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.