Cutting budget with minimal impact
To the Editor:
Save Rumford has developed list to cut the budget with minimal impact on services.
In the current debate over the Rumford town budget, some town officials have stated that even modest cuts in the proposed budget will result in drastic reductions in service, even to the extent of endangering residents.
Save Rumford has argued that the budget can be cut significantly without reducing services by improving the efficiency of the town and reducing some excess in compensation and payroll.
To document this, Save Rumford this week is releasing a document entitled, 50 Ways to Cut the Budget.
The document was developed through a group source methods with numerous people contributing to and correcting the document as it developed.
1. Require employees to chip in the usual 20 percent on health insurance.
2. Reduce the salaries of the top administrators by 5 percent (projected savings, about $25,000).
3. Discontinue the call box system as Mexico did to save maintenance expenses resulting from overtime accrued by fire employees any time the "failsafe" callbox system indicates a fault at the central station.
4. End the redundancy of having emergency radio transmitters on both Black Mountain and High Street. Rumford Fire personnel have long complained of the poor radio coverage in certain locations in the downtown areas that they never had when the fire base was located on High Street. The problem is that Black Mtn. is too high to serve the primary coverage areas along the river, and
insufficient signal reaches the areas along the river. Discontinue Black Mountain.
5. Cease rolling massive fire trucks to minor medical calls.
6. Have the police chief and detectives be the back-up officer during the first shift of the day during quieter times of the year instead of having two officers always on the road.
7. Reduce the number of officers on patrol to one during the 11 to 7 shift mid-week during quiet times of year (fall and spring) with another officer paid a stipend to be on call.
8. If the hospital needs police to service their emergency ward, let them arrange to pay off-duty officers for coverage and recover the costs through billing.
9. Require public works employees to clock out when done, and not hang around the time clock waiting for the end of the shift.
10. Use general assistance recipients, if they're competent, for Parks lawn mowing in addition to town hall cleaning work.
11. Discontinue using the street sweeper in mid-summer but reserve for spring sand and fall leaf clean up.
12. Consider trimming town hall hours to a 9 a.m. opening.
13. Use the gas-guzzling police SUV only for bad weather or back roads.
14. Set an overtime usage cap and penalize administrators for failing to manage employees properly if the cap is exceeded.
15. Require better documentation of illness when sick leave is used to reduce the use of sick leave as personal holidays.
16. Convert as many of the town vehicles as possible to natural gas.
17. Subcontract out summer road and sidewalk jobs which will eliminate the need to hire summer help.
18. Eliminate the public works supervisor position: go with a working foreman position.
19. Subcontract out street sweeping thus eliminating the need for expensive equipment.
20. Subcontract out the hauling of trash to Norridgewalk, stop paying over time for the job.
21. Eliminate the use of the grader for plowing, it takes twice the man power as a normal plow truck plus three times more to operate 22. Do snow removal during the night when the streets are empty and hire outside contractors to haul the snow, reducing overtime. 23. Limit the hours an employee can work in one shift to 12. Better use of man hours by splitting the shifts, and safer for the employee and the public.
24. Let the state take over plowing state maintained roads (South Rumford, Rt. 5, and the Andover Road) thus reducing the amount of man power needed.
25. Plow the sidewalk after the snowstorm, reducing man hours.
26. Use the snow blower on the sidewalk plow more carefully to reduce the amount of snow that needs to be hauled away.
27. Use the fire call force to fill in to avoid over time; weekend crews could be call force members, thus eliminating overtime completely.
28. Eliminate or make volunteer the DARE program which has been shown in several national studies to be ineffective.
29. End personal use of town owned vehicles, unless critical for job performance.
30. Issue paychecks on a biweekly, not weekly basis, thus reducing clerical costs, postage and the fees the bank charges per check. 31. Discontinue the practice of giving part time employees a few extra hours so that they get just over the threshold to receive benefits, at a cost to the town as much as the original salary!
32. Consider a health insurance policy which doesn't pay for employee massages.
33. Both Maine State Retirement and 401(k) plans are federally approved plans, however 401(k) plans give the town additional budgeting flexibility. Give salaried employees 401(k) plans as Dixfield has done. This would also save the town having to continue contributing long after the employee retires. Where Maine State Retirement is specified in labor union contracts, it should be negotiated out.
34. Drug enforcement agent Tony Milligan is employed by the MDEA, but his benefits are paid by the town of Rumford. Reduce the town's share of his benefits to a level proportionate to the time he devotes to Rumford.
35. Reduce maintenance on the ADA ramps on the Island: Every spring use of sidewalk plows and salt destroys the brickwork. Remove all mortar and brickwork from the concrete sidewalk to the granite curbs and replace with paving material.
36. Two or three years ago, an agreement was struck with Mexico for a $5k charge to handle their GA applicants at the Rumford GA office. Increase the charge to what it's worth to them given the time it saves their town manager not to have to do the job.
37. Consider making general assistance administration part of the town manager's job description and eliminate the extra position entirely.
38. Investigate cost/payback time to install interior removable plexiglass glazing on all town hall windows to reduce energy loss in wintertime.
39. Cross train the town clerk and tax collectors assistants so that, in slower times, one assistant can cover both offices instead of having two or three people working in the two offices.
40. Urge the tax collector to provide more coverage to reduce paying an assistant to be there all the time, and change the tax collector job description in the future so that he/she is required to work a minimum number of hours.
41. Require town employees to go off the clock if they decide to attend and participate in town meetings while on shift, unless they are specifically required to perform a job function while there.
42. Either discontinue membership in the Maine Municipal Association, which provides legal counsel, or discontinue having a
town attorney on retainer. It is duplication of services.
43. Don't idle town vehicles while not in use.
44. Require the Water District to provide maintenance on fire hydrants rather than paying town employees to do it.
45. Be more aggressive in turning off street lights of questionable value. If neighbors object, give them the option of paying a yearly fee to have the light kept on.
46. Freeze all Capital Equipment Purchases until a formal review is established related to service consolidation and the cost benefits of contracting certain services (road construction, sewer construction, etc), and/or leasing equipment.
47. Use job sharing to reduce the total payroll with fewer layoffs. Instead of laying off one employee, reduce the hours of two or three to achieve similar reduction in hours worked, with hours and tasks coordinated among them to compensate for the reduced time.
48. Use on-line billing for property tax and sewer bills for those willing to sign up to save postage and printing costs, and send paychecks by electronic transfer to employee's bank accounts.
49. Go to a four-day, ten-hour day public works schedule to reduce the cost of moving equipment out to the job sites five days a week.
50. Conduct the spring road clean up with an eye to keeping costs under control. (For instance, having two men using electric brooms to polish the sand from the strip of dirt next to the sidewalk on Falls Hill is not an efficient use of tax dollars.)