By Carley Dangona
WEST SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Edward Sullivan
completed his first town budget from the other side of the desk, as he was accustomed to participating in the process as a town councilor.
One of the main challenges Sullivan told Reminder Publications he faced was funding line items with permanent sources of funds rather than money from stabilization accounts.
The total proposed fiscal year 2015 (FY2015) operating budget for the town is $93.65 million. Sullivan anticipated a tax increase of 2.44 percent based upon projections of new growth within the town.
As part of the budget, Sullivan requested a $150,000 appropriation to the town’s stabilization fund to ensure that the total balance of the account equals 10 percent of the operating budget. A request for $1.35 million for the debt service stabilization fund is also part of the proposal to provide for the cost of the new high school and the library renovations.
The mayor also requested that $100,000 be appropriated to the other post-employment benefits trust fund since no money has been added to the account in recent years.
“It’s a very involved, detailed process to really get down to the meat and bones of the operation,” Sullivan said. His goal for the budget was to maintain the services the town provides while minimizing the tax burden for residents. He said the budget is a balance between “streamlining” and “enhancing” operations.
In his budget introduction letter to the Town Council, Sullivan wrote, “This budget, as proposed, incorporates several changes in operations to enhance efficiencies and provide quality services to the residents and businesses of West Springfield. The FY2015 budget was challenging. The previous year’s budget was underfunded by approximately $2.41 million as a result of several decisions made by the previous administration.”
Sullivan explained in the letter that the underfunding combined with the use of one-time funds result with a 4.3 percent deficit going into this budget season.
Some personnel changes provide for savings in the budget. The Human Resources Department will no longer have an assistant, but the director and administrator will remain in the department. The Law Department will hire a full-time town attorney rather than continue to pay per service for attorney Simon Brighenti Jr. Lastly, the Veteran’s Services Department will no longer utilize an investigator and the mayor’s office will no longer have an office assistant.
Another source of savings stemmed from the Technology Systems Division. The department will no longer have an intern, a $5,000 savings and since the bulk of the computer software upgrades are complete for the town’s computers, that line item was reduced by $12,000.
The newly implemented automated trash pickup resulted in a savings of $100,000 for the Department of Public Works.
Sullivan said he “created positions that save money in the long run” within the budget. The safety training officer in the Fire Department, with a pay rate of $37,500, is one such example.
The mayor explained that the new job will help prevent the number of injuries and claims that the department currently faces. The goal is to take a proactive approach. A part-time custodian/program set-up person, with a pay rate of $17,500, is proposed for the Senior Center to accommodate the center’s event schedule and outreach efforts.
Another change within the FY15 proposed budget is the addition of a school resource officer to the middle school. The salary would be split between the Police and School Departments’ budgets. The officer would work with a K-9 partner.
In a recent press conference, Sullivan said the officer for that position would be chosen within the coming weeks. He also said that the department is interested in a black Labrador that is currently undergoing training for the position.