The Rochester Finance Committee started its review of the proposed town budget for FY24 Monday and revealed a lot about some of the changes behind the accounting numbers.
Committee Chairman Kris Stoltenberg began the meeting by asking Town Administrator Glenn Cannon for an overview of what to expect for the FY24 budget that will be proposed at the spring Annual Town Meeting. Cannon responded that Rochester overall is in pretty good shape financially without significant changes.
But as the board reviewed the town’s preliminary budget figures one line item at a time, surprises did arise. Finance Director Suzanne Szyndlar said the Highway Department needs a new full-time mechanic. The Fire Department is looking for a second, full-time firefighter. The Council on Aging wants a full-time custodian and to cut back on its nighttime-services contract.
For those reasons, the Finance Committee did not vote on the preliminary numbers for these accounts. They focused instead on approving the “fixed costs” accounts.
Along the way, Szyndlar revealed she will recommend that the new Personnel Board’s proposal to amend the town’s Personnel Bylaw be delayed until the Fall Town Meeting and be shelved from the Annual (spring) Town Meeting.
Finance Committee member David Arancio said Personnel panel members want FinCom to meet with them over their plan to make paygrade increases across all town jobs more equitable.
Szyndlar explained the town’s finances are not ready for those kinds of increases at this stage of the fiscal year. At the spring Town Meeting, the town will be able to offer normal “step” increases, she said, but not what a new bylaw would require. That’s why Szyndlar will request the new personnel bylaw plan be tabled in the spring.
Next, Stoltenberg was surprised to see little money in the account for town counsel, and Cannon announced to him that Blair Bailey has resigned from that position effective February 24.
“That’s the first I’ve heard this,” Stoltenberg said.
“We are in negotiations to hire another firm,” Cannon explained.
Szyndlar also revealed another budget change, yet to be fully calculated. The position of Zoning Board of Appeals administrative assistant is being upgraded from part-time to full-time, and that person will become the responsibility of the town administrator, not the Building Department.
Arancio, who also serves as ZBA chairman, said this was a good idea because the prior Building Department administrator said most of her work time was spent on ZBA business. The previous holder of that position, Patrice Braz, resigned in December of 2022 to take a job in the private sector.
In other action, the committee reorganized. Stoltenberg was reaffirmed as chair. Anthony Ruocco became vice chair and Arancio was made secretary.
The FinCom concluded it could wait a few weeks to reconvene in order to leave time for more budget numbers to come in. Its next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 27, at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room, 1 Constitution Way.
Rochester Finance Committee
By Michael J. DeCicco