PITTSFIELD – The Pittsfield Town Council continued budget deliberations this week, looking for where they can trim about $87,000 in increased costs. In their first round of reviews, no cuts were made.
Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty explained that two of the major causes of increases in the various department budgets were driven by increased unemployment compensation costs and health benefits. “The town is now required to pay unemployment on the first $12,000 of earnings of each person, rather than on the first $7,000,” said the manager.
In the area of health insurance costs, Dogherty said the council still is reviewing its menu of options.
“For employees eligible for health insurance, an increase of 23.2 percent is reflected [in the budget], based upon the town staying with the same health insurance coverage it currently has in effect,” said Dogherty.
The council and town employees are looking at either retaining the same coverage or opting for a cafeteria-style plan. The cafeteria plan, Dogherty said, closes the gap between benefits the town provides for certain employees.
Because some workers were covered for 85 percent of full family coverage and others, hired later, were not, town officials said several key employees left the town.
The proposed $2.6 million operating and capital budgets reflect an increase of $289,861, said Dogherty, but that is mitigated by an increase in revenues of $202,870.
The operating budget reflects a 35 cents-per-hour increase in wages, with the exceptionof the police chief. Chief Steve Emery will receive a 58 cents-per-hour increase after a town-conducted wage and salary study determined his wages were well below his peers across the state.
Also included in the budget is part-time clerical help for the town clerk, two full-time positions at the recycling facility to handle the load of mandatory recycling, and increases to reflect high gasoline and fuel costs.
According to Dogherty, the following budgets were reviewed this week and left intact as proposed by council members: Council, administration, town clerk, assessing, legal, elections, municipal building, street lighting, insurance, buildings and grounds, general assistance, recreation, cemeteries, airport, debt service, interest and municipal unclassified.
The next budget review will be held after regular business at the council’s Dec. 5 meeting. The council has invited department heads to attend and discuss code enforcement, the transfer station, solid waste removal, finance and community development budgets.