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"A new reality" -- $1M in Rumford cuts
RUMFORD -- Amid better than nine hours of sometimes vry difficult cuts over three days, the Board of Selectmen reacted to the overwhelming defeat of the proposed municipal budget on June 11 with a new proposal that's nearly $1 million less than that.
Selectman Brad Adley coined this "a new reality," which equates to municipal job losses. The new proposed municipal budget, minus initiated articles, is $6,526,077.
Initiated articles are requests for funding donations, usually to social services. Because all but four of them were defeated on June 11, there is no recourse per town law for a re-vote.
It is also just $326,077 more than the $6.2 million some citizens proposed as a budget cap.
Once the Finance Committee (which begin their process on June 25) determines its recommendation, a public hearing will be held before a special town meeting is convened, possibly on July 23, to vote on the new budget.
While other towns worry about the impact of the revenue sharing from the state, Town Manager Carlo Puiia noted that the town's Charter works in favor of the town in this case as both the revenue sharing and the excise tax revenue are collected and then applied to the following year instead of the current year.
They began with the police budget, and without any input from Police Chief Stacy Carter, Board Chairman Greg Buccina proposed to reduce $106,301, cutting the budget to $711,355.
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy asked if Buccina had shared that figure with anyone and he responded that it was his alone.
Lovejoy said the department heads sat down with Puiia to make cuts. "I think we should hear what they presented for cuts. We should allow the courtesy. They know they need to make cuts. We know."
Buccina noted, "We have to set a budget that will pass. I understand there will be a reduction in manpower, but we need to change the way we do things now. This will push us to shared services."
In proposing the cuts, he said he tried to find items that traditionally have not been entirely used and turned back into surplus.
Carter, asked how this would affect the police level of service, said the department would lose a detective, a dispatcher and a utility officer, which would greatly reduce the department's effectiveness at combating drugs.
Newly-elected Selectman Frank DiConzo said he'd rather just cut the police budget by $417,000 to $400,000 and let Carter work out the details. "We can't afford what we're paying for police protection. We have to look at the spending cap. We have to talk to Oxford County."
Carter said he needed to keep officers on the street to protect residents, the community and his own officers. He said they cannot rely on mutual aid from the county, state police or Mexico because they may not be available. "We can't put people's safety in jeopardy."
Resident Josanne Dolloff said she didn't want to see the department lose a detective.
"There are more and more drugs coming into this town. It's easy to say 'cut 10 percent across the board' because of the situation this town is in. But because of suicides and drugs and kids on the streets, we need our police coverage. I want to feel safe in my home."
When asked if he had a proposal, Carter said $716,274. He said that would eliminate a detective and close the department's dispatch office.
The board then voted 1-4 against Buccina's proposed cut, then approved Carter's proposal of $716,274, which is a 14 percent cut.
The animal control officer budget was sliced from $26,994 to $23,563.
The board, by a 3-2 vote, then reduced the fire department budget of $733,850 to Fire Chief Bob Chase's proposal of $625,528. Chase said that would keep two men on shift who could only bring one truck to a fire, as opposed to presently having three men and bringing two pieces of equipment. Then there would be a delay until enough manpower and equipment could be mustered either with the call force or mutual aid.
Selectmen reduced the department's emergency management from $7,737 to $6,237, which Deputy Chief Richard Coulombe proposed.
Next was the Public Works budget. The board pared sewer maintenance from $43,571 to $42,071 and cut the Summer Roads budget from $324,890 to Buccina's figure of $280,910. Superintendent Andy Russell said that will mean the loss of a drive and a laborer.
Russell had recommended a figure of $318,190. DiConzo had proposed $250,000.
Resident Mark Belanger, who proposed the spending cap, suggested that bigger projects should be contracted out, "with a skeleton crew to do maintenance."
Winter Roads, which includes snow removal, was cut from $615,332 to Buccina's figure of $458,250. DiConzo proposed $400,000.
That came despite voiced concern from Puiia and Lovejoy that cutting too much from the budget means "putting a lot of people in danger."
On the bituminous surfacing, or the paving budget, selectmen and the Finance Committee had recommended funding it at $50,000 in the rejected budget.
Russell said he wanted to pave a number of town roads this year and that cutting the funding would put those jobs off. He indicated it's important to maintain this budget due to the high cost of paving and use it as an overlay to extend the life of roads rather than paying more when the road expires.
After Russell said he'd like to keep at least $30,000 in the account, Selectman Brad Adley motioned for $25,000. That was approved 4-1, with DiConzo dissenting.
Selectmen also voted to reduce the state aid road construction budget from $30,000 to $20,000; the sidewalks budget from $20,000 to $10,000; and the bridges budget from $10,000 to $5,000.
On the building demolition budget, Adley
Adley motioned to cut it from $12,000 to $6,000, but DiConzo and Lovejoy said they both want to see Rumford's mass of dilapidated buildings demolished and wanted the $12,000 to remain untouched.
Resident and Parks and Recreation board member Rick White then accused selectmen of doing what they didn't say they were going to do -- micromanaging departments.
"In one breath, you said you were not going to micromanage budgets, but, yes, that's what you are doing now, and we're what, two, three hours into this?" White asked.
Resident Rob Cameron suggested giving the buildings to neighbors or nearby property owners, who likely would demolish the buildings themselves at no cost to the town.
Adley then rescinded his motion, and another motion was made and seconded to cut the budget to $10,000. That was approved 5-0.
Regarding funding for the Puiia Business Park, still under Public Works, Lovejoy quickly motioned to keep that at $14,000, which was approved 3-2. Buccina wanted to reduce it to $10,000, and DiConzo wanted the work completed without the additional money, using money already stockpiled for the project.
Puiia said they would to eventually get power and pave the park, necessary items to help attact businesses to move into the park.
The town garage budget was reduced from $58,747 to $51,000 by a 5-0 tally.
On the next night, the Parks Department budget was on the table. Director Michael Mills proposed cutting it from $188,133 to $178,726. Buccina suggested a figure of $164,934.
Explaining the impact, Mills said groups like Relay for Life and the Fourth of July Committee, of which Buccina is a member, would have to clean up Hosmer Field after their events, instead of having the Parks Department crew do the work.
Additionally, Mills said they couldn't keep the information booth or clean the walking trails for that amount. He added that there would be no mowing of embankments at Hosmer Field, and he'd have to cut back on pesticide usage and seeding.
Lovejoy motioned for Mills' number, which was defeated, 4-1. She then motioned for $183,430, which was approved 5-0.
Mills proposed appropriating zero dollars for the skating rink budget, which was originally $3,600. That was quickly approved 5-0. The cemeteries line item, which was initially $12,280, was cut by $1,000 to $11,280 and approved 5-0.
Next up was the library, where voters earlier defeated selectmen's proposal of $227,589, as well as the Finance Committee's proposal of $225,000.
Adley threw out a 15 percent decrease to $191,250 and asked Librarian Luke Sorensen to explain the impacts. He said that would reduce the library's hours from 48 per week to 37 and close it on Saturdays.
After longtime library trustee Marie Boudreau presented a case to keep the Saturday hours for the summer people, DiConzo said he was going to motion for $200,000.
However, the board voted 3-2, approving Adley's motion, with Lovejoy and DiConzo dissenting.
For code enforcement, selectmen had proposed $50,715 in the defeated budget, after Code Enforcement Officer Rick Kent offered budget reduction options. Buccina suggested possibly cutting the position entirely or reducing it to a part-time job.
However, Buccina proposed a 24 percent decrease to $36,893 and a reduction from a five to a four-day work week.
Adley motioned for Kent's proffered $38,528, which was approved 4-1.
Prior to Thursday's regular board meeting, the budget cuts continued.
Following a discussion on the $515,000 Solid Waste line item in the defeated Health and Sanitation budget, Adley motioned to raise and appropriate $372,000.
He noted that would eliminate the curbside pickup.
Also in the Health and Sanitation budget, selectmen cut $140 from their initially proposed $120,000 for the Health Department, rendering it to $119,860. They also cut $1,500 from the Sewer Maintenance line item of $43,571, rendering that at $42,071.
The new Health and Sanitation budget is now $533,931, a difference of $144,640 from the defeated budget of $678,571.
By 4-0 tallies (DiConzo was absent), the board pared $3,250 from the initially proposed $27,000 Municipal Planning line item in the Public Service budget, rendering that as $23,750, and reduced the Charter Commission line item from $3,000 to $1,500.
By 3-1, the boarde pared $8,000 from the defeated Debt Service budget of $156,685, rendering that as $148,685. The board had put $48,000 into the budget to pay interest on a bond should a business move into the Puiia Business Park and seek help.
The board cut $88,146 from the defeated Capital Accounts budget of $511,146, rendering it as $423,000. They did not state what would be cut to achieve that reduction. Desired improvements included those to police, fire, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation equipment, a sewer extension, the library building and other town properties.
Selectmen cut $109,300 from the $1,375,700 for Social Security/Insurance, rendering the new budget as $1,266,400 under Unclassified, then didn't reduce the original request of $15,000 in the Contingency line item.