CASTLETON — Though no new contracts have been signed between unionized employees and the town, Town Manager Mike Jones said he’s budgeting in case an agreement is reached, bringing the total proposed town expenditures in the proposed town budget up 8.4 percent, or $261,977.
The total general government budget saw an increase of 8.5 percent to $2,187,817, up $171,768 from last year.
The labor union contract for town employees expired July 1, 2016, and the town has since been in negotiations to draft a new agreement, Jones said.
“The union said, ‘We reject your deals if the employee loses money,’” Jones said Wednesday. “What I put on paper, with the proposed pay increases, and the increases in health care, only two employees would have lost money in the old proposal: One employee would lose $5 a week, the other would lose $26. ... When it comes to money lost, it all depends on what you earn and what type of plan you have.”
Jones said only one employee would lose money next year under a proposed 2 percent increase in wages for union employees, contingent on an agreement.
“I felt positive coming out of it,” Jones said of the special Select Board meeting Tuesday where he presented the first draft of the budget to the board. “I’ve given this to the union, the labor board and the bargaining team.”
Unlike nonunion town employees, Jones said union workers haven’t seen a raise in four years and haven’t paid an increase in health care contribution.
“Theirs stayed at 5 percent,” Jones said of union workers’ health care contribution. “The town paid 95 percent. Nonunion employees paid the difference.”
Jones said the health care percentage paid by nonunion employees steadily increased from 5 percent over time, until July, when it capped out at 20 percent.
For the police department, the proposed budget sees a 13.2 percent total increase of $59,478 due to “increased health insurance usage,” bringing the total to $510,168.
That proposed budget also sees a $15,979 increase for the full-time chief and three full-time officers, with an additional $15,021 toward a “part-time other.”
The proposed budget for the storm drainage system more than doubles, climbing roughly $13,000 because of “Main Street Village culverts and drain repair.”
Improvements to the transfer station boosted the budget $31,000 for gate replacement and improvements to general infrastructure and waterways, Jones said.
“We will have to reshape the terrain up there, so we have water channeled where we want it to go,” Jones said.
Jones said there are several Department of Public Works trucks that are ready to be replaced, an issue that came to light during the recent snow storms.
“In the past week and a half, we’ve had three plow trucks down,” Jones said. “We use our older truck, our spare truck to prolong life of good trucks, but it’s an old standard.”
Jones said he asked for a cost proposal to lease two new trucks this week.
“We have a reserve fund for around $92,000,” Jones said.
The Highway Department would see an overall increase of $90,000, a $12,000 increase set aside for building improvements, and $22,000 for paving and sealing in the capital projects fund which Jones said will help maintain the fire department parking lot.
The budget cited new dugouts for Dewey and Hydeville fields, infrastructure improvements to Crystal Beach, and an assistant director position for the recreation administration now that the director has a full-time job, Jones said.
“This is a way to get things on track,” Jones said. “We’re taking care of what we have so we don’t have to prolong it over longer frequencies.”