Finance Committee Continues on Budget:Questions about Regional Dispatch, Employee Benefits

Everything from trash contracts to regional dispatch to the school budget were discussed Tuesday night between the Finance Commission and town CFO Mike Perez.

There still is some confusion over which budget proposal is which, but Perez said he is available to track down any information needs.

Chairman Bob Wynne asked why the regional dispatch system included only Revere and Winthrop and it’s costing over $400,000 a year.

“We could hire three or five people for less than that,” Wynne asked.

Perez said it would cost more due to coverage and police schedule needs. In addition, some of the costs of dispatch were melded into the police and fire budgets. Regional dispatch frees up police officers to work in their communities. Perez said the grants from the state for regional dispatch are higher and the state government is pushing toward regional dispatch across the state.

“I get the whole operational argument, but the numbers don’t make sense, we’re spending $400,000 more than we used to spend,” said Commission member Jan Twombly, adding that she would like to see an analysis if the town returned to a local dispatch.

Perez said he agreed and added that he has been talking to the police and fire chief about the issue.

Town Council Member Mike Lucerto said it’s an expensive service. He added that the dispatchers are not familiar with local landmarks like Delby’s Corner.

The other area the commission tackled Tuesday night was the employee benefits. Commission member and Town Councillor James Letterie wants to see employee benefits reflected in the department budgets.

Letterie asked if the school department bottom line budget included employee benefits. On the one hand it looks like the schools are getting $734,000 or they’re getting $1.2 million, Letterie pointed out. He asked if the school budget was $20 million with $4 million in fringe benefits or if it was just $24 million.

Perez said it has not been tested and the schools have not tried to transfer monies from the fringe benefit account. He said he would do his best to prevent it.

Letterie would like to see one line item for fringe benefits for the whole town and the schools to have clear operating budget.

“Fringe benefits are a moving target,” Letterie said. “They (School Committee) voted on a $20 million budget and we’re giving them $24 million. For next year I want to move the benefits line to the town (side of the budget).

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