Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Town manager warns of `significant' reduction in personnel Friday, January 31, 2003
D. Craig MacCormack Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town Manager George King last night predicted a "relatively significant reduction in personnel" in fiscal 2004, telling the Finance Committee state aid could be trimmed as much as 20 percent.

And, facing a state aid cut of $1.125 million this fiscal year, some of the reductions slated for fiscal 2004 could be accelerated, he said.

Almost three-quarters of the town's annual budget is made up of salaries.

"With the future looking how it does, I don't think we can just ignore it," said King.  "I don't see any way we can avoid reducing personnel.  This whole scenario looks like it's going to continue."

King plans to lay out the specifics of his fiscal 2004 proposal at next week's selectmen meeting, saying he expects "a de facto freeze" on union salaries with all contracts expired and no extra money to offer for raises.

The cuts announced yesterday by Gov. Mitt Romney included a 4 percent slice of Framingham's fiscal 2003 state aid, which King said, "was certainly more than the governor promised (in his State of the State speech Tuesday night).

"The desire to hold Chapter 70 (the formula used to calculate state aid for schools) harmless hurt us, just like we knew it would," said King.

King, in conjunction with Chief Financial Officer Rob Addelson and other town leaders, has toyed with the ideas of farming out some work to laborers who will perform the tasks more inexpensively, and implementing trash fees.

Neither is likely, though, he said.  Trash disposal costs could be cut down if an "incentive-based" recycling program is kicked off next year, he said.

There is talk of combining the duties of some school offices with their municipal counterparts, such as the personnel or payroll departments, said King, but even that idea wouldn't save much money.

"It's not something we can do overnight, and I'm not sure it saves a lot of dollars," he said.

King invited the Finance Committee to offer cost-cutting suggestions at the budget presentation during the Feb. 6 selectmen's meeting.  Some board members, though, want more detail about how decisions are made about what to cut.

"What kind of role are we really going to have, or do we really want to have?" said Finance Committee member Evan Lebson.  "I think it's important to know what the priorities are and what the vision is."

Fellow board member Katie Murphy agreed.

"Any way we look at it, some tough decisions are going to have to be made.  We need some guiding principles to lead us through the process," she said.

But FinCom member Donald Bloch said there are such principles in place.

"It's all about dollar signs," he said.  "No one's going to argue we don't have a fire department or a police department, but maybe that means we close the library two days a week."

Addelson welcomed the group's ideas.

"The numbers tell the story, and that's where the debate begins," he said.

King expects an interesting, if unenviable, process.

"There's only so many ideas," he said.  "Some that we may have rejected in the past, we may accept this year out of necessity."

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