Auburn budget, recycling likely workshop topics

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AUBURN — Issues from Monday’s City Council meeting, ranging from suspending curbside recycling to cutting $1 million from the 2010-11 budget, likely will be topics of a Thursday night workshop meeting.

“We just need to talk,” said City Councilor Belinda Gerry. “We’ve been going and meeting, but I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to just sit and talk about these things.”

Councilors agreed to suspend curbside recycling collections for one year beginning in July and later directed City Manager Glenn Aho to cut at least $1 million from the city’s fiscal 2010-11 budget.

Councilors have scheduled a budget workshop for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Auburn Hall. Aho said he would not be able to recommend a full set of cuts by Thursday’s meeting.

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“Right now, I need to meet with department heads and we need to find out if we can even cut $1 million,” Aho said. “I just might not be ready to present anything by Thursday.”

Aho was ready Wednesday night with one proposed change: canceling the city’s spring cleanup collection this year for a $50,000 savings, which he posted in an “Open Letter to the Citizens of Auburn” on the city’s Web site.

“If I’m going to save $1 million in the next year, I need to carry that $50,000 forward now,” Aho said.

But Councilor Gerry and Mayor Dick Gleason criticized Aho for that decision. Gleason said the spring cleanup collection would continue this year, as far as he was concerned.

“My position is, spring cleanup for this year is already funded,” Gleason said. “He was directed to cut spending in next year’s budget, not cut services this year.”

Aho’s proposed budget calls for $30.9 million in spending in the next fiscal year, a 3 percent increase over the current budget. Coupled with cuts in state revenues coming to the city, it would mean a 9 percent increase in property taxes and a $336 property tax increase for homes valued at $200,000.

At least four councilors Monday said any tax increase was out of the question, and they were prepared to require Aho to cut $2.5 million from the budget. A less ambitious cut of $1 million was approved by a 4-3 vote.

On Wednesday, Mayor Gleason was critical of both councilors and Aho.

“I understand; we all want to cut the budget,” Gleason said. “But there’s a way we do it. We talk about it and we review it and come up with solutions as a council. We don’t run off and form coalitions among councilors and demand cuts without knowing what they mean. That’s not responsible.”

Gleason also said the council agreement to cancel curbside recycling beginning in July should not have come out of a workshop. At Monday’s workshop meeting, a majority of councilors said they favored parking the city’s trucks at a single location, rather than paying to continue the service, but they did not vote on the proposal.

“A decision like that can’t be made as part of a budget discussion in a workshop,” Gleason said. “It needs a public hearing and formal vote.”

Gleason said he had heard from many residents concerning both the budget and the recycling meeting. He suggested residents contact city councilors personally — their phone numbers and e-mail addresses are on city ‘s Web site — and invited people to attend the council’s next regular meeting on April 20.

“They need to come to that meeting and speak up during the open session and tell all of us what they think,” Gleason said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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