Task force hears from Public Works on steps taken to cut spending

by KAITLYN NAPLES

The Mayor’s Task Force on Budget and Efficiency met recently for the second time since it was formed, and it’s actively moving along in finding ways to cut the expected $7 million deficit in the next budget.
At its meeting, the panel met with Public Works Director Walter Veselka, who gave them a lengthy list of what the department has been doing to cut spending, and what possible actions it could take to continue to reduce its budget even further.
In the last eight years, Veselka said the department has eliminated 27 positions, which has saved significantly on salary costs. The budget approved for Public Works for this fiscal year was a little over $11.9 million, which was a decrease compared to its budget last fiscal year.
“We’ve been working to control our costs,” Veselka said to the panel.
The public works director said single-stream recycling has been able to cut costs in the city, and he is looking into getting rubbish and recycling routes down to four days per week, so that on weeks with holidays he doesn’t have to send trucks out on a weekend and pay for overtime. Veselka added job descriptions within the department have been altered to make very specific to the skills and tasks performed by each employee. Additionally, he said he’s been working with the mayor’s task force on energy usage, specifically buying the city’s street lights, which he said could flat line energy costs.
At its first meeting, the

task force discussed its plan of action to find ways to save the city money. The panel agreed its members would talk to department heads, and employees of all city departments, and talk with heads of commissions and boards, including the Board of Education. It also agreed that public hearings would be necessary so it could get input from city residents. The Mayor’s Budget Task Force was formed when the Joint Board of the City Council and Board of Finance, approved this fiscal year’s budget.
At the end of last week’s meeting, panel members were assigned different departments and areas, like police, fire, Board of Education, library, the capital budget, personnel, purchasing and informational systems, to see how things work and where costs can be cut.
Other avenues that were discussed were consolidation of services and employees in areas of the city, having a labor attorney present for all union negotiations, looking at heart and hypertension claims, settling lawsuits, and workers compensation. The panel’s Chairman Richard Miecznikowski said workers compensation is bringing a significant cost to the city. He said the city should look into incentives for “days without injury.” During the building project of the new West Bristol School, the contractor Gilbane went a significant number of days without any injury, and its employees were given an incentive for that.
The members of the task force include finance board Chairman Richard Miecznikowski, finance board vice-chairman John Smith, Board of Education Chairman Chris Wilson, City Councilor Kevin Fuller, finance board member Paul Tonon, finance board member Lisa Casey, and City Councilor Eric Carlson. The task force is expected to make recommendations to the entire Joint Board no later than Oct. 2 this year.
The next meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Budget and Efficiency will be Thursday, July 26 in City Council Chambers in City Hall at 5:30 p.m.

Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.