contracts that remain for negotiation are assumed at a zero percent increase, which raises the question of what effect postponing the financial town meeting — for which there’s currently a coordinated push — would have.
As far as I’m concerned, though, assuming the numbers are accurate, the progress already made owes a lot to TCC and the pressure that it has brought to bear.
The current discussion is whether the Budget Committee can reduce its working budget related to a decrease in longevity costs. Town Administrator Jim Goncalo argued that, even though the contracts are up for negotiation, the obligations still exist, so the Budget Committee would be, essentially, forcing the town to violate labor agreements.
As I’ve said, I’m getting the sense that, by desire and legal construct, local government sees its role as permitting the unions to continue their advancement.
Budget Committee Member Tom Parker moved (an amendment) to reduce the fire department’s overtime budget from $225,000 to $50,000. I think his reasoning is that the town intends to decrease minimum manning in the next contract, which has as its point a reduction in overtime.
The town administrator just pointed out, with reference to a fire department work schedule, that in some months last year had three people on vacation at the same time.
Once again, though, the budget can drive negotiations to, for example, decrease minimum manning as well as spaced vacations.
Tom’s amendment fails. The fire salary item passes as listed on the current docket.