by Terry Rogers
On Monday, June 10, Milford City Council discussed a $45 million budget for FY 2019-20. The budget was presented by staff during two nights of hearings held June 3 and 4. During those hearings, a balanced budget was presented to members of Council but discussions led to several changes and modifications.
“As you are aware, the City has made a number of operational improvements in recent years that have increased customer satisfaction with the Solid Waste operation,” Eric Norenberg, City Manager, wrote in his report to Council. “These include automated collection for approximately 85 percent of our customers, increasing safety and efficiency, replacement of 20-year old carts, implementation of weekly recycling services, increasing frequency of yard waste and providing u to two free bulk pick-ups annually. In order to cover the operational costs of this enterprise fund, a fee increase of $1 is necessary for FY19-20. Once the cost of service study is completed this summer, we can return to the discussion of replacing the 9-year old collection vehicle.” The removal of the replacement vehicle reduced Solid Waste operating expenses by $360,000 allowing Council to lower the rate from $1.10.
Other discussions at the hearings led to a decrease in operating expenses of $16,000 for Streets & Grounds, $78,775 for the Water Division, $40,075 for the Sewer Division, $94,000 for the Electric Division and an increase of $53,000 in Tech Services Interservice. Open Enrollment for employee benefits led to an increase in that area of $24,230.
Transfer from the Economic Development Fund increased to $166,360 in order to provide funding to the Milford Museum, Milford Public Library and DMI. This transfer will also be used for more parking directional signs in the downtown area. The Economic Development Fund saw additional revenue this year due to the Lodging Tax that went into effect in January. Council is working on an agreement with the Milford Library that would increase funding by $25,000. Prior to 2019-20, funds for the Milford Museum were taken from the General Fund but will now be taken from Economic Development as the organization works to bring visitors into the town which can improve economic development.
“As a result of conversations during the budget meetings, staff will be exploring a pilot composting program and tuition reimbursement for employees during the upcoming fiscal year,” Norenberg explained. “Reports will be brought to appropriate committees in the coming months. A survey is underway to gather data from other communities regarding compensation for board and commission members. In the meantime, $15,000 has been added to the City Council budget to fund City Council payments for each regular City Council meeting and Workshop meeting with the potential additional expense of Commissioner and Board of Adjustment member pay.”
There was considerable discussion during the Council meeting regarding payment to Council. Councilman Jason James asked for clarification as the City Code did not explain what committee meetings were but did outline that Council should be paid for workshops and Council meetings. Nina Pletcher, during the public hearing portion of the meeting, asked if Council was paid even if they did not attend the meetings. It was explained that Council is paid $50 per month regardless of whether they attend meetings and an additional $50 if they attend the second meeting of the month.
“We normally have workshops followed immediately by the Council meeting,” Councilman Mike Boyle said. “I am here to serve the City, not to make money. I think getting paid for both workshops and a Council meeting is a bit much.” Solicitor Rutt agreed to review the Code and return to Council with an easily understood outline of how the document addressed pay for Council members and Commissioners.
Norenberg also explained that the budget included a 2 percent base pay increase for non-union employees and additional funds to begin the merit pay program discussed by Council earlier in the year. This would allow non-union employees who receive Meets or Exceeds Expectations on their annual performance review to receive a 1.5 percent step increase. The City also plans to hire two new Customer Service clerks, a police dispatcher, an accountant and two administrative assistants. They are also seeking a Parks Maintenance Coordinator. Additional discussion ensued regarding the increase in salary with some Council members expressing concern about the differentiation between union and non-union workers.
“The current fiscal condition of the City is stable,” Norenberg said. “In particular, the water and electric reserve funds are healthy and building permit revenues are growing. However, funding decisions to improve the City’s general fund capital reserve, typically used for capital equipment, vehicles, building repairs and street improvements, is needed in order to have a stable fund for future street maintenance, equipment replacement and facility maintenance and repairs. State Community Transportation Funds and Municipal Street Aid cannot be counted ton to make up the difference.”
Funding of $140,000 was earmarked for Carlisle Fire Company from the Economic Development Fund. The City and Carlisle are currently in contract negotiations with meetings planned in the future between the fire company, City Solicitor David Rutt and Norenberg.
In order to allow Solicitor Rutt to bring additional information back to Council regarding City Code as well as additional information regarding the salary increases for employees, Council agreed to table voting on the budget until the June 24 meeting.