There was a bit of procedural drama at town meeting last night just to keep things interesting. You may remember me mentioning that just because a budget is approved on the first night of town meeting doesn’t mean it can’t be reopened on subsequent nights. And that’s exactly what one resident attempted to do.
Roger Challen, a former selectman, asked voters to reconsider the police department budget, specifically the $45K cut to Quinn Bill funding that was approved on Monday night. The Quinn Bill gives police officers bonuses for getting college degrees.
One of the arguments for cutting the funding — a cut that matched state cuts to the program — was parity with the teacher’s union which voluntarily gave up $80K in salary to help balance the budget.
But Challen said he and other residents ran some numbers after Monday night’s meeting and concluded that the impact on overall compensation for an individual police officer was much more significant than for an individual teacher. “This information wasn’t available at last night’s meeting,” he said.
Calling Monday night’s vote “demeaning,” Police Chief Jane Moran asked voters to reconsider. She said eliminating a portion of the Quinn Bill funding was “changing the rules” and could lead to further arbitration.
Advisory Committee member John Butler said the cut was allowed by the union contract with police officers. He read aloud a portion of the contract which states that if the Commonwealth reduces their funding level, the town is free to do the same. “This body should not inject itself in the middle of a contract that has already been negotiated by changing the terms and appropriating more money than is called for.”
But Selectman Bill Boland said towns with contracts that have similar wording, like Mashpee, are currently in litigation over the contracts.
Boland said Town Meeting should reverse the cut and give the Board of Selectmen the leeway to administer the contract in the best interest of the town. “We don’t just throw money away,” he said.
Butler said that because the police contract is up for renegotiation next year, choosing to restore the Quinn Bill money would be choosing to fund a contract that doesn’t yet exist. Other union contracts, including those for teachers and town employees, are also up for renegotiation next year.
“All contracts are up for negotiation, and we’re not funding next year’s changes on any of them,” Butler said. “If the Board of Selectmen wants to offer 100% Quinn payment next year, they can do so.”
Reopening the budget required a two-thirds majority vote. That vote failed by a wide margin, so the cut approved on Monday night stands.
Challen also asked voters to reopen discussion of the Board of Health budget last night, but that motion also failed.
Penny wise and pound foolish !
May I suggest that when the town is looking to hire replacement officers that will require academy traaining at the town’s expense, there be some contract wording to the effect that the recruit must stay employed by the town for 10 years or they must reimburse the town for all training costs.
See how fast the department turns into a stepping stone for young men and women looking to start a career in law enforcement