Guerino Tells Town Workers It’s Too Early To Say Whose Job Is At Risk
By: Diana T. Barth
Bourne officials began looking more closely at the personal impacts of their budget proposals this week, talking about how best to minimize the possibility that shrinking revenue will require the loss of a large number of employees, most of them part-time.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino has been reluctant to publicly announce the positions in danger of being cut until he has more reliable state aid numbers. His first draft of the budget, based on conservative numbers, included a worst-case scenario: the loss of the equivalent of 22.5 full-time people.
At this point, he hopes that actual revenue numbers will allow him to save several of those positions, but he will not know how many until far later in the budget process.
Even now, while he can talk about positions, he does not talk publicly about whose jobs are in jeopardy. He did, however, announce that he met this week with a representative of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), the group to which most town hall employees belong, discussing, among other things, who would have so-called bumping rights.
Employees whose positions are cut have the right to “bump” those with less seniority and assume their jobs. That means, Mr. Guerino said, that when he cuts a position, that does not necessarily mean that the person now filling that position will be the one out of a job.
Last week, finance committee member William F. Grant questioned whether it would be kinder to let people know now whether their job is in danger, something that would involve figuring out who might bump whom.
At this point, Mr. Guerino said, he thinks it is too soon for such discussions. He said that he cannot stop employees from speculating, but he does not, as yet, have enough assurance in the revenue numbers to announce a specific list of job cuts.
Mr. Guerino said he understands that employees might be losing sleep over possibilities; he said he, himself, is concerned over individuals. He said he has already had departmental heads come to him to discuss their fears over the loss of certain people.
He said he would not even entertain the idea of reclassifying jobs or taking other steps to protect anyone. That, he said, would be patently unfair, and it would not happen.
While a number of people favor simply giving employees whose jobs might be on the line more time to plan, Selectman Donald J. Pickard, who said Mr. Grant’s comments last week got him thinking, proposed an interesting question this week.
He asked whether it would save some jobs next fiscal year if the town took action this fiscal year. He wondered if cutting 10 to 15 jobs as soon as next month, or taking other cost-saving measures such as the closure of a fire station now, might not save enough this year to allow the town to keep some of the employees whose jobs might otherwise be at risk next year. He asked Mr. Guerino to look at the numbers and see if quicker action would help the situation in the long-term.
Mr. Pickard said that was the type of tough decision selectmen were required to make.
Mr. Guerino said the net savings to the town could be calculated by determining the cost of unemployment and buyouts over the coming months and whether, given the high cost of ice and snow removal this year, now some $250,000 over budget, the town could afford those payments. He and the finance department are running those numbers.
Selectmen met jointly with FinCom members on Monday, when members of both committees heard from three department heads.
Health Department Budget
Health Agent Cynthia A. Coffin discussed her $158,489 proposed budget. The small health department, which consists of the health agent, a health inspector, and a secretary, has a huge list of state-mandated requirements to fill, including everything from septic system inspections, to immunization clinics, to investigating housing complaints.
License fees are down a bit, Ms. Coffin told the group, because of closed restaurants and other businesses, but the department’s workload is up.
Among other budget conversations this week, selectmen discussed the cost of belonging to the Cape Cod Commission, which is just slightly more than the entire health department budget.
Mr. Pickard asked whether the town receives more than $158,000 in services and other benefits from commission membership.
It was suggested that, in this tight budget season, selectmen either invite members of the Bourne Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Board of Health and others, such as Town Planner Coreen V. Moore to discuss those benefits or invite the commission’s executive director Paul J. Niedzwiecki to a future meeting.
Department of Natural Resources Director Timothy Mullen went over his department’s $890,592 draft budget, one that Mr. Mullen proposed in order to save a natural resources officer position.
That budget cuts a $15,000 a year part-time secretarial position and a $35,000 seasonal harbormaster post, reduces pump-out boat services, and lowers the number of upwellers the town could maintain, allowing for the cultivation of quahogs but not oysters.
Selectmen and others weighed in on the impact to the safety of boaters and the environment those cuts might have, not to mention the impact on shellfishing. That discussion turned to ways of increasing revenue to save those operations.
Finance Director Linda A. Marzelli talked about her $1,050,592 budget, one which would cut a full-time position in the assessor’s office, a part-time person in the treasurer’s office, and cut expenses such as consulting services for the assessing department, which is responsible for property valuations.
FinCom Chairman Michele W. Ford expressed the bottom line for both boards, saying that if they put some items back in one budget, they would need to do it at the expense of some other department’s budget.
The town either raises more revenue, or rearranges the use of the money it has, Mr. Guerino said.
This coming Monday, the joint boards will be looking at the police and recreation departmental budgets, as well as the budget for the Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management enterprise fund budget at 7 PM at the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center.
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