“The task force did a terrific job of identifying the major problems and the best ways to approach and solve those problems to the benefit of taxpayers.”
Municipal claims make up only .5 percent of all unemployment claims in the state. Cities and towns generally self-fund their unemployment benefits rather than pay in to the state system. If a town is paying out $30,000 to $60,000 — as Boxford has in some years — that’s money that could otherwise go to hiring a teacher or filling other full- or part-time positions.
“Sometimes the public has the wrong image of municipal employees, and I don’t think the stories that came out in the Globe helped that image. But that’s only a very small percentage of people that work in municipal government,” said Kathy Benevento, director of finance in Boxford.
In a larger city such as Lowell, with a budget of approximately $300 million, the total unemployment payout was as high as $622,000 in 2011 and $838,000 in 2010, according to Tom Moses, the city’s chief financial officer.
Moses said the high municipal payouts also lead to the perception that officials are not being good stewards of public funds.
“It’s a challenge to explain to the public,” he said.
Like Gustus, both Benevento and Moses – cosigners of the letter to the governor – responded favorably after reading the report, praising both the recommendations from the task force and the responsiveness from the state.
“It’s great,” said Moses. “We’re not over the hump yet, though. It needs to be implemented. At this point, these are just recommendations.”
Reach David Rattigan at Drattigan.Globe@Gmail.com.