Rumford town manager explains implications of July 23 municipal budget revote

RUMFORD — Town Manager Carlo Puiia issued a news release Thursday night to help voters better understand next week's special town meeting.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, Rumford residents will re-vote on all municipal budgets at the American Legion Hall.

After voters defeated the initially proposed municipal budget on June 11, selectmen reduced their recommendation from the original requested amount of $7.6 million to $6.5 million, a decrease of more than 14 percent. The Finance Committee reduced its budget recommendations to $7.2 million, a reduction of more than 5 percent.

"If the town's valuation remained constant, this would mean that the average homeowner could see their property taxes change from $1,471 this past year to a minimum of $1,331 if the selectpersons' recommendations are approved, or to a maximum of $1,407 if the Finance Committee's recommendations are approved," Puiia said.

"The caveat is that some of the services we are accustomed to will be reduced," he said.

Recommendations for the general government account, which funds municipal office operations, among other things, would close the town manager's office on occasion and restrict some of the municipal building's scheduled maintenance, Puiia said.

A reduction in the public safety account, which includes streetlights and emergency management, mandates removal of one of every five streetlights to save $26,000. The lower amount also reduces the code enforcement officer's availability.

In the Police Department budget, a utility officer and the administrative officer at the dispatching window already have been released, Puiia said. Residents must file complaints or requests for service by contacting the Oxford County dispatching office in Paris.

A spending reduction will require the department to further reduce staff by eliminating one of the two detective positions, the town manager said.

He said the Finance Committee's recommendation would keep the second detective's position to help work on drug and other criminal investigations.

Cuts in the Fire Department budget would mean staffing shortages up to 50 percent of the time, Puiia said.

"This reduction could result in delays for interior rescues and responses," he said.

If the Finance Committee's recommendation is approved, it would maintain keeping three firefighters on duty at all times.

In the health and sanitation budget, selectmen cuts would eliminate curbside collection to continue. The Finance Committee's recommendation would continue curbside collection services.

"Please take note," Puiia said. "If you do not support the Finance Committee's amount, you will most likely be billed separately for trash pickup which, because of the added administrative costs and the non-trash-producing land values removed from the equation, would end up costing everyone considerably more than if it was included in your tax bill."

The biggest reduction in the Public Works Department would be in the winter roads account.

"It is unpredictable what impact this kind of reduction will have on the safety of our roads and our ability to properly clear sidewalks, along with the removal of snow buildup around intersections, schools, churches and other congested areas," Puiia said.

Cuts in the library account would reduce weekly operating hours from 48 to 40, reduce the book and video budget by at least 50 percent, eliminate the page position and reduce hours for some part-time employees.

Cuts to the public service account would eliminate the skating rink at Three Fields, defer maintenance of facilities and cemeteries and possibly require future charitable events, such as Relay For Life held at the Hosmer Field Complex to pay a nominal usage fee, Puiia said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Phil Blampied's picture

This may be turning into a private conversation ...

Are people still reading this old story?

Anyway, Rick Greene has challenged me to explain why we have to restrain the budget. Rick, you continue to call the organization "Scare" when you yourself are in fact trying to scare people with visions of unsafe roads and lack of services.

It doesn't make sense to talk about the savings per week in cutting garbage because garbage does not need to be cut. If the non-contracted administrative staff of the town took a 10 percent pay cut, that would provide the garbage money right there. If the town leaders were savvy enough, this budget cutting could also provide them with a good opportunity to go back to the table with the company providing the garbage collection and negotiate a better deal. But they are not savvy, so never mind that ...

Again, none of these specific reductions in service are necessary. If they come about, it will be because the administration doesn't want to inconvenience itself with the hard work of organizing the town more efficiently and bringing compensation back to reasonable levels.

Get the public works employees to stop gathering at the time clock at 1:30 rather than punching out when their work is done and you've got about $10,000 a year right there. Let the police chief become the back up patrol officer on a few shifts and you've got $20,000 to $30,000 right there. Discontinue the unused fire call box system and you've got how many thousand right there. Let the town employees contribute 20 percent toward health insurance as in most work places and you've got how many thousand right there. If necessary, open the town hall at 9 am when possible instead of 8:30 (probably not during court sessions) and you've got another $10,000 a year there in labor and energy savings. The examples go on and on. The town is run loosely (to use a polite term) and the inefficiencies are made up by just going out and grabbing more money from the taxpayers.

And, oh no, black ice! But none of your factual budget analyses account for carry over funds. One of the reasons the selectboard cut some of the specific line items is most certainly because not that much was spent last year, and there is carry over money for this year.

It is small minded to say that the budget has to be cut because we want to save $10 on our tax bills. Budgetary restraint is a critical element in trying to arrest the decline of Rumford. There is a crisis in abandoned buildings in Rumford, ever higher taxes being an important reason. The reflexive, constant increasing of the town budget is part of what drives the town's decline.

Okay, you say, if we just vote for higher budgets, we all just pay another $92.45 this year, no big deal. Isn't it worth it so that we can continue to have a police officer make more money than the Governor of Maine? Then next year, another $92.45. And the following year, the same. After a decade, your taxes have gone up almost a thousand dollars. In fact, there are quite a few examples in Rumford of property owners whose taxes have doubled within recent history.

This is in part because of serious problems with the way property is assessed in town. The last revaluation left great irregularities between properties where two properties of similar character pay wildly different tax bills. This has been aggravated by the practices in the tax office now where a tunnel vision focus on the value of specific parts of properties winds up creating an aggregate value that far exceeds any reasonable market value for the whole property.

Anyway, the point in trying to get a modest reduction in the budget this year is not just the immediate savings, but to steer the town away from going over the financial cliff in the near future, to make whatever effort is possible to, yes, Save Rumford.;

Richard Greene's picture

These cuts are going to increase the problems in the town

and make it harder to attract new business. We need to be thinking about how to increase our revenue base by attracting new business. What business would want to come here with little for our kids to do, increasing crime and roads in the winter that aren't properly plowed and maintained?

What this story doesn't tell you is the cuts to the GRCC and Black. Black Mountian has been reconized by area business, including local banks for the economic impact it has on the area and they have made generous donations to keep it open. The GRCC is not likely to survive without continued support from the town.

The other area's of cuts to the police department, fire department and winter roads, are going to affect public safety. I know are friends at "Scare Rumford' would like you to think that is not true but it doesn't take a rocket sicientist to figure it out. The loss of a firefighter position, a detective and at least 2 road crew employees are going to negatively affect public safety.

People have a choice about what type of a town they want and what they beleive will move the town forward. Save an average .20 cents a day on their taxes or keep the town a good place to live.

Phil Blampied's picture

Only incompetence will bring about drastic service cuts

If your family had a 12 percent reduction in income, you might eat steak a little less frequently and go on a shorter vacation, but you wouldn't let the house fall down around you.

If town officials use the excuse of a modest 12 percent cut in revenues to bring about destructive cuts in service, it is incompetence on their part, as well as a desire to protect inflated salaries and benefits even at the cost of damaging the town.

Remember: the changes Mr Greene cites above are not mandated by the vote. The vote only sets the total amount of money available to the town administrators. If they respond by making destructive cuts in service, as they are threatening to do, it may be time for new personnel at all levels of town government.

Richard Greene's picture

OK, so let's look at winter roads

The selectman's budget cut $157,082 out of the requested amount of $615,332. Mr. Blampied has stated previously that this cut is made possible by cutting the overtime budget. The only problem with that argument is that the entire amount requested for overtime was only $61,812, less than half of the amount cut from the budget. You could cut every single bit of overtime from this budget and still not come close to this amount. The only possible thing that can happen is to buy less salt and sand, not take care of equipment and lay off people. The Head of this department has said he will have to lay off at least 2 people, leaving less people on the road to plow and sand.

Can you really completely cut overtime? When there is a big storm that last over a long period and the roads need to plowed and sanded are we just not going to take care of them? Maybe we could only do the main roads and leave the side roads until they have time. I know that with a full crew last year, there were times when I struggled to get home.

Maybe we could take the money from other accounts as Mr. Blampied has claimed. Of course all of these accounts have taken big cuts too. Do we want to significantly reduce what we do in the summer on our roads? How many would like to "Save Rumford" by not repairing our roads or addressing our crumbling sewer system. Our capital accounts are about to take big cuts as well. Four years ago these have been cut to the extent that the police department had to lease police cruisers, costing the town even more money in interest, instead of collecting interest on a capital account. Does that make sense?

I don't like taxes any more than anyone else and if there are ways to save money that don't jeopardize our town, I'm all for it. The Finance Board cuts slightly over 5% from the budget. These cut make sense and still provide the services that our community has come to expect. I would ask people to look at things objectively and decide for yourself what services are important for our town to have.

Jack Kaubris's picture

Well said Rick

Mr Blampied and his ilk are still spreading the fable that there are no consequences to cutting the budget in the irresponsible manner that the 'Destroy Rumford' crowd has put forward. Phil states that he can 'easily' cut 30% without the citizens losing any services. That is bull. The Finance committee has put forward a budget cut that minimizes cuts to services that our citizens have come to expect from our town...such as trash pickup, recreational opportunities for our children, minimal operating hours for our wonderful library. By and large, an electorate deserves what it gets...if you truly wish to destroy this community, then the 'Save Rumford' manifesto is for you!

Phil Blampied's picture

Ilk?

I have ilk?

Oh, that's right. Nearly 1,000 ilk who somehow voted No last time despite the hysterical cries that even a modest budget cuts will destroy the town.

My ilk are better than your ilk.

Richard Greene's picture

What you have been very good at is creating hysteria

with your "Scare Rumford" tactics. What you have not been good at is providing factual, straight forward information to the people of the town.

The average taxpayer will pay $1.44 a week to keep all of these services discussed above by voting for the Finance Committee's recommendations. I'm pretty sure they won't have their garbage picked up for $1.44 a week. How are you saving people money?

Can you explain how all of these cuts are going to make this town a better, safer place to live. Let's keep opinion and ideology out of it.

Please be factual, if you can.

Jack Kaubris's picture

Got ilk?

More numerous, perhaps....better? Never.

THOMAS FALLON 's picture

Adjusting the budget...

managing the money, let's call it, for Rumford town officials can make up for the loss of any revenue in the proposed new budget. They did it last year because It was noted in a Sun-Journal article.

I don't believe the town manager and selectmen are worried about the new budget. The continued pressure by them on citizens that services will be reduced is smoke, as we say, at the same time they say they reduced the budget to please citizens. It is pure politics. Well, politics is never "pure" actually, eh?

"Adjusting the budget," managing the money, works just fine.

True of false?

Phil Blampied's picture

Town manager's comments create massive liability for town

Rumford town manager Carlo Puiia warned voters at the July 18 budget meeting that if they did not vote for the highest amount for Public Works in the July 23 election, the town would cut back winter road maintenance to the point where there would be black ice on the roads.

By publicly announcing this intention by his administration to create black ice conditions, Puiia has created a multi-million dollar liability for the town of Rumford. This winter, any driver who has an accident due to slippery roads will have the legal basis to seek compensation from the town on the basis of the town's deliberately creating dangerous conditions.

Even with a lower budget, the town would not have to cut back winter road maintenance, as there are numerous places in the town budgets where money can be saved, including better management of overtime, modestly reducing the compensation of the 26 people who earn more than $50,000 a year from the town, and having employees contribute a modest amount to their currently, totally free health insurance coverage.

Because of all these alternatives to cutting back spending, a reduction in snow plowing and road maintenance to the point of allowing black ice to form would be seen by most courts as a deliberate choice by the town administration. The fact that the town manager has publicly announced the town's intention to allow black ice to form on the roads would be seen as further confirmation of deliberate negligence. Voters could see tax increases anywhere up to the hundreds of dollars per property as a result to pay for the damage awards that an accident victim could win from the town.

These irresponsible comments from the town manager are especially surprising in light of the fact that the largest cuts proposed average only 12 percent off previous year's spending.

Mark Belanger's picture

Urgent Message to Rumford

Urgent Message to Rumford Voters

ON TUESDAY, JULY 23RD YOU WILL BE ASKED TO VOTE ON A SECOND BUDGET FOR THE TOWN OF RUMFORD BECAUSE 70% OF YOU VOTED “NO” ON THE FIRST ONE.

THIS SECOND BUDGET DOES “NOT” CONTAIN SIGNIFICANT CUTS TO TOWN SPENDING. IT DOES “NOT” REDUCE OVER STAFFING AND IT DOES “NOT” REDUCE TAXES ENOUGH TO HELP PROPERTY OWNERS AND LOCAL BUSINESSES.

DO NOT LET THEM IGNORE YOUR VOTE!

VOTE NO AGAIN ON THE RUMFORD TOWN BUDGET

PAID FOR BY CONCERNED RUMFORD BUSUNESS OWNERS

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