Preston – The Finance Council this week had its first comprehensive review of proposed city government and schools budgets for 2022-23, both of which show unusually large increases for the city.
City and school officials cited inflation and rising fixed costs as driving factors behind the 8.6% increase in spending on the proposed $4.3 million city budget and budget. proposed school fee of $13.4 million, with an increase in spending of nearly $1 million and 7.8%.
On Wednesday, first coach Sandra Allyn-Gauthier told the finance council that several expenses will increase over the coming year. She budgeted general increases of 4% for city employees, who are not unionized, below the planned 5.9% increase in the Social Security cost of living. Health insurance costs are up 8%.
The Department of Public Works budget contains 27% of the overall city budget increase, including the cost of maintaining 55 miles of municipal roads. Director of Public Works James Corley reviewed major costs and told the Finance Council that a proposed additional full-time laborer and repairs to the town’s only street sweeper would save money. money overall.
The budget includes a new full-time worker, the cost of which is offset by giving up a part-time transfer station attendant – the city was unable to fill the two-day-a-week position – and two snowplow contractors.
Corley said his department was understaffed to meet maintenance needs for roads, buildings and grounds, vehicles and equipment. He said with additional staff, the department could handle more projects in-house, saving on outsourcing for services and maintenance.
For example, he said the city swept every mile of the road this year at a cost of $14,000. The cost of subcontracting the work would have been $30,000. The sweeper needs about $15,000 in repairs but is worth keeping, he said. In another case, the city replaced a culvert at a material cost of $1,500, but with an additional cost of $8,000 to hire a contractor to do the work.
He estimated that several in-house paving and maintenance projects saved the city $76,000 in outside labor costs.
Corley said there is a growing need for maintenance and repair work across the city, and the department is looking to contract out most of that work if staff aren’t increased.
“Today, more and more public works departments operate essentially like small construction companies, because they have to,” Corley said. “They are increasing their numbers. They are increasing the types and amounts of equipment they have, simply because there are tremendous cost savings by doing this type of work in-house rather than outsourcing this work.
The city is moving to a full road repaving plan, but Corley said until enough funds are available to fully implement the plan, the budget includes a $30,000 increase, for a total of $120. $000, to target roads with the worst conditions.
“It’s not enough to be able to do what we need to do in this plan,” Corley said, “but I think it will show that we’re serious about it, and we can at least make an effort. to do what we’ve already said we were going to do.
In his presentation of the school’s budget Thursday, Superintendent Roy Seitsinger cited factors contributing to the proposed spending increase of $977,438, or 7.8%, including a 9% salary increase, a 14% in utility and supply costs, a 6.5% increase in high school tuition, and a 14% increase in special education tuition.
Seitsinger said enrollment in the K-8 district is expected to see “slow and steady growth” over the next decade.
Salaries, health care and tuition account for 98% of the overall budget increase, school officials said.
Seitsinger said the school district used federal COVID-19 recovery grants to fund 100% of the summer school program, 60% of the school social worker’s salary, 30% of preschool fees — which are based on a sliding income scale – and used federal and state grants to cover technology costs.
The Finance Council made no adjustments to either budget this week and will begin budget deliberations at a 7:30 p.m. meeting on April 27 at Preston Plains Middle School.