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Groton council to consider budget savings with early retirements, subcontracting of services

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: theday.com

Published February 11. 2014 10:00PM   Updated February 11. 2014 11:40PM

Groton — Town Councilor Rich Moravsik on Tuesday suggested offering early retirements to staff and subcontracting services such as snow plowing and grass cutting to reduce budget costs and to save on pensions and health insurance.

Moravsik said his goal was to begin discussing potential ways to create a more flexible workforce over the next five years.

"I'm not saying it's got to be done right away," Moravsik said. "But the town manager should understand that it's got to be done. And I think this council has got to set the policy and the tone."

Moravsik also mentioned a hiring freeze and layoffs as potential discussion items, but several councilors said Tuesday they would not support layoffs.

Councilor Genevieve Cerf said she would consider early retirements but not layoffs.

"We can no longer afford to have this very expensive workforce that we have, especially when we (could) contract out the easy stuff," she said.

Councilor Bob Frink said last year's budget cuts resulted in savings of less than $10 to taxpayers, and chipping away at the budget is no longer adequate.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger said if the council wants to discuss early retirements, it should do so during labor negotiations and in executive session.

He said the town offered such incentives twice in the last 10 years, and the town employs 30 fewer people today than it did in 2002 and 2003, largely due to the incentives and to attrition.

The town does not have a hiring freeze and does have openings, he said. But Oefinger said the town does not immediately fill jobs but looks at each vacancy as an opportunity to re-evaluate each job.

He added that offering early retirements may save money in the short term but could also result in losing valuable staff.

Councilor Bruce Flax said discussing issues such as subcontracting is valid, but Groton should look first at towns that have done it, how much they have saved and how their tax rates compare.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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