Ordinance would restore two Human Services positions cut in Norwich

Norwich - A controversial budget cut in June that eliminated two positions in the Human Services Department could be reversed under a proposed ordinance that would fund the necessary $63,184 from the contingency account.

The City Council eliminated an accounting clerk's position, which manages numerous grant-funded programs, starting at the end of September, and a caseworker position starting at the end of March. Human Services officials and supporters opposed the cuts at the time, to no avail.

After the budget was passed, about 500 supporters submitted petitions to the City Council asking that the positions be restored. Signatures are still being collected, Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said.

Goulet last week asked if someone on the City Council would sponsor an ordinance to restore the positions. Aldermen Mark Bettencourt and Francois "Pete" Desaulniers agreed, and the ordinance will be introduced Tuesday to be scheduled for a public hearing and consideration at a future meeting.

"We requested that they sponsor an ordinance, and we're very pleased they agreed to do that," Goulet said. "I couldn't be more thankful to the both of them for sponsoring this."

Bettencourt said Thursday he is "not thrilled" about tapping into the contingency account in the budget, but if approved, the ordinance would postpone the layoffs at least for the current fiscal year.

Bettencourt said he would like to see a needs assessment of the human services provided by the city agency and several private nonprofits in the city to determine whether there is duplication. He said the last-minute budget cuts made in June - which he opposed - were made without an analysis of service needs.

Desaulniers said he sponsored the ordinance so that the issue can be heard, especially in light of the petitions.

"I just don't like the idea of balancing the budget off the employees," Desaulniers said. "To me, I see no harm in doing that. This doesn't do anything except bring up the issue."

c.bessette@theday.com

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