Auburn councilors consider how to implement budget cuts

AUBURN — City Manager Clinton Deschene said Tuesday he has a lot of work to do and a lot of phone calls to make before the budget that councilors approved Monday night is ready to go.

"We have a lot of things to iron out this morning," Deschene said.

Councilors approved a 2013-14 budget that cuts $1.7 million in spending that also raised property tax collections for city services by 2.2 percent.

"The city's budget has very little discretionary spending," Deschene said. "It's all truly services we need or staff we are using. Any time we start to cut, it's a reduction in services."

Two policy changes based on the cuts will have the greatest impact.

The city will close the New Auburn Fire Station No. 2 for 190 days throughout the year for $162,435 in savings. Those budget cuts will make it impossible for the city to keep that station fully staffed while other firefighters are on vacation or out sick.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte has promised to discuss the change more fully at the July 1 council meeting.

Another big change will end all curbside recycling collections. Deschene said the city will create recycling drop-off points, possibly at Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.'s Goldthwaite Road facility or at the Public Works shop on Gracelawn Road for residents who would like to continue recycling.

"As soon as we can implement a drop-off location, curbside collections will stop," he said. "I can't give an exact implementation date, but it will be soon."

That change is designed to save the city $27,000 per year.

Other cuts include the number of polling places after November's election. Voters will still go to their neighborhood polling places this year, but the city will find a single polling place for June 2014's primary. Deschene said he understands that will be the city's default polling place for all elections from then on.

"We can't go back and forth and back and forth on this," Deschene said. "I don't want to go back and forth from one polling place to five, depending on the day. This will be an improvement of service by going to one location, I think, and we need to implement it."

Deschene said he also needs to work with the city's labor unions to implement a salary freeze that's designed to save $405,000.

"Staff reductions are very hard, and the proposals we put forward have minimal impact on staffing," Deschene said. "But even those are making things difficult."

Deschene said he also needs to talk with representatives from area agencies and groups that had their money cut. Support for the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport was cut by $27,500 and to Lewiston-Auburn 911 by $6,500. All funding to Community Little Theatre and L/A Arts was cut, a savings of $30,160.

Money to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council was cut by 10 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year with councilors agreeing to delete that funding entirely if the organization is not restructured within five months.

"I have not talked with the growth council or L/A Arts to talk about what this means," he said. "The last time L/A Arts talked to us, they were assuming they would get some funding from us."

Budget work for city officials may not be finished, based on what state legislators do Wednesday. Auburn's budget was based on the state budget and revenues Gov. Paul LePage vetoed Monday. It called for an $860,530 cut to state revenue sharing in Auburn for the upcoming year and another $991,980 a year later.

If legislators cannot override that veto, Auburn's revenue sharing could be cut deeper.

"I think we have some very difficult challenges that the the state of Maine thinks is best to shift down to the local level," Deschene said. "We'll be like good local government and we'll deal with it appropriately."

Deeper cuts at the state level will mean deeper cuts for Auburn.

"We'd have less recreation programs because we are cutting back there, less park maintenance because we are cutting back there, less road plowing because we are cutting back there and less police coverage because we are cutting back there," Deschene said.

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 's picture

Cut backs

Always cutting services, yet leaving pay and benefits the same! Try have 821 employees, union or non union pay their fair share on health insurance, that would be at least a $3.1 mill in savings. The state should do the same, just imagine the budget savings then, and lets change them all over to 401k's like the rest of the world. No ones paying my insurance, or my pension, and I know I make less than most all city and gov. workers. These talks get old when you do not consider ALL avenues.

SCOTT TAYLOR's picture

Story was edited

A quote from the City Manager was moved down to provide better context about what further cuts would mean for city services.

Mike Lachance's picture

Wow... Cant see the forest for the trees?

trash, fire, voting. $20k, $10k, $6k, this and that... then:

"will also talk to the UNIONS about a pay FREEZE" = $400,000.00 !!!!!

What the hell? How about get the DAMNED pay freeze and then put back all the services. If this was a game of horseshoes Auburn would be out looking for a horse.


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