TOWNSEND — The Finance Committee held a brief meeting last Thursday night with Town Administrator Greg Barnes to review the proposed 2011 budget.
Quiet applause from others in attendance broke out after he announced the town had come to an agreement with the police union and achieved a balanced budget.
Barnes did not reveal the details of the union negotiations with the police department. He is still waiting for the union to ratify the agreement.
Finance Committee member Paul Nicoli asked, “So the bottom line of the police department is the same as what you did last year?”
“It’s actually a decrease from last year,” Barnes replied. “As a result of the agreement we were able to eliminate the one unfilled position in the department.”
The police chief’s salary will increase. “The chief was entitled to an increase last year. He deferred that last year. He is taking what was contractually entitled to in 2010,” Barnes said.
As a result of changes in the collective bargaining agreement, overtime costs may be reduced, Barnes said. This is not reflected in the current budget.
Negotiations with two other unions have not been finalized. Barnes said they are on an aggressive timeline. “I may be overly ambitious, but I’m hoping to get communications and highway by town meeting,” he said. Townsend’s Annual Town Meeting will be held on May 4.
He said there is enough money in the budget to cover the outcomes of those negotiations.
Salary increases were not recommended by the FinCom. The Board of Selectmen and Barnes proposed a salary increase for the town administrator.
“I think we were pretty clear we support the concept, but we have the luxury of waiting until fall town meeting,” committee member Carolyn Sellars said.
Committee member Jennifer Langton questioned the increase in unemployment insurance. Barnes said one employee was laid off, another had not worked out and a third had a reduction in hours.
Barnes said he increased the funds on the health insurance line because another employee signed on for town health benefits and the next town administrator may require a family plan. Barnes has a single plan and leaves for a new job after spring town meeting.
Changes in the debt service numbers will not impact the operating budget of the town, Barnes said. In addition to paying some of the water department related debt with money received in a class action settlement, the town is determining the best way to fund a ladder truck.
“I’m happy once again to report we do have a balanced budget. We cut it right to the bone in terms of the operating budget,” Barnes said.