Town Council members, residents and department heads gathered at Town Hall on Thursday night for a public municipal budget hearing. The focus of the meeting was to show the effects of cutting each town department's budget by either 5% or 10% for the fiscal 2012-13 budget year.
It is clear that every department would be effected by a cut of any size, however some would suffer more than others. Several department heads addressed the council to expand on how cuts would impact their department at the 5% and 10% levels.
The Council and Town Manager Tom Hoover, who put together the presentation, decided that the Coventry Police Department would only be eligible to take a 5% ($467,000) cut if needed, as 10% would prove detrimental to not only the police force, but also community safety.
The cut would impact the department by reducing officers from 57 to 47 (including two on military duty, one out injured and two retired), would remove two full-time equivalent employees and reduce training, wearing apparel, protective equipment and police vehicle procurement. Day-to-day operations would also be affected along with a reduction of the Emergency Operations Center and the discontinuance of a traffic division, community policing and a school resource office at the middle school. First response vehicles would be put over 100,000 miles, which according to Police Chief Bryan Volpe, is never recommended.
"We run on a pretty thin budget as it is," he said. "5.4 percent (about $480,000 annually) is what we run on day-to-day for gas, cars, equipment, clothes - just to keep the doors open. The rest is contractual with salaries and benefits."
Council President Gary Cote explained that the council is exploring what reductions would benefit taxpayers townwide, but that in his opinion, cutting the police department's budget "wouldn't have that big of an impact on taxpayers except for a negative one if there are less services and patrols offered."
Department of Public Works
A 10% cut to the DPW's budget ($526,240) would result in a reduction of street, sidewalk, catch basin, manhole, vehicle and minor building repairs along with yard waste pickup. It would also mean a reduction in annual contracts: 50% of street sweeping, 50% of catch basin cleaning, 66% of pavement painting, 66% of non-disaster tree removal and 66% of electrical, plumbing and HVAC repairs. The layoff of four full-time employees would also be a result.
"The loss of four employees would certainly hurt services," said Director Bob Clarkin. "The list will just get longer and people will not be responded to as quickly as they are now."
Cote asked Clarkin if combining refuse pickup routes and expanding stops from 500 to around 600 a day would save any money.
"It might save a bit on truck repairs and fuel," he said. "But I haven't looked at it enough to go forward so I am not willing to at this point."
Clarkin suggested revisiting the "pay as you throw" idea that was presented to the Council and taxpayers last year, an initiative that "the taxpayers had no appetite for in the past", according to Cote.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec Director Guy Lefebvre stated that a 10% reduction ($155,674) would reduce the working hours of 74 part time employees (some seasonal) and half of a full-time position.
Summer seasonal maintenance, park surveillance, beach coverage and supervision, summer camp and programs, physical fitness and sports programs would be reduced or in some cases eliminated along with the department's irrigation contract and the ability to dress and care for the town's playing fields among many other services.
One week of summer camp would be cut from the program, reducing it to six weeks instead of seven - a decision made before in the past (down to five weeks) that resulted in the loss of 150 children in the program. Cutting the camp week to Monday-Thursday would also have to be considered.
"We'll lose revenue because people won't enroll their kids," Lefebvre said. "This has been proven when we've taken a swipe at summer camp before."
He and council members will consider increasing the cost of summer camp from $195 to $225 in order to keep the fifth day (Friday).
"Speaking as a parent, $30 is a small price to pay compared to finding childcare one day a week for seven weeks," said Cote.
Budget cuts from other departments would result in the following:
Human Services: 10% ($80,934) would reduce social work services, maintenance, supplies and other community services offered through the department.
Library: 10% ($87,514) would eliminate Sunday service, a cooperative agreement with Greene Library as well as data processing and other support for the library's 60 computers. A reduction of weekday hours and the loss of 16 part-time employees would also occur with the cut. The biggest detriment would be a failure to meet state standards leading to a loss of state funding.
A complete outline and presentation of possible losses and reductions caused by departmental budget cuts for the above mentioned departments and others will be added to this story as a PDF document as soon as it becomes available.