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Greenfield deposits $800,000 in contract fund

GREENFIELD — The town has moved $800,000 into its Contract Stabilization account to make sure it has enough money to cover new two- to three-year contracts that will be negotiated with 11 of the town’s 12 unions over the next several months.

“The town is currently in negotiations with 11 of the 12 bargaining units,” said Marjorie Lane Kelly, the town’s finance director. “Fire is the only bargaining unit that has settled.”

The town unions that have just started or are about to start negotiations are: police patrolmen, police supervisors, emergency dispatch, public works, clerical workers and salaried employees, which include department heads and assistants.

The school unions that have either started or are about to start are: teachers, paraprofessionals, custodial and maintenance, administrative assistants and food service workers.

Kelly said all union contracts will expire at the end of June 2014, so negotiations have begun with some unions and will begin soon with the rest. She said most unions are looking for two- to three-year contracts with the town.

“We may not have to use any of the $800,000, we may have to use some of it, or we may have to use all of it — we just don’t know yet,” said Kelly. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens with negotiations.”

Kelly said regardless, the town must be ready for whatever happens.

“We have to be prepared for what lies ahead,” she said.

Mayor William Martin, who said he cannot yet speak publicly about the details of contract negotiations, asked Town Council to approve the $800,000, but councilors wouldn’t do so without going into executive session this week to discuss some of the details.

At-large Councilor Dalton Athey said he did not feel comfortable voting to move $800,000 without understanding why the mayor thought it should be done, and in the end, did not vote “yes,” but instead abstained.

“This will all become more clear to everyone in a month or so,” said Kelly. “We just can’t talk about it at this point.”

The state recently certified the town’s “free cash” surplus and Greenfield received $1.7 million, so the money was there to be moved into the Contract Stabilization account.

Athey said he feels as much cash as possible should be placed into an account to cover post-employment benefits other than pensions, not an account to pay for things that have not yet been negotiated.

The town is currently looking at how it will fund a post-employment benefits account over the next 30 years or so to reach its target of about $74 million.

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