Published in the February 8, 2017 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — DPW Director John Tomasz was praised by the selectmen for his thoroughness after the presentation of his first budget less than two months into his new job.
Tomasz oversees the most diverse and complicated of the municipal budgets, with the exception of the schools, given the number of moving parts for which the Department of Public Works remains responsible throughout town. This includes maintenance of buildings and grounds for all four schools as well as every other public building in town, and the associated salaries and expenses with those budgets.
He has spent much of the past eight weeks analyzing how each of these aspects of the budget intertwine while also getting to know his staff and determining the budgeting priorities for the next fiscal year.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the proposed DPW budget requests by Tomasz totals $6,999,724, an increase of $341,905 or 5.1 percent over the current FY17 revised budget of $6,657,819.
The DPW budget is comprised of the following basic areas:
• Municipal building maintenance, including salaries, is $616,884, an increase of $52,717 or 9.3 percent over FY17.
• School building maintenance, including salaries, is $3,048,454, up 4.5 percent from FY17 budget of $2,918,403.
• Public works administration, including all salaries, has decreased by nearly one percent to $672,774 from the FY17 actual budget of $683,729. This budget realized a savings in the DPW Director’s salary line item during the transition between directors and the differential needed while the post was vacant. The request for FY18 is $128,125.
The original FY17 budget was $105,463, but this was bumped up to $150,463 during the transition period between former director Andrew Lafferty, who left September 9, the interim period when the town engineer did double duty as interim director for nearly three months, and the current director’s salary for the remainder of the fiscal year through June 30, 2017.
• The Highway Department budget, including salaries, is proposed to be $1,484,212 in FY18, up 12.2 percent over the current fiscal year ($1,322,320). This figure includes a proposed 29.9 percent increase in DPW highway expenses, from the current budget of $418,620 to $543,620 in FY18.
• Snow and ice removal remains level funded at $120,000 each year because this is one of the few budgets where the state allows deficit spending due to the unpredictable nature of weather. The actual amount spent in FY16, for example, was $237,413.
• Street lighting expenses are also being level funded at $180,000. The actual amount spent on street lights in FY16 was $149,131.
• Sidewalk construction and maintenance remains level funded at $25,000. In FY16, the town spent $15,536 on sidewalks.
• Rubbish collection is going up 1 percent due to contractual obligations. The request for FY18 is $852,400, up from $844,200 in the current fiscal year. In FY16, the town’s contract was budgeted at $756,618.
The DPW has also inherited a huge responsibility in the care and maintenance of the multi-million dollar investment made in the town’s recreational fields, a process that continues to evolve as the fields receive more intense use.
The town also began collecting user fees from youth and adult leagues to help cover the day to day and year to year maintenance costs and to set aside a percentage each year to fund replacement turf in 10-15 years.
The DPW, Recreation Commission and the private leagues continue to work out the kinks over responsibilities. Tomasz told the board that he and his crew members sat down together to determine what responsibilities should remain with the DPW and what tasks can or should be contracted out given current staffing levels. Included in the discussion was what the crew members believe they need to be properly supported as well as the public perception of what their role has been or should be.
This issue came to a head last spring under the former director when some of the town’s Little League fields became overgrown shortly after Memorial Day weekend when crews were concentrating on spring maintenance of the town’s cemeteries and common for the holiday coupled with rainy weather that extended the time between field mowings.
Using the field maintenance timeline developed by Fields Committee Chairman Arthur Bourque coupled with his discussions with his crew, Tomasz has come up with a spreadsheet for March through November that details man-hours per task on every conceivable need for each town and school field and park.
He also provided the selectmen with cost estimates from three different private contractors to conduct the various tasks that cannot be done by the current DPW staff.
They are: Turf Pro Field Management ($44,550) for the artificial turf fields at the high school; Lehay Landscaping Contractor estimate for the maintenance and fertilizing needs of the town’s natural turf fields and playgrounds ($166,955) and Elite Pressure Washing to powerwash playground equipment, dugouts, walkways, bleachers, etc., at all of the town’s schools and playgrounds ($3,050).
Tomasz also plans to meet with all of the youth and adult sports leagues and the schools, athletic department and coaches before March in advance of the spring sports seasons to get everyone on the same page with regard to field maintenance responsibilities.
Tomasz requested to defer for a few weeks discussion on his capital budget, for which he provided a preliminary list of requests totaling $1.18 million. He wanted to spend the additional time determining which parts of the current fiscal year’s budget would not be expended in an effort to pare down the projected capital outlay for his department in FY18.