West Hartford’s government growing

It will come as no surprise to anybody who pays taxes in West Hartford to learn that the size of the town’s workforce – the people actually employed by taxpayers – has risen by 17 percent in the past decade. Right now, we are paying for more municipal employees than ever – 1, 815 people to serve a population of about 64,000.

Let’s see what’s happened.

In 1997, the town had 1,555 workers, a number that rose steadily until 2003 when it fell from 1,813 to 1,779 as a result of a change in the fire contract that allowed us to have 20 firefighters on duty per shift instead of 22. That cut the number of firefighters needed fro 108 to 94. It’s since fallen to 92.

Police numbers have been pretty steady, for those who wonder. Public works is down a bit.

It will not shock anybody that the growth is all on the education side, which is understandable given that the number of students has also gone up.

But it’s interesting to see that in 1997 there were 741 teachers on the payroll while today there are 866. That’s probably pretty much in line with the rising student numbers, with a few extra thrown in to deal with No Child Left Behind and special ed mandates.

On the non-instructional side, though, hold onto your hats.

Ten years ago, West Hartford employed 329 people in its school system who did not teach. That includes secretaries, administrators, custodians and others who are clearly necessary. Today, that number is 505.

Why is that? I don’t know. The big change happened in 2000, when the number of non-instructional school employees skyrocketed from 329 to 505. I could not find anything to explain what happened that year, though I imagine it had to be a conscious policy decision of some kind.

I recognize that administrators, clerks and others are needed, particularly given the vast number of reports that state and federal overseers demand. But there’s something seriously askew when we have 62 percent more non-instructional school employees than we did a decade ago.

If anyone knows why, I’d sure love to have an explanation.

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4 Comments

Filed under Public safety, Schools, Taxes, Town government

4 responses to “West Hartford’s government growing

  1. Mike

    Get ready for the number to grow even higher – with the proposed increase in educational funding from the state, you can bet there will be no corresponding property tax reduction – this is looked upon as “found money”, even though the Governor’s plan only includes funding for the first two years of a five year plan. Also, the tax revenue from Blue Back should start to trickle in. With an even bigger pot of money to blow, my guess is there will more town employees, more public sculptures of bears, and a future of even higher taxes once the state aid dries up. It is time to tighten the belt in town, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  2. Peter G

    So what a minute, Mike. Hiring more non-instructional school employees is the equivalent of “more public sculptures of bears?” No, I don’t think so.

    I’m willing to listen to a factual assessment of places where money was allegedly mis-spent on our schools or town government generally. But a factual assessment doesn’t mean standing over the tribal campfire grunting “More spending bad. Lower taxes good.”

    The statistics on non-instructional school employee cited by whdad is a perfect example. Yes, I’m interested in knowing why the proliferation of these positions. It’s possible that none or some or even all are sensible. I want to see the evidence of just what the money is being spent on before I dismiss it OR approve of it.

    Mike, you close by saying “It is time to tighten the belt in town,” as if the reasons were self-evident. They are not. In the same way that I want to know why, factually, money is being spent, I want to know why, factually, we should cut back. Show that the spending is unproductive, unnecessary, or harmful.

  3. Mike

    Peter – My argument was that the town is about to get a big chunk of money (some $4 million) that is supposedly earmarked for education – but not required to be spent on it. The additional aid was intended to provide property tax relief to the town residents – but does not require that there be any.
    The state budget will be approved after the town budget, most likely, so we will not even be sure we are getting this funding until after the council votes – This is essentially “found” money, a windfall for the town this year.
    Now I may be a skeptic, but I do not see this money being set aside. If the town has permitted their workforce to grow without the benefit of additional state aid, and has done so when we were consistently underfunded in ECS grants, do you really expect them to suddenly find restraint when a sack of cash falls from the sky? The council has for years refused to make cuts – which is fine when our services and education are at stake. But these extra funds are only guaranteed for two years. Programs, personnel hires, and salary increases given out now, based on the assumption that this funding will continue at the proposed level, will severely tie our hands in the next few years. What we give out now, when flush, will not be easily taken away when this cash stram dries up.
    s is a real opportunity to hold the lineBut this is a chance to actually provide some relief to the taxpayers – the time to tighten the belt.
    The cost of this $4 million? It is projected that town residents will pay an additional $12 million in income taxes next year. So our taxes are going up on the state end and there is no accountability that our local taxes be reduced as a prerequisite to receive the additional state funds.

  4. Mike

    Peter – My argument was that the town is about to get a big chunk of money (some $4 million) that is supposedly earmarked for education – but not required to be spent on it. The additional aid was intended to provide property tax relief to the town residents – but does not require that there be any.
    The state budget will be approved after the town budget, most likely, so we will not even be sure we are getting this funding until after the council votes – This is essentially “found” money, a windfall for the town this year.
    Now I may be a skeptic, but I do not see this money being set aside. If the town has permitted their workforce to grow without the benefit of additional state aid, and has done so when we were consistently underfunded in ECS grants, do you really expect them to suddenly find restraint when a sack of cash falls from the sky? The council has for years refused to make cuts – which is fine when our services and education are at stake. But these extra funds are only guaranteed for two years. Programs, personnel hires, and salary increases given out now, based on the assumption that this funding will continue at the proposed level, will severely tie our hands in the next few years. What we give out now, when flush, will not be easily taken away when this cash stream dries up.
    This is a real opportunity to hold the line, to actually provide some relief to the taxpayers – the time to tighten the belt.
    The cost of this $4 million? It is projected that town residents will pay an additional $12 million in income taxes next year. So our taxes are going up on the state end and there is no accountability that our local taxes be reduced as a prerequisite to receive the additional state funds.

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