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Mayor's budget calls for 67 job cuts

Posted by Alix Roy  June 16, 2010 10:50 AM

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The City of Somerville will make do with less come July 1, under a proposed fiscal 2011 budget presented by Mayor Joseph Curtatone that eliminates 18 positions, and saves $1 million by outsourcing, including 49 school custodian jobs.

The Board of Alderman still needs to approve the budget, which it received on Tuesday. A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 22.

The $178.6 million budget presented by the mayor's office protects core services while utilizing reorganization tactics including outsourcing and reduction in full-time employee positions, Curtatone said on Tuesday morning. While the recreation and library departments will both lose three positions, hours and programs will not be affected, he said. Instead, duties once performed by full-time management employees will be conducted by part-time workers.
 
“We don't need as many full-time employees to do the job,” he said. “We have to be flexible.”

Four additional layoffs in the inspectional services, planning, and public works departments were announced last week and eight positions have been eliminated through attrition and resignation across city departments.

Forty-nine school custodians will see their jobs outsourced through one of the budget's most controversial components, which is expected to save the city $1 million a year.  On Tuesday, Curtatone announced that the city was expecting bids from AMPM and Unico, one of whom would likely be hired to provide custodial services in the district's 10 schools.
 
Last Thursday, members of the Board of Alderman expressed concern over the proposed outsourcing, and one member questioned why a policy issue was not brought before the board for review. On Tuesday, Curtatone said the decision to outsource was his alone.
 
“My job is to make financial policy decisions, not the Board of Alderman,” he said.
 
In total, the city is expected to save $1.7 million in fiscal 2011 through outsourcing and reduction in workforce. An additional $837,676 will be captured through indirect costs associated with water and sewer services and Curtatone expects to see $1 million in new revenue through increased fees and fines and payment of delinquent parking tickets.
 
To balance the budget, Curtatone is also proposing using over $4 million in reserve funds, including $1 million from the rainy day fund, $1 million from advance payments on Assembly Square development, $750,000 from the city's salary contingency fund, and $1.5 million in parking ticket receipts.
 
Appropriations for the School Department will increase by just over 2 percent, according to Curtatone's proposal, which is enough to fund the level-services budget presented by Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi last week. The $1.3 million increase was necessitated by the refusal of the teacher's union to agree to any form of wage concession, Curtatone said.
 
“We would have considered anything,” he said. “There was no consideration given for whatever reasons.”

Unions representing firefighters and school custodians also refused to forgo or defer wage increases, Curtatone said.
 
Once the budget is finalized, the city will begin meeting with union heads to discuss the city's participation in the Group Insurance Commission, a state-sponsored health insurance plan that could save the city millions on health care costs. The process could take more than a year, he said - according to current rules, 70 percent of a city's unions must agree to join the GIC.

“We're moving forward assuming that the rules don't change,” Curtatone said.

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