Fiscal review focuses on Public Works costs
FAIRFIELD — Public Works was at the center of the Board of Finance’s year-end fiscal review.
In its quarterly review meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 25, the Board of Finance went over the town’s costs, revenue and transfers from the 2019 fiscal year.
Most notably, the Board discussed the financial situation in the Department of Public Works, which has experienced a volatile few months as Director Joe Michelangelo and Superintendent Scott Bartlett have been fired following criminal charges.
Chief Fiscal Officer Bob Mayer said they are in the process of vetting resumes for a new director, with the idea that the new hire will pick their superintendent.
“We’ve got a couple good candidates,” Mayer said of the search process.
Conservation Director Bryan Carey has been filling the role on an interim basis, and Mayer noted that he will be getting a “small stipend” to account for the additional duties he’s taken on.
Within the purview of DPW, the Board discussed an unforeseen $80,000 cost for new recycling compactors that ended up being too small to manage the town’s waste. This, explained Carey, is continuing to result in $13,000 charges each month as staff work overtime to compensate for the inadequate machinery.
Carey said the vendor had indicated that the compactors could handle the town’s output, but in practice they proved insufficient. Mayer said they are working to obtain new compactors and get credit on those that don’t fit the town’s needs.
The Board also had a preliminary discussion about allocating funding for the town’s ongoing testing and remediation efforts, following the discovery that fill from the contaminated DPW pile had been used in town projects.
They plan to set aside $1.5 million for testing and remediation, and to put an additional $2 million into a debt services account that can be dipped into if the town goes over the projected cost.
So far, the town has spent $288,000 on testing and has gone out to bid for $100,000 for the remediation of Gould Manor Park.
The Board voted to table the topic to the next meeting, where they will decide which accounts exactly to allocate the funding to and how they will track its spending over the year.
Meanwhile, FPS Director of Finance and Business Services Doreen Munsell said the Board of Education broke even following a budget balancing act this fiscal year.
After predicting a shortfall of personnel services funds, Munsell said, they requested givebacks from multiple departments to bring the budget back up. This more than fixed the problem, leaving the district with leftover funds at the end of the year. This surplus was used to purchase instructional materials.
Looking towards next fiscal year, Munsell said they should expect to see an estimated 3.7 percent budget increase due to salary changes, a new bus contract and increased health insurance costs following a new state law adjusting rates.
In municipal funds, the town ended the year in the positive after shooting up from the negative between the third and fourth quarters. Mayer said this flip was due to contingency flows and savings on water and electric costs.