CHESHIRE – Town Manager Sean Kimball proposed a budget for the upcoming year that increases spending by nearly 4 percent, adds four emergency dispatchers and uses less money from town reserves than previous budgets.
His budget totals $115.6 million for general government, education, debt and other spending, an increase of $4.4 million over the current fiscal year’s spending plan. The proposed mill rate would be 33.85, an increase of 1.23 mills. The mill rate is the number of dollars in tax on $1,000 of assessed property value.
Kimball’s spending proposal was sent to town councilors this week. Council chairman Rob Oris, a Republican, said he wants to hear the town manager’s presentation of the budget before commenting on it.
“We’re just getting started this week,” Oris said of the first budget workshop planned for this Thursday.
Peter Talbot, a Democratic councilor, said the budget is “pretty much zero-based” and driven mostly by contractual increases.
“I’m intrigued by some of the stuff that Sean has presented,” Talbot said.
Preliminary news from the state was mostly good, with the exception of municipal contributions to the teachers’ pension plan that will cost Cheshire $250,000 this year.
In January, the council authorized the mid-year hiring of a sixth dispatcher. The proposed budget would add four more dispatchers, for a total of 10, at a cost of a $322,000 over the current fiscal year.
Hiring four more dispatchers is a “long-term solution” to two problems according to Kimball. With only one dispatcher on during peak hours, a police officer must act as a dispatcher during major events or for the primary dispatcher’s breaks. That requires expensive training for officers, pulls them off the road and puts a higher-paid employee in the dispatcher’s position according to Kimball.
With a total of 10 dispatchers in the upcoming fiscal year, there’d be two dispatchers during peak hours.
During fire calls, a volunteer would usually remain at the station to act as a dispatcher. The department has fewer volunteers, Kimball said, and more dispatchers at the police station could help with fire calls as well.
“After weighing everything I think it’s the right thing to do,” Kimball said.
While the budget adds four dispatchers, Kimball eliminated three full-time and one part-time position in other town departments to mitigate the cost.
The town has drawn from a healthy self-insurance fund in previous years to balance cost increases. Kimball reduced how much is pulled from the fund in his budget proposal, saying he wanted to decrease the town’s dependence on spending from reserves.
The self insurance fund totals about $5.5 million.
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