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Combining finance boards not recommended

NEW MILFORD — It seems like a bad idea.

This is what financial people in the know are saying about the notion of New Milford combining the town and Board of Education finance departments.

The Town Council on Monday approved forming a committee to consider combining the departments in order to save money. The committee will consist of Town Council and Board of Education members, possibly with a consultant hired to guide the discussions.

They might decide `No, it wont work, said Mayor Pat Murphy. But the question has been raised so often, I wanted to put it up for consideration.

For Ray Jankowski, New Milfords finance director, the problem is timing. New financial software is still being installed and the planned July 1 launch date seems unlikely to be reached, he said Tuesday.

Even if the July 1 date were reached, human resources and payroll arent targeted to change over to the new system until Jan. 1, 2015.

We didnt realize how much up-front work would be needed to get MUNIS up and running, Jankowski said of the system. This is rebuilding a system from scratch. Now is not the time to form a committee to determine what might be able to happen in the future. Its not a good time for either finance department to take on anything else.

Added to MUNIS implementation, a new business manager is coming on staff for the Board of Education in June, replacing the long-time business manager.

Richard Carmelich, president of the Connecticut Association of School Business Officials and director of finance and operations for Region 7, said at best only minimal cost savings could be seen from such a merger.

The Board of Education is beholden to a number of state mandates, Carmelich said. But the state wouldnt necessarily object to consolidating departments. However, many towns and school districts that have merged departments in the past have not saved money.

Carmelich added that while some employees might be cross-trained, people in most government positions are already stretched thin, working in bare-bone departments.

A reduction in staff wouldnt be possible, Carmelich said. There are so many reporting requirements for the state on board policies, regarding purchasing, and so many negotiating units, different individuals are need to handle each of those filings.

He cited Plainville and Clinton as having both combined departments and found only minimal cost savings were made. Plainville separated its departments, and Clinton is now doing that, he said.

Other towns have done this in the past, Jankowski agreed. Brookfield and New Fairfield both did it. Both towns had departments fight and severed the connection. In New Fairfield, they got together again. It only works if both sides wants it to.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322

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