Town Manager John Musante right, Sandy Pooler, Finance Director, to his right
About the most interesting thing in Amherst Town Manager John Musante's proposed FY15 Budget is what it doesn't contain -- an increase in staffing for either police or fire personnel. Although if extra monies materialize he does support the hiring of one additional police officer for a downtown beat.
Interestingly in his Letter of Transmittal to his bosses, the Select Board, he does freely admit that UMass has increased enrollment 16% over the past ten years but town police strength has decreased by 10% (five officers) since 2007.
And while he champions the "sector based patrol system" no mention is made of joint patrols with UMass Police Department, recently jeopardized by a union grievance filed by one of their officers.
In calendar year 2013 Amherst Fire Department responded to 5,690 emergencies, a 3.6% increase over the previous year. Because of the extra $80,000 per year kicked in by UMass for 2 extra ambulances on weekends, and an increase in ambulance rates the budget does call for an increase in minimum on duty staffing from 7 to 8 during the academic year.
But the Town Manager made it pretty clear he does not think an increase in staffing is warranted: " ... and no increase in authorized staffing is necessary or recommended."
A picture is worth 1,000 words
Meanwhile Leisure Services (aka, recreation empire) is "level funded" at $529,299. But last year they were also pretty much level funded and still managed to lose over $300,000.
The $20,947, 926 municipal budget is supported by $600,000 in "new growth" property taxes which indicates the local economy is on the move. Amherst Town Meeting has final approval over the budget and will take up discussion in the spring.