Budget 2010 Liveblog

Live and atcha..the thrilling FY2010 budget. The council has already approved the City Council budget.

CITY CLERK’S OFFICE:

Reduction of about $68,000(10%) -Elimination of 2 positions, down to 12. With ratification of the new contract for clerk’s union, one position is restored. Slight increase in maintenance to lease a copy machine.

6:47: City Clerk David Rushford says that his office will no longer have a “warm body” answering the phone, and will move to an automated system, despite his wishes.

6:48: Councilor Smith asks where the added revenue from increases in certain fees to the clerk’s office went. CFO Zidelis says that they reduced the level of cuts in the Clerk’s office.

6:54: Rushford says he learned of the cuts and the layoffs in his office(he says four total) last Tuesday morning at 10:30am.

One of the the primary goals of the department is to collect revenue, says Rushford, and that will continue. He has shied away from his recommendation to cancel the primary elections, but is looking to conduct the annual street listing in a different way—maybe expanding the online offering or including it in a tax mailing.

He says his office has started talking about what they do; they don’t plan on cutting services in the office, but it may have to be the eventual result.

One of the people being cut is the person who does data entry for the street listing—he says it will be a $33,000 cost to save them.

Petty motions that IF Rushford is able to figure out a way to save money on the street listing survey, the cut position be restored.

6:57: Germain wants the city to continue to look at the preliminary election…Josh Meduna through David Rushford says there are currently 50% of candidates who have pulled papers compared to last year, so we might not even need a runoff.

Each election costs about $32,000 per district—so about $160,000 per election, or $300,000 for a prelim and general election combined(assuming not every district has a prelim)

7:01: Eddy: “Are you confident you can meet the duties of a preliminary election…general election…all the other duties?”

Rushford: “The short answer is yes.”

He cites his excellent staff, but says that “if this was a presidential year…I might be alarmed.”

7:05: Ward 1, Precinct 2 voting center—now the Jewish Healthcare center—will be moved. Site visits are going on now. Rushford says he doesn’t anticipate any solution in that convoluted district pleasing everyone. Voters at Worcester Center for Crafts may also be moved if that center remains inaccessible.

7:08: Looking at Elections and City Clerk combined, staffing will drop from 22 to 19, including Election Commissioners(17 to 14 not counting that group of 5).

7:10: “I think there are many discussions…that won’t be solved in this round of cuts,” says Lukes. “I think many of us anticipate a second round of cuts.”

7:12: Clancy wants to make each assistant City Clerk get equal pay. No opposition from his colleagues.

7:14: Rosen raises the point that Election Commissioners are the last city board to receive any sort of pay.

7:18: Lukes makes a motion to eliminate the $6500 in the budget to pay Election Commissioners.

Rushton says he’s “dead against” getting a live person computerized answering system at the City Clerk’s office.

7:24: He also says it’s too early to call off the preliminary, but it needs to be discussed if it would truly save $160,000 “to find out if three less people will be on the ballot…is not a good choice.”

7:28: On Election Day, poll workers and detail officers get paid…so what to Commissioners get paid and why?, asks Bill Eddy.

Rushford says we are “the lowest paying community in the Commonwealth…the lowest” when it comes to paying poll workers on Election Day.($90 a day for some, $120 for others).

Election Commissioners report to City Hall at 4:30 am, and supervise all aspects of the day, says Rushford. They’re paid $20/hour.

And, the commission meets monthly. Each commissioner gets approximately $1500/year…one commissioner has donated the salary to paying for refreshments for poll workers.

Eddy says we should either have an entirely volunteer election day staff – detail officers, wardens, clerks, etc – “or we pay everyone.”

7:35: Lukes says she’s “confused” by Eddy’s argument—“It puts us in an awkward position to say we’re going to treat this group differently…than this group.”

7:39: Eddy proposes paying commissioners only for their Election Day service…it would save a $2,900 overall.

7:40: Smith says it’s wrong to group commissioners with poll workers: Commissioners are volunteers, poll workers are workers. He likes the idea of eliminating the full $6500.

The motion to pay commissioners $20/day ONLY on election day UP TO 18 hours passes with everyone but Lukes voting for it.

7:48: Clancy calls for looking at a raise for poll workers, and giving seniors a tax write-off for time they work. Referred to Municipal Operations where a related motion is being discussed.

AUDITING DEPARTMENT:

7:53: 8 positions cut. One position restored because of clerical workers union agreements.

RETIREMENT FUNDING:

7:58: Zidelis says if the funding schedule isn’t extending by the legislature, the budget will be in a $4 million deficit.

8:08: Lot of talk about pensions—discussion now that the city would be paying more if it moved to a defined benefit system.

Rushton wants a report on the 401k contribution % of the top 25 paid employees. how much the pension system costs the city versus private employers.

8:09: Gary Rosen is out of left field talking about how three of his former students are in the room—Nick Kostopolous, Rick Rushton and Elizabeth Early—and how he’s proud of them.

8:16: Petty says since print journalism is dying(“Present company excluded,”…thanks Petty), could the city look at putting legal announcements online.

Zidelis says it’s a matter of changing state law for certain announcements.

8:22: Zidelis says collections are slightly under where they were last year in tax foreclosures and tax foreclosure sales…but they’re pretty close.

8:23: Paperless billing would take a legislative action.

8:24: John Orrell says his Purchasing Department is down to 4 from 5.

And that new increase to a 3% grant administration fee does apply to purchasing.

8:29: Zidelis says they’re having trouble filling the treasurer position

ASSESSING:

8:30: Had been reduced from 14 to 9…the Clerks agreement will add two positions back.

TECHNICAL SERVICES:

8:34: Toomey: “This department does an incredible job.”

8:35: Being reduced 14% or about $400,000. Positions being cut from 28 to 23. A color printer being “downsized” to black and white. Reduction in Microsoft licenses.

8:40: CIO Paul Covello says the big change will be a longer waiting time to get issues taken care of.

DEBT SERVICE:

8:43: 8-9% of the budget is dedicated to debt service, not counting pension obligations.

PENSION OBLIGATIONS:

No discussion

8:46: Adjourned until next week, when we’ll hear about DPW, Parks, and the Law Department.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Budget 2010 Liveblog

  1. Did the Council make any changes in their own budget?

  2. worcestermagazine

    No.

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