Westfield

Council seeks to explore efficiencies

BRIAN P. SULLIVAN

WESTFIELD – City Council President Brian Sullivan requested the Government Relations Committee to begin a dialogue with department supervisors to increase efficiency within city government.
Committee Chairwoman Ann Callahan invited Sullivan to the committee session last night to discuss his goals and objectives for the next year, with committee members Ward 1 Councilor Christopher Keefe and Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean.
Sullivan said that he appointed members of the Goverment Relations Committee with the idea of investigating department funding and operations, selecting Callahan, who is new to the council and has no history with budget process, to serve as chairwoman, while Keefe is a former Finance Committee member and Crean currently serves on that committee.
Sullivan requested that the committee informally begin the budget review process through meetings with department heads who may have ideas to “spend more wisely.”
“Every year we work on the budget for a month, tops, before we have to vote on it,” Sullivan said. “Over the last 10 years there has not be a lot to change because the budgets we’re getting are bare bones.”
“I’d like you to look at it more deeply, so we have a better handle on it” Sullivan said. “We need to get it earlier, but that won’t happen because we don’t have the real numbers (of state funding), so I think that you can look at the current budget, what was proposed, what was approved, what was actually used and what was not used.”
“I’m leaving it up to you guys to have the department heads into your committee. ¬†Pick their brains. See if there can be an opportunity to spend more wisely,” Sullivan said. “See if we can come up with ideas to change spending. We don’t get a chance to really delve into the budget when we have only a month (to review the upcoming fiscal year budget submitted to the City Council).”
“Maybe at the end of the day we get nothing out of this, but that’s fair. The (City) Council should be a fact-finding group. I don’t see our role in changing what departments do, but maybe there is a way to do it differently,” Sullivan said. “Start the process of looking at municipal funding differently.”
“You can ask the department heads if they’d like to do something differently, but have no money for it. Maybe we do have the money,” Sullivan said.
Crean suggested that the committee focus on the larger departments, Public Works, Water Resources, the School Department, Police and Fire, noting that the majority of every department’s budget is for personnel.
“We need to start early with the bigger departments to see what they’re doing and if there are different ways they could do it,” Crean said.

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