Rumford board airs angst about budget cuts

RUMFORD — During the first two hours of budget work Thursday night, selectmen carved up the Parks and Recreation budget, but left the police budget intact.

There was plenty of angst about the uncertain revenue outlook from the state and continued layoffs from the NewPage paper mill.

Last month, officials at the Rumford mill announced that about 45 workers would be laid off. The layoffs will continue through April, a spokesman said at the time.

Much of the angst targeting line items to reduce the proposed $8,021,536 municipal budget was leveled by Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina and Selectman Jeremy Volkernick.

Volkernick and Buccina are employed by the paper mill.

The proposed budget is up $201,036 over last year's $7,820,500.

The board reduced Parks and Recreation Manager Michael Mills' parks budget of $195,579 by $7,446, and approved the new bottom line of $188,133 by a 3-2 tally.

Buccina and Volkernick dissented. They wanted further reductions. Selectmen Jolene Lovejoy, Jeff Sterling and Brad Adley approved it.

After going back and forth with police Chief Stacy Carter about whether cuts could be made to his spending plan, Adley motioned to approve his Public Safety Budget of $817,656 as presented. It was seconded.

Volkernick strenuously objected.

"I'm not going to sit here and rubber stamp every budget," he said.

"We're going to cut a little bit, and it's going to hurt just a little bit, OK? But let's face it, we are really hurting," he said.

"I'm going to tell you, we cannot keep affording this," Volkernick said. "We've got municipal budgets we're looking at. We have no control over the school department budgets and God only knows what the governor and the state want us to do, you know.

"He wants to take the Homestead Act away and that's anywhere's from $100 to $300, and the revenue sharing? People are saying around $900,000. God help us. And now this mill is having layoffs. Is there more coming?" he asked.

"You know, if we keep doing this, we're probably going to be facing — and I kid you not —  a $9 million budget.

Volkernick praised Carter, telling him he presented "a wonderful budget and you need every penny. But I'm sorry, we can not keep affording it."

"If we want to cut money out of this budget that was proposed, then I think we ought to be prepared to say what we want to cut out of it and what level of service the difference is," Sterling said.

"If you don't think we can afford this, what can we afford?" he asked Volkernick.

"We can't keep affording our taxes going up and up," Volkernick said.

Buccina said that when the board held workshops with department heads, he asked them to provide a 10 to 15 percent reduction in their requests.

"Outside of Stacy Carter, there's no one else who really addressed it," Buccina said.

"Is it our job to determine if a stadium gets closed?" Buccina asking Sterling. "Is it our job to determine what we think this town can afford by taxation to fund a budget properly?"

He said it's the department heads' responsibility to work within what taxpayers can afford.

Buccina said 88 percent of the budget is wages and contracts and 12 percent is operational costs. That, he said, tells him that manpower needs to be reduced.

Sterling, referring to recent comprehensive planning work, said he was told the Police Department as it is currently staffed, cannot adequately handle its increasing call volume.

He said he's comfortable with Carter's budget. The town needs that level of protection "to hopefully deter drug use or drug trafficking in this town, whatever they can do to bust these people," he said.

"We've got to still be able to do that," Sterling said. "We can't afford to take those guys off that role or domestic violence."

He said ever since he became a selectman, he must live with his decisions to cut budgets, especially fire and police.

"I would feel it was on me that if we cut a person or the level of service and something really bad happened — if someone died as a result — that's on me. That's on us."

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter, left, responds to questions Thursday night from Selectmen Jeremy Volkernick, seated at center left, Jeff Sterling and Chairman Greg Buccina about his proposed budget.

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Comments

Abstained

Mr. Adley should have abstained from the police vote. He has to miuch to gain from approving it. This vote should be nullified and redone. Conflict of interest is real.

Tony Capola's picture

Uncertain Future

Addressing Rumford’s budget issues will be a particularly difficult job this year. This is due, in part, to the uncertainty in Augusta. The situation at NewPage is tenable at best but, like the politics in Augusta, the future is heard to predict.
The best we can do is to whittle requests to the bone and pray that we won’t have to reconvene a special town-meeting later this summer to remove even more.
The Board of Selectman and the Finance Committee are charged with the responsibility to maintain crucial services and no one associated with these groups appears to have any hidden agendas. None the less, they are required to trust that the department heads and the Manager are presenting a true picture of their needs.
According to the town’s auditor Rumford is in reasonably good fiscal condition. In spite of protestations to the contrary, we are not headed to insolvency or anywhere near it.
Much of what went on at the last meeting seems to be a “nickel and dime” approach to budgetary management. Only sweeping changes will truly impact the 2013-2014 budget. It’s just too soon to take any drastic steps.
The situation calls for EVERYONE to be reasonably prudent.

Mark Belanger's picture

These guys are living in a

These guys are living in a bubble it seems. The waste in the budget as far as time use, and equipment purchasing is mind blowing. It will not be long when the town will be the biggest employer. Great business heads on that board.. Not really..
All the Town can do is vote no when the time comes....

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