Easton Town Administrator Hopes to Restore Lost Positions in Police and Fire Departments
David Colton presented a preliminary budget for FY2013 that had a brighter outlook than previous years.
Easton Town Administrator David Colton is hoping to put a budget forward for Fiscal Year 2013 that will restore two firefighter positions and one police officer position lost this year.
"We’re restoring [emergency] personnel from 64 to 67," Colton told Selectmen Monday night. "It's still below [pre-recession levels of] 71, but we're moving in the right direction."
The budget outlook has been better than recent years, he said. He also reiterated the need to proceed with caution and rebuild the town's stabilization fund.
"I’m hopeful that FY2013 is the beginning of the economic recovery," he said. "Things are starting to turn around. There are a lot of indicators to that."
Colton's preliminary budget restores two firefighter positions lost last year and one of the two police positions lost last year. The overall proposed increase in town operating budgets from FY2012 would be $522,129 or 4.04 percent.
He said for the time being, he "added the same percentage increase to the school department budget understanding that their budget process rests with the School Committee and is not complete."
Colton's proposed budget would leave an approximate $800,000 deficit.
Colton said the town should have little trouble closing the gap over the coming months before Town Meeting.
"This is not a balanced budget," he said. "You don’t get a balanced budget in February."
While he hopes to restore emergency personnel, positions and hours cut last year in other town offices will not be restored. In FY2012, one Department of Public Works position was cut and hours were reduced for clerical workers in Town Offices.
Colton said he expects those cuts to stay in place for the immediate future.
"They need to understand that those cuts are more or less permanent at this point," he said.
Easton's unions also made concessions during the recession. Five of the six town unions took a zero percent increase through 2012. Colton plans to ask for the same concession from the firefighter union during upcoming Collective Bargaining negotiations. He also hopes the School's unions will continue to make similar concessions.
"I would not feel comfortable recommending cuts to police and fire to subsidize a pay increase [for schools]," he said.
Colton said Easton's stabilization fund took a hit in the last three years, as well. In 2009, the fund peaked with $2.9 million. By 2011, however, the fund had been reduced to $814,440.
He said the proposed FY2013 budget would reduce the use of reserves by $250,265.
Colton said the Stabilization Fund has been vital in getting through the recession and needs to be restored in case of another economic downturn.
"Hopefully the next recession doesn’t come too quickly," he said. "There's not a lot we can do. We can’t rebuild that fund overnight without an override."