Officials to consider combining finance staff
Could the consolidation of the town's and Board of Education's respective finance departments produce cost savings?
The New Milford Town Council decided Monday to form a committee to review that question.
The committee will consist of Town Council and Board of Education members, with a consultant possibly hired to guide the discussions.
"They might decide `No, it won't work,' " said Mayor Pat Murphy. "But the question has been raised so often, I wanted to put it up for consideration."
For Ray Jankowski, New Milford's finance director, the problem is the timing.
The new Munis financial software is being installed, and the projected July 1 launch date seems unlikely to be reached, he said.
Even if the target date were to be reached, human resources and payroll aren't scheduled to switch to the new system until Jan. 1, 2015.
"We didn't realize how much upfront work would be needed to get Munis up and running," Jankowski said. "This is rebuilding a system from scratch.
"Now is not the time to form a committee to determine what might be able to happen in the future," he said. "It's not a good time for either finance department to take on anything else."
The school district's new business manager, Jay Hubelbank, will also be starting his work soon.
Richard Carmelich, president of the Connecticut Association of School Business Officials and director of finance and operations for Region 7, said, at best, only minimal cost savings could be achieved from such a merger.
"The Board of Education is beholden to a number of state mandates," Carmelich said. "The state wouldn't necessarily object to consolidating departments.
"However, many towns and school districts that have merged departments in the past have not saved money," he said.
Carmelich added, while some employees might be cross-trained, people in most government positions are already stretched thin, working in bare bones departments.
"A reduction in staff wouldn't be possible," Carmelich said. "There are so many reporting requirements for the state on board policies regarding purchasing, and so many negotiating units, different individuals are needed to handle each of those filings."
He cited Plainville and Clinton as examples of towns combining both finance departments and finding only minimal cost savings. Plainville later severed its departments and Clinton is doing the same now, he said.
"Other towns have done this in the past," Jankowski said. "Brookfield and New Fairfield both did it.
"Both towns had departments fight and severed the connection," he added. "In New Fairfield, they got together again. It only works if both sides want it to."