Williamstown Budget Prepares for Administrative Changes

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Finance Committee began its review of the fiscal 2015 budget.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town Manager Peter Fohlin is preparing for senior administrators to "moving on" -— including himself.

The Finance Committee begin its preliminary review of the fiscal 2015 budget, with figures from the last few years as a comparison, on Thursday night.

Some of the largest changes are in Inspection Services, with the retirement of Director Michael Card and the promotion of Andrew Groff. 

"We're in a transition period right now," said Fohlin. "Some of us, like Michael and I are moving on ... ."

His comment prompted some surprise from the committee, which the town manager modified, with "Well, inexorably ...

"Other people are moving up and are being positioned to succeed us," he continued, saying they would be the town's future. "On July 1, Andrew will be the director of community development and Michael will no longer be the director of inspection services."

Card will continue on as building inspector and mentor Groff as he takes over the management of the budget and coordination of the department. Administrative Assistant Kathy Thompson is also retiring in April.

Salaries are being adjusted, up about $35,000, to recognize the added responsibilities of those in the department. "We are giving these people more duties and trying to move them into a position to succeed Michael," said Fohlin.

Card said the budget also includes a line item to replace two older pieces of equipment — a copier and printer — with a multifunction machine.

"I hope this is the last time I see you," joked Card to the committee's laughter.

There were few surprises as the committee continued the review, although the town manager's budget was higher than expected.

"We set a 2.5 percent target based on what we projected of available revenues for all municipal and school budgets this year," said Fohlin. "The executive came in, right now, the first draft at 2.6 percent which is a handsome $225 over target."

He did not expect it to be a major issue.

There is also an expected 2 percent across the board increase for employees, and a merit raise for his administrative assistant, Debra Turnbull, who, Fohlin said, "has excelled in her brief time here."

Health insurance will increase 8.8 percent after being flat for two years in a row. Fohlin said claims are up for the Berkshire Health Group but it's not clear why. The increase also includes a 1.5 percent premium under the Affordable Care Act.

The committee spent some time discussing an item for a full-time custodian who transferred from public works at the Milne Public Library. Because of discrepancies in the change of positions and funds, the library budget must be revised, said committee members, before they can make a proper decision.

"The agreement that I made with the library is that the town will fund all of the basic operations of the library," Fohlin said. "It appears to be that what has happened is that we are no longer paying the custodian full time and since we haven’t cut the budget for the library, that suggests that we have used this money to increase the hours or compensation of other library employees."

Little change appears in the public works budget and the snow and ice account will remain the same. However, these numbers are dependent on the weather.

"Our highway superintendent just told us that we have exceeded last year’s total winter budget," Timothy Kaiser, director of public works, said. "We have been out 11 out of the last 14 days and that adds up really quick."

The snow and ice budget is the only budget that can overspend.

Kaiser also added that there is no plan to change the sewer or water rate.

The Finance Committee will meet again on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. to continue its review.

Tags: fiscal 2015,   promotions,   town budget,   

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