In the hopes of saving about $100,000, the City Council last week amended the budget to de-fund the city's personnel department and merge its operations with the school district.
The change effectively eliminates the city's personnel director — a mayoral appointment — and marks the first of several consolidation measures that have been kicked around for years to actually get implemented.
Council Member James Donahue said the consolidation is an "experiment for the city and the school district" and an "opportunity to reduce the amount of money the city is spending to manage a function and provide some additional relief to schools."
The idea is that the school district would get paid by the city to compensate for the extra work. If things go smoothly, "it could lay the groundwork for other operations in certain areas" like information technology, Donahue said.
"If it doesn't work, we have a case study to look at and study and try to examine why it didn't work."
The measure didn't pass with no resistance. Councilman Paul Archetto noted that the essentially "eliminates the personnel department" and that opens the door to getting sued by the personnel director.
"The council can't just yoink the personnel director," Archetto said. "The city could be placed in injunction and the city is going to spend $50,000 or $100,000 in legal fees."
Council President Tony Lupino said the council wouldn't be eliminating anything.
"It's de-funding a department," Lupino said. "It's no different than the mayor not filling positions in the highway department or a director through attrition."
Donahue said there will always be reasons why people think not to consolidate services, but in this instance, he said it seems to protect the integrity of the City Charter and "is limiting tools the mayor has."
Last night, school officials discussed the measure and indicated they weren't exactly sure how the consolidation will work. Chief Operating Officer Ray Votto said he knows the district will have to take on more work and the city and the school personnel departments handle different responsibilities, some which are handled by other departments, so there are many details to be hammered out.
And when asked how much money the district needs to make the arraignment fair, Votto said he wasn't sure.