By Ed Larson
Rutland Mayor David Allaire said that one of the first things he removed from the proposed fiscal year 2020/2021 budget was a request from the Rutland city fire chief for a new employee. The fire chief had requested a full-time emergency management director. Allaire stated that the estimated cost for the position was approximately $100,000 annually with benefits. Although Allaire stated the position would be beneficial to the city, the cost at this time was too high to forward to the Board of Aldermen for approval.
Thus, no new positions are funded in the budget request. One position in the Department of Public Works was eliminated. The city has been unable to recruit an electrician for two years and decided to discontinue the position. The City Police Department is also down one position, to 39 sworn officers, due to difficulty in recruiting new members.
The Police Department budget request came in at $6,626,410 or about $600,000 over the 2019/2020 FY.
The overall budget is up some 2.9% over last years to $22 million for municipal services. Allaire indicated that part of that is due to Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance rate increases of 9% and pay raises for union contracts.
Interviewed in his office on Thursday morning, Nov. 7, Allaire stated that the budget contained a 1.5% COLA pay increase for non-union and a 1.5% increase for the Rutland Free Library. The 1.5% also includes a small increase in stipend for the Board of Aldermen.
The city pension fund contribution was fully funded with increases suggested by the actuaries. The contribution steps up from $692,223 to $841,781.
The city contingency fund was level-funded at $150,000. Allaire stated that he feels comfortable with that number as not much of the fund has been utilized over the past several years. Over at the Rutland City Fire Department, the total budget request was $3,672,539.51 or about $18,000 less than the current budget.
The overall municipal budget proposed is $22,086,546.37. There would be an increase to the taxpayers with passage of various social service agency requests for funding.
Overall, Allaire stipulates there was a collaborative effort on the part of the city treasurer, department heads and others to contain municipal spending.
The budget now rests with the Board of Aldermen, which will send it to various committees to discuss the proposals. Committees may then recommend to the full board to either accept or reduce proposals. While the Aldermen may not increase budget items, they do have the right to make fund transfers if deemed necessary. Once approved by the full board, the budget goes to the voters for ratification on March Town Meeting Day.