And, West Tisbury FinCom fumes
The All-Island School Committee was the target of sharp criticism Tuesday, at a meeting of the West Tisbury finance committee (FinCom). Al DeVito, FinCom chairman, took aim the school committee's decision last week not to reopen negotiations with unionized school employees. The FinCom wants the schools to scale back contractual pay raises of 3.5 to four percent.
"The school committee is living in a different world than we are," said Mr. DeVito, during a review of the town's fiscal year 2010 budget. "Banks are being taken over, the stock market is in major decline. The schools are 50 percent of our budget. They should be leaders in this situation."
Referring to cost of living increases, Mr. DeVito added, "I don't feel comfortable asking town employees to give up their raises, now."
Mr. DeVito reported that the school committee had voted 7-3 against reopening negotiations with school unions, citing the lack of cost of living wage increase standards among Island towns. School superintendent James Weiss and school financial officer Amy Tierney attended the FinCom session.
Clearly frustrated, Mr. DeVito said the town has limited options. "We can't refuse to pass the budget: that would put us under a statutory formula that would cost us even more money," he said.
Selectman Richard Knabel, who attended the meeting with colleagues Dianne Powers and Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, agreed. He said for many town employees due to move up a pay grade, the recommended 3.6-percent cost of living adjustment would accompany a five-percent raise.
"That's a hell of a problem for me," Mr. Knabel told the finance committee. "Being asked to swallow almost a nine-percent increase when retirees are looking at 40 percent declines in their savings and investment portfolios - their only source of income."
Despite a projected decline in town revenues from state and local sources, West Tisbury is inching closer to its goal of a 2010 fiscal year budget that is about equal to last year's spending plan, town accountant Bruce Stone reported.
Mr. Stone told the finance committee on Tuesday that at present the budget would require a tax levy increase of 3.3 percent, or $368,369, but he outlined additional savings ideas that would require the town levy to rise only $13,689, a .1 percent increase, if $68,000 in proposed cost of living increases are eliminated.
Mr. Stone also identified an additional $286,500 in potential savings, including: unused short-term debt for the town hall renovation; shifting of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds use, and limiting funding of stabilization funds for a planned fire truck and for post-retirement benefits, primarily health insurance for future retirees. If adopted, those cuts would reduce the needed levy increase to .7 percent, he said.