AUBURN — Whether it's granite curbs, parks, fire stations or other city amenities, residents must decide what they are willing to pay for, City Manager Clinton Deschene told a roomful of New Auburn residents Tuesday night.
"We can't do everything," Deschene said at the monthly meeting of the United New Auburn Association.
"If you want it all, I can give it to you," he said. "But you're going to pay for it. That's our job, essentially."
Deschene said ongoing city budget discussions have been rough for residents and city staff. Voters turned down a proposed school budget last week, and Deschene said councilors could see a new proposed budget as soon as Monday.
He hopes to kick off budget discussions for next year soon with a series of neighborhood meetings. Those meetings would be a chance for the city to explain its role and for residents to discuss what they want. They would have one main goal — getting residents to agree on which services are worth paying taxes and which ones are not.
"Take fire departments," Deschene said. "Rural communities do their fire department budgets cheaper because it takes them six minutes to get to the station and then take the truck to the fire. Auburn has a six to eight minute response overall, and this is the service center and this is what residents want. So we can change things, but services will be impacted. I'm not saying it's going to be fire, but it's a question: What services are you willing to see impacted?"
The New Auburn group meets monthly and usually invites city employees or officials to meet with residents. Deschene last spoke with the group in November.
Residents had questions and concerns about paving projects, the school budget and changes to school bus services, and plans for the new dual-rink ice arena being built on Turner Street.
Deschene said his short-term work list includes combining four departments into two. Plans call for combining Public Works and Parks and Recreation into a single Public Services Department and Economic Development and Planning and Permitting into a single Planning Department.
He said his next focus will be to find ways to encourage economic development.
"If we can have a more booming economy, these costs won't be felt as much," Deschene said. "It would all be covered in the new property values."