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Selectmen reject spending cap petition
RUMFORD -- An effort to get the Board of Selectmen to accept a petition for a change in town law was rejected Thursday.
SAVE Rumford brought forth a revised tax-relief petition to the selectmen's meeting that sought to impose a spending cap of $6.2 million, or the equivalent of a mil rate of 19.35. Several members spoke on its behalf, including Mark Belanger, a former town selectman.
He said he firmly believes that capping spending would save the town in the future should the paper mill shut down for good.
Belanger said the spending cap would give taxpayers a 16 percent tax break, or an annual $520 savings for a $100,000 home, and would help businesses. He said he believed a critical circumstance exists for selectmen accept the petition and put it before voters at a special town meeting.
Fire Chief Bob Chase spoke against the spending cap, saying it circumvents the democratic process and labeled it un-American. He said it would save him about $6.15 a week. "I'd pay three times that to have the GRCC, curbside pickup and my home safe."
Resident Kelly Gorham wanted the town to return to a town meeting style of government rather than voting on the budget by secret ballot via the referendum process.
Gary Dolloff, chairman of the Greater Rumford Community Center Board of Directors, asked selectmen not to accept the spending cap petition. "It's going to put our families and children at risk," he said. "I hope you stick to your guns."
Former Town Manager Len Greaney argued for the spending cap, saying it would open up the area for regionalization.
Megean Bourgeois, who said she grew up in Rumford but now lives in Portland, objected to the cap. "The spending cap takes the responsibility away from the people."
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said, "I know everyone sitting in this room loves this town. That doesn't mean we agree on everything. The board has made cuts. You may agree with them or you may or think we went too deep. But from this point forward, we're going to move in a positive direction. Don't write off your best friends. Don't write off your neighbors. Don't write off the people you've know your entire life because you differ in the ballot box."
Puiia noted that the select board is taking the advice provided their town attorney by not accepting this spending cap petition.
"You have the right already to dictate what amount the town spends. If you want to agree with their group, that's your prerogative. But why would you give up your right to decide that number? You have that right now. If you agree to the spending cap, you're agreeing to that specific number on an ongoing basis," he noted.
Selectmen disagreed with Belanger's assessment of the spending cap. They rejected the petition, 4-0. Selectman Frank DiConzo was absent.