Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Budget mtg 3/19

Tonight's budget meeting kicked off with the Fire Department. As with all departments, the Department head proposed his/her budget to the TM... before the TM proposed his budget to the Council. In Jack's case, the budget proposal is going from a $311,000 current year budget to a TM recommended $351,000 for next year. The Chief requested a staffing increase from 5.14FTEs to 7.28FTEs, but the TM cut that back to 6.14FTEs. The increase of one person (1 full time equivalent) is for a:

Deputy Fire Marshall / Safety & Training Officer

I told the Chief my biggest concern is not cost when it comes to this request. My concern is a gradual transition from volunteers to paid staff... and the impact that would have on morale within the department.

Consider... one day you and all your friends show up to wash the truck for free... then the next day, you and all your friends show up to wash the truck for free... and at the same time, you've got some guy getting paid to do it.

How would you feel as a volunteer? I know I'd be pretty annoyed.

Anyway, the Chief gave probably the best answer possible. He said it falls back on him... and that he let's his department know that pay is irrelevant by washing windows and doing everything himself. And I said that's probably the best way to motivate people... show people that you'll do anything that you ask of them.

Reminds me of when I was in high school and I went to work for John Romanik. I was a bit of a goof off... and he saw it... and he had me cleaning toilets in no time... and he showed me what he wanted done, by doing it himself... and for those of you who don't know him... John is a fairly successful businessman... but he's not above anything or anyone... and for me... that was a great motivation. So I really appreciated Jack's approach to working with so many volunteers... he won't ask anyone to do anything that he won't do himself. I think that's important.

Next up was the schools... I'm not even going there right now. Way too much to discuss.

Then came the Town Attorney. The fees are proposed to increase with the budget going from $251,000 to $317,000. Included in that are fees for Charter revision.

Then the TMs office... like the schools, I think this particular department merits some additional analysis... maybe I'll get to it this weekend.

Finally, the Town Council budget was discussed. It's proposed budget is increasing from $42,000 to $59,000. That includes $8,500 for advertising (legal notices), $16,000 for the Clerk of the Council (the lady who takes the minutes), $13,000 for the video services and my favorite... $16,000 for consultants! That's broken down into two items:

1) a new strategic plan!
2) videostreaming.

First on the strategic plan... since I expect The Rubberstampers to be out in force on this one this year, I offer the same simple comment that I offered last year... "How does this benefit the taxpayers?" Sorry, but it seems to me that if we (as a body) do our job well, then we don't need to pay someone a bunch of money for a strategic plan. For instance, if there was a major problem in town... say... discontent among town employees... I think it would be incumbent on Council members to pick up on that... and to take action. Alternatively, if we didn't take action... well then the voters would show us the door... but I don't think we need to spend $14,000 to figure out what's right or wrong in town. I think we each just need to pay attention. And if we don't pay attention... well, we've probably outgrown our welcome and "need to go." It happens.

Finally, we got to videostreaming! Apparently there was some miscommunication last night. It's not that videostreaming is impossible... it's just that live videostreaming is impossible... which is fine with me. I think offering Council meetings on the web would be great... but I don't see the need for realtime feeds at this point. As long as we can get the Council meetings up on the web within a few days, I think that'd be great. Plus, staff wants to index the meetings in some manner. And that'd also be really useful. That way people could go directly to the issue of concern to them. As for costs related to videostreaming... I have no idea. I've spent a total of $40 for the downloadable iSofter Ripper software. And with that, it was off to the races... haven't spent a penny since.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm going to bed.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Tim.
I can't wait to hear the education discussion.

So, if it cost you $40 to do videostreaming, it will cost the down $8,000. $7,960 to get a consultant to tell you that it can be done for $40.00.
Tim, maybe you should apply for the consulting position.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear the education discussion either!

Attorney fees are up by $66,000!! And it includes charter revision items? Wow!
Esty said she didn't think we should spend a penny on the town staff doing any work on the pool issues, yet they don't mind spending 66K more on attorney fees and they haven't even decided what if anything needs revision in the charter. Makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

$14,000 more for the Strategic Plan? This is just crazy. Are they going to continue paying Justin Adinalfi? Aren't we paying $100,000 a year for the towwn planner, and what is he doing desides helping Adinalfi push the W/S mall.

Any strategic plan should be done byu the planning dept without one extra hour of cost. In the process the town planner might learn something.

As far as more paid fire staff, this should be killed. Doesn't anyone understand the term volunteer. We don't need a start of another empire.

Anonymous said...

Mr Altieri's reasons for a charter revision were weak. It's working fine why spend all this money and time on something that will not benefit anyone. There are no citizens asking for this. Lower my taxes and fix the pool. You don't need a charter revision to do that.