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Can Fairfield Save Money by Adding Staff?

Travis Miller and Robin Haley have an unusual idea to save taxpayers money in Fairfield. The two auditors from Matrix Consulting Group just completed an audit of the town's bureaucracy and presented their findings to the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen at a joint meeting Tuesday night. The major cost-saving measure they proposed was not to cut staff members — but to add more.

Matrix's report said that by adding one crew member to each shift for both the Fairfield Police Department and the Fairfield Fire Department, the town could save about $150,000 per year per department. The new officer and firefighter would act as floaters, filling in for sick and vacationing crew members where needed, rather than paying a current employee overtime to fill those same openings.

"Try an experiment. Add one per shift ... and use that body to buy down the overtime," Miller said. "You will see an incremental net savings."

Members from both boards, however, were skeptical. Board of Finance member Robert Belitto said the town had looked into overtime issues in the past and found that the cost of training, pensions and benefits from adding more staff outweighed the savings from cutting overtime.

Still, the auditors had trouble finding other areas where Fairfield could save money in its budget. Although they recommended more long-range planning and performance tracking, Miller and Haley said every department is operating efficiently without any excess staff members or costs.

"This is a high service level, high expectation community," Miller said. "I think everyone we talked in every department is highly aware of the environment in which they work, and the expectation of the citizens of the community."

The board members acknowledged that the report could cause problems in the upcoming budget cycle. In the interest of keeping taxes low, the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen have tried to trim the budget as much as they can. With no other recommendations, they might need to lose staff.

"We cannot ratchet down [the budget] without eliminating services," First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said.

Do you think the town could save money by adding staff? Or should it cut back services to lower taxes? Sound off in the comments section below.

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