Audit - Trumbull owns more SUVs than cars, take-home vehicles decrease

The town’s efforts to reduce the number of employee take-home vehicles is making progress, according to an auditor’s report to the Board of Finance. But the number of employees using town vehicles to commute to work is still high, compared to other towns in the region.

Town Financial Controls Analyst Therese Keegan submitted her report on town-owned vehicles at the Board of Finance’s Nov. 12 meeting. Keegan reported that 31 town employees use town-owned vehicles for purposes like commuting. This is a slight decline from the 33 such vehicles in 2016. At the previous vehicle audit in 2007, 32 employees had take-home vehicles.

Since the 2016 vehicle use audit, the town’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation directors no longer have take-home vehicles. The chief of staff position in the first selectman’s office also no longer has a car.

“People think, ‘Just take the cars away,’ but it’s not as easy as you might like,” said First Selectman Vicki Tesoro. “These are long-term arrangements, in some cases going back decades.”

In many cases the use of a town-owned car was a negotiated contract item, which means getting it back could be difficult. Still, even if the number of take-home vehicles is remaining relatively steady, Tesoro said the town has been able to enact restrictions on the use of such vehicles.

“Our employees weren’t abusing their take-home car priviledges, but we still adopted a vehicle use policy to bring more accountability,” she said.

The take-home cars are for driving to and from work, although stopping to pick up a pizza or groceries on the way home is an accepted use of the vehicle, personal errands are not, Tesoro said.

Of the 31 employees that have take-home vehicles, nine are school employees. That number has remained the same since 2016, although the allocation has changed. In the past three years, the two driver’s education instructors no longer use their cars for commuting, but the school maintenance supervisor and staff electrician have gained use of a vehicle.

On the town side, one employee — the WPCA crew leader — has gained a take home vehicle since 2016.

Keegan noted that the employees who use town-owned vehicles to commute added up to 10,000 miles per year to them. She recommended that take-home vehicles be restricted to employees that needed to be ready to respond to after-hours emergencies and those who need specialized tools to address such an emergency.

With a population of about 36,000, Trumbull issues more take-home vehicles than Fairfield (27), Milford (21), Stratford (17), and Shelton (11). The nine school employees with take-home vehicles also exceeded that of every other community she listed. In fact, only Shelton (1), and Fairfield (2) issue take-home vehicles to school employees at all.

Keegan’s other findings included Trumbull’s total vehicle fleet growing slightly, from 162 to 166 over the past three years. Most of these vehicles are operated by the Police Department (61), school system (33), public works (24) and parks (16) departments. Since 2016 the engineering (4), police (4), WPCA (2), engineering (1) and golf (1) departments gained vehicles. The school (2), EMS (1), first selectman (1), public works (2), recreation (1), and senior center (1) departments lost vehicles. These numbers do not include heavy trucks.

The town’s vehicle fleet also has begun skewing more toward SUVs and away from sedans. The number of town-owned SUVs grew from 46 to 64 in the last three years as the Police Department transitioned to Ford Explorer-based vehicles. The number of cars owned by the town dropped from 34 to 19