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Adding 2 New Firefighters Might Require Override

by Connie Sartini

   Members of the Groton Finance Committee will await the written report from the Fire Department Task Force before taking a position on the proposed hiring of two, new, full-time Firefighter/EMTs for the department. The Task Force has already voted 4 to 1 to support hiring the additional personnel for the Fire Department. 

   At their Feb 13 meeting, Town Manager Mark. Haddad discussed his proposed budget, pointing out several areas that have changed. 

   He advised that the proposed two, additional, full-time firefighter/EMTs will add $64,039 to the Protection of Persons and Property line of the Fy2020 budget. Haddad said the full cost is $117,000 for two fulltime salaries, less the $60,000 from the call incentive pay, and a savings of $11,000 from overtime, so the total is $64,039. He pointed out that there was already $40,000 set aside for health insurance that was not used by the two firefighter/EMT’s voted at Fall Town Meeting, so those funds can be used in FY2020.

   The Select Board agreed to an extension for the report of the Fire Department Task Force from January 28 and set a due date report for February 25. The Select Board is expected to vote on the two, new positions at their regularly scheduled March 4 meeting. 

   Finance Committee Chairman Gary Green indicated that the Finance Committee would take its position on the hiring sometime after the Select Board decision. He said it is not in the purview of the Task Force to recommend how to finance these positions. He noted that it could be put on the ballot as an override – first voting to do so at Town Meeting and then by ballot at annual elections. He added that bringing on two more positions would need a “compelling case” and what the “town values for 7x24 Firefighter/EMT coverage.”  

   Haddad advised that the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District budget is reflecting a 6.72 percent increase or $276,000 in the District’s assessment for Groton. This is over and above what Haddad had budgeted for the district. The School District is scheduled to vote on their final budget on March 13.

   Chairman of the Groton Dunstable Regional School Committee Marlena Gilbert said that the School Department had the option to utilize the District’s Excess and Deficiency Fund (E&D). She noted that there is also discussion regarding outsourcing the district’s cafeteria staff.

   “I am uneasy about talking about an override until we know where the state funds will fall.” Gilbert said, adding, “We are willing to offset this budget to get past this year.” 

   She stressed that she did not want to see an override that would appear to be a case of the School versus the Firefighters, and thus School Committee’s willingness to offset the School Budget.

   Haddad said that he numbers for Nashoba Valley Regional Technical High School reflect an increase of 30 percent due to increased enrollment from Groton and an assessment for roof repairs at the school.

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