AUBURN — Organizers for the Twin Cities' signature Great Falls Balloon Festival say the festival may shrink this year, ending all events in Auburn because of city budget cuts.
"We've always had two stages, in Lewiston and Auburn," said Mell Hamlyn, treasurer for the Great Falls Balloon Festival organizing committee. "We have to pay for many of the acts on those stages, but we've depended on city support setting up. If that's cut, we just don't have the money to pay to have the stage in Auburn."
Uncertainty about future Twin Cities' events and services is the rule this week as details about Auburn's tight 2013-14 budget began filtering down to residents and community groups.
Auburn councilors approved a budget Monday that cuts $1.7 million in spending, but also raises property tax collections for city services by 2.2 percent. City officials blame much of the current budget difficulties on cuts to state revenue sharing approved by the state Legislature on Wednesday. Under that budget, Auburn has to trim $860,530 from its budget.
The most noticeable cuts proposed include $405,000 in staff overtime citywide. For the Fire Department, that will lead to the intermittent closing of New Auburn Fire Station No. 2 throughout the year. Overtime cuts will be felt in other departments as well.
Councilors also cut $27,000 to fund curbside recycling collections. There will be no curbside recycling collections beginning Monday, July 1. Instead, the city will set up recycling collection centers at the Gracelawn Road Public Works shop and at Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.
The budget also cuts $40,000 toward the 2014 spring cleanup and eliminates city snowplowing for a number of private roads, as well as all contributions for the city's Christmas holiday lighting, Community Little Theatre and L/A Arts.
Hamlyn said it has special-event organizers nervous. They all depend on in-kind services from the city police and Public Works crews to keep their events running. Auburn's in-kind support — which includes Public Works staff setting up and breaking down events and police overtime — amounts to $11,000 in savings for the festival.
That line was cut in the council's budget.
"So now we need to decide what we're going to be able to do," Hamlyn said.
Similar services cost Lewiston about $30,000. She doesn't know what will happen if Lewiston's council cuts those in-kind services as well.
Cathy McDonald, president of the organizing committee for the Twin Cities' July 4 Liberty Festival, has the same concerns. Auburn's budget preserves funding for next week's fireworks display, but not for in-kind services.
"We're waiting for answers to find out what we're going to do and what the budget changes mean for us," McDonald said.