SWAMPSCOTT — Fire Chief Graham Archer and Department of Public Works Director Gino Cresta met with the Finance Committee to discuss their fiscal year 2024 budgets Monday evening. While Archer is satisfied with the Fire Department’s budget, Cresta said there are aspects where DPW’s is lacking.
Cresta’s main concern was with the cemetery.
Every time another grave is dug, it requires driving over grass. The department has to put down plywood, which Cresta said ends up breaking. To prevent this, Cresta wants to put down 40-ton mats, the cost of which would be around $9,700.
“I’d like to be able to fund through my operating budget and I was hoping I could do it this year,” he said. “I couldn’t really submit it because my two options were the level-funded budget and then the one with the decrease, so there really was no room for it.”
For the Fire Department, Archer said he feels good about the FY24 budget. The department did go over budget, which also happened in previous years. He said this is due to long term vacancies.
“Particularly last year [there] were actual vacancies in the department as we were transitioning out of civil service, so we carried some vacancy spots there that we had to backfill for, which gets pricey quickly,” Archer said.
The number of sick and injured vacancies last year was unusually high, he said, triggering a rise in overtime costs that can be seen in the department’s FY23 budget.
Archer is hopeful that this will change in FY24, partially because the department can now hire outside of the civil service system, which would prevent overtime costs.
A civil service examination is given to applicants through the state, and in Swampscott acceptance into the fire department was previously dependent on those test scores. Town Meeting members voted for the fire and police departments to leave the civil service system back in November 2020.
“We’re able to fill vacancies much more quickly,” Archer said. “You can’t predict X number of people being out for several months [due to] injury or sick. All we can do is hope for the best and calculate what the maximum exposure is, and that maximum exposure actually builds in a little bit of flexibility.”
The flexibility is that there will be times where staff take vacation time without triggering overtime. This is because the department built the budget based on the assumption that everybody in the department takes their allotted time off.
“By using that perfect budget, it should calculate in automatically a little bit of cushion,” Archer said. “Overall, I think we’ve put together a pretty solid budget.”
Next monday, the Finance Committee will hear from the Police Department and Capital Improvement Committee on their FY24 budgets.