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Budget frustrations mount in Rumford
RUMFORD -- As work began on a fourth municipal budget in as many months by the Board of Selectmen last Thursday, frustrations became very evident.
As discussion began on the fourth of eight department budget proposals during the budget meeting, Save Rumford member Candace Casey approached the podium and said it appeared that the Board of Selectmen had met with the town manager earlier to determine what to set for budget figures for these departments.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia denied the allegation and asked her "To stop spreading lies. None of them saw this paper (budget figures presented to the board by Puiia) before this meeting."
Save Rumford member Phil Blampied followed up and said, "It's a very serious manner, in any context, for one person to accuse another person of being a liar, when a town manager accuses a citizen of being a liar. If you do not, you will damage this community and yourself."
A community member then yelled "point of order" to the board that this discussion was off topic and for them to get to discussion on the budget.
Casey asked what the total of the budget would be with his recommendations.
Puiia said recommendations on the budget items he suggested would result in a total budget of $6,579,576.
Board Chairman Greg Buccina noted, "We're trying to find a balance. Y'know, the employees that we have and Rumford taxpayers as well. They're probably raising families here and we're looking at cutting them out of jobs to satisfy a budget. We need to find a balance. There's a lot of people in this town who do not pay taxes, who are unaffected totally by a higher budget or a lower budget. Does everybody understand that?
"There are people in this town that are going to the voting booth who are voting 'no' and whether its a million dollar budget or a $400,000 budget are not going to be impacted one iota by how we vote, and the taxpayers will. We need to wake up. I support, wholeheartedly, anyone who wants to reduce the budget. But my god, y'know, we're taking quite a bit out of the total budget proposal," he said.
After the eighth and final budget proposal had concluded, Puiia said, "When the Save Rumford chairman makes a racial slurr against my Italian roots (on Facebook, according to Puiia), then I will stand up for myself. Because that is uncalled for. That's the leadership that the Save Rumford group has. Some of them will make a comment about somebody's ethnic background..."
At that point, Buccina adjourned the budget meeting.
At the start of the regular meeting, under the town manager's report, Puiia issued a public apology to Casey for his comment.
Casey, who was present, did not acknowledge the apology during the meeting.
The municipal budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, with the budget vote on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall for residents to decide on eight budget proposals.
Voters turned down all 12 money articles on June 11. They totaled $7.5 million. Selectmen cut $1 million from the next budget, which was presented July 23. The Finance Committee reduced the proposed budget to $7.2 million.
At that referendum, eight of the 12 budget articles were rejected. Passed were funds for health and sanitation, the Rumford Public Library, public service and debt service.
On Aug. 27, voters again turned down the same eight municipal budget articles.