Four to Lose Jobs Under Proposed Town Budget 

by | May 25, 2020

Meanwhile, Town Council, School Committee to Hear School Budget Tuesday

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The fiscal year 2021 budget proposed earlier this month by Town Manager Andrew Nota would result in cutting 10 municipal positions. Several of the positions are already unfilled, but four employees have been sent layoff notices. The layoffs and leaving positions unfilled would save around $750,000 next year.

“It’s a moving target,” said Nota in an interview last week. “I would rather not affect any people.” 

Nota said his hand was forced by the COVID-19 crisis. With the state anticipating an $800 million deficit over the next three years, he is preparing for significant cuts in state aid. 

The layoffs and unfilled positions need to be considered because, he said, “there was really no other place we can go” for that amount of savings. 

While most of the decisions are COVID-19 related, Nota said a layoff in the finance department was part of a larger restructuring of that department that started last fall, when Finance Director Patricia Sunderland hired Jeanna Krukowski as finance manager, a new position designed to improve implementation of the town’s MUNIS finance software  (read more HERE).

Nota’s FY2021 budget calls for the elimination of the non-union budget and accounting manager position (the employee in that position now would be laid off as of June 30) and an addition of a new lower-ranked finance clerk who would be part of the union, for a savings in the salary differential. 

Here are the departments where positions will go unfilled or where employees will be laid off according to the proposed budget:

  • Police – Currently, there are three vacant positions in the department, two patrol officers and the animal control officer. Nota’s budget funds one patrol officer ( 2 unfilled positions).
  • Fire – There are three vacant firefighter jobs and the deputy chief position remains vacant. Under Nota’s budget, there’s funding for two new firefighters. Fire Chief Bernie Patenaude has applied for grant funding for all three firefighter positions (the grant would pay 75 percent of the cost for three years), but it’s unknown if the town will get the grant. (2 unfilled positions).
  • Town Clerk’s office – There are five people in the clerk’s office (including Town Clerk Leigh Carney, who is also acting at executive assistant to the town manager). The budget would reduce that office by one clerk (1 layoff).
  • Public Works – There is one unfilled laborer position that will remain unfilled. In addition, the budget calls for laying off an additional laborer and one of the department’s two special projectors coordinators (1 unfilled position; 2 layoffs).
  • Information Technology – A year-long engineering position that ends Dec. 31 will not be re-upped (1 job elimination).

The Town Council has received Nota’s budget but at a joint virtual session Tuesday night, the focus will be on the School Committee’s budget. The schools had requested $37.8 million from the town; Nota’s proposed budget would give the schools $37 million – $651,000 over 2020 funding (a 1.79 percent increase), but $800,000 less than requested.

Following the joint town-school session, the Town Council will also discuss the proposed Medrecyler-RI project off Division Road just over the town line in West Warwick. The council will also consider changes in where restaurants can seat people outside and serve alcohol as well as relaxed parking restrictions – all temporary changes to help restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The meeting, on Zoom, begins at 7 p.m. Find the agenda HERE, including links to backup materials. 

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