While some department heads already know what the FY 2016 budget cuts will mean to their daily operations, others are still working it out.
July 1 has come and gone, and with it the end of Fiscal Year 15. Members of several Town of Derry departments are making do with fewer people and less available overtime, after cuts to the budget voted on by the Town Council in May. A majority of the Council approved the Council’s budget, which cut the tax rate by $1.21.
The Council-approved budget included the following cuts:
• Emergency management, $18,905 proposed by Town Administrator Galen Stearns, cut to $6,000.
• Tax Collector, Stearns proposed $12,839, cut to $6,250.
• Fire, Stearns proposed $775,692, cut to $339,012.
• Dispatch, Stearns proposed $84,000, cut to $38,000.
• Police, Stearns proposed $716,581, cut to $365,781.
• Highway, Stearns proposed $124,000, cut to $63,500.
• Transfer Station, Stearns proposed $331,350, cut to $15,000.
• Buildings and Grounds, Stearns proposed $14,450, cut to $6,500.
• Recreation, Stearns proposed $9,967, cut to $2,500, and
• Parks, Stearns proposed $11,389, cut to $5,000.
• Public Works, two full-time positions for a projected savings of $192,000;
• Police, four full-time positions, saving $384,000; and
• Fire, eight full-time positions, including four originally proposed by Stearns and four added by the Council majority, saving $768,849.
• Human Resources. In addition to the personnel cuts, the Council majority voted to eliminate the position of Human Resources Director, saving $150,000.
For Police Chief Ed Garone, the cuts resulted in a trimmed workforce but no layoffs. Garone said Monday that since the cuts were first announced, he has had five officers leave for positions in other law enforcement agencies or the Federal government, and one leaving law enforcement entirely to work in a family business.
“Clearly, these resignations are unprecedented,” he said, “and it caught us off guard.” While he has two positions he can fill, he said, “There is nobody in the wings waiting to work for us.”
He was able to convince one officer to stay and cast his lot with Derry, but the other six were unconvinceable and left.
To cope with the shortage, he has reassigned some officers from non-patrol jobs such as detective work and administration, and put them back in uniform for the duration. “They are leaving behind important work that still needs to get done somehow,” he said.
“When the dust settled” from the budget process, he was left with $439,000 in an overtime budget, Garone said. Of that, the following amounts are allotted: $77,000, dispatcher overtime; $60,000, court overtime; $75,000, Special Operations unit training; and $30,000, police training for other purposes, which has been cut in half. “We are only doing the training that is mandatory,” Garone said.
That leaves him with $192,000 available for overtime, which must cover the already-reduced personnel, earned time, sick time, bereavement time and injuries. “That equals far more than the remaining $192,000,” he said.
The $192,000 will cover eight 10-hour shifts, he said, and in just the week of June 14-20, the department saw 21-1/2 vacant shifts. The week of June 29 to July 6 saw 29 vacant shifts, but he added that’s not typical because it was a holiday week.
The typical is enough to deal with, according to Garone, and he’s working on strategies to fill the gaps. One way is the reassignment of officers; another possibility is transferring money from the regular salary account to overtime. The regular salary account will have money in it because of the resignations and unfilled positions, he said. He said he was planning to discuss this option with Stearns and the Council.
“We will not be able to cover all the vacancies,” Garone said. “It will be a challenge to maintain our four sectors, the School Resource Officer, the number of detectives and administrative services.”
Garone added, “The more people we have, the better off we are when a vacancy occurs.”
He’s taking it slowly for now and “vetting every possibility,” Garone said.
And he promised the people of Derry, “We still have a job to do, and we will do the best we can with the funds available.”
Fire Chief Michael Gagnon said earlier this week that he didn’t have to lay anyone off, eliminating the positions by attrition. He’s running 14 people on a shift instead of the 16 he fielded in FY 2015. But he’s concerned that with less allotted for overtime, he’ll be running shifts of 12 when people are sick, in training or on vacation (see related stories pages 1, 6).
For Michael Fowler, director of public works, the crunch hasn’t come yet. In the short term it’s pretty much business as usual, he said in a phone interview July 2.
“Our departments have assignments and are accomplishing them,” Fowler said, adding, “But there may be a cumulative effect.”
He had 11 people in the Highway Department, supervised by Operations Director Alan Cote, and they are now down to 10, Fowler said. The summer routine maintenance tasks such as painting crosswalks and roadside mowing may take a little longer, spilling over into August, and winter preparation chores such as plow tune-ups may be extended from their normal August schedule to September.
“Our biggest concern,” Fowler said, “is what to do when the snow and ice comes. We’re going to have to figure out how to maximize our plow routes.”
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation Director Eric Bodenrader was part of a firestorm in June when he announced that his department, due to overtime cuts, could no longer provide support for the annual Derryfest in September. The festival was salvaged when the town and festival committee worked out a deal to bill the festival, part of the Greater Derry Arts Council, for town services, as previously reported in the Nutfield News.
Bodenrader said he and his staff are still working on how to make the rest of Parks and Recreation work without those hours. “We don’t have a definitive answer,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
The department is consulting with Fowler, under whose department they are classified, and, Bodenrader said, “We’re trying to figure out how to swing some of the things we usually do.”
Stearns wrote in an e-mail, “Catherine St. Ledger is the Human Resources Coordinator and will still handle the day to day HR tasks, and I will be dealing with the rest that the HR Director handled.”