Rumford residents defeat all budget articles

RUMFORD — Voters on Tuesday turned down all municipal budget articles in a third referendum on the spending plan.

Eileen M. Adams/Sun Journal

Cheryl Anastasio prepares to vote on the Rumford municipal budget Tuesday after ballot clerk Barbara Doherty checked Anastasio's name on the voter registration list.

A fourth budget referendum must be held within 45 days.

The breakdown from Tuesday's vote was:

* $655,000 for the Fire Department, by a vote of 514-629.

* $738,774 for the Police Department, 509-639.

* $652,683 for public safety, 513-634.

* $78,000 for General Assistance, 489-658.

* $799,080 for general government, 506-641.

* $423,000 for capital accounts, 504-643.

* $1,390,700 for unclassified accounts, 465-679.

Voters turned down all 12 money articles on June 11. They totaled $7.5 million. Selectmen cut $1 million from the next budget, which was presented July 23. The Finance Committee reduced the proposed budget to $7.2 million.

At that referendum, eight of the 12 budget articles were rejected. Passed were funds for health and sanitation, the Rumford Public Library, public service and debt service.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the town's charter allows revotes as many times as needed until a municipal budget is passed. Each referendum costs the town about $5,000, he said.

Puiia said selectmen likely will develop a new budget at their Sept. 5 meeting. The Finance Committee also must meet to work on each of the defeated articles.

A public hearing on the new figure must be held within 30 days of the vote, and a referendum within 45 days of Tuesday's vote.

Puiia said the number of municipal employees has dropped from 90 full-time people in 1992, to the current 63. Several Public Works employees are expected to lose their jobs this year.

“It's the sentiment of the voters that they want smaller government, fewer employees and benefits, and smaller services,” Puiia said.

The current tax rate is $24.25 per $1,000 of valuation. Puiia said he expects that rate to remain the same, or possibly to drop slightly. The final figure will be determined by the value of the NewPage paper mill.

Because the town has not yet passed a budget, tax bills have not been sent, which could cause a cash-flow problem.

Puiia said the town has a good cash reserve, and in the past, has asked NewPage to make an early tax payment. It is likely that the town will again make a request.

He said the town has never had to take out a tax-anticipation note. Whenever that is done, interest is added to the original borrowed figure.

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Edward Bulger's picture

There's more

As a town in Maine with a population under 5000 people, we have to adjust to that reality. ALL town departments should be reduced to meet that reality. When I was a kid we had a huge fire department with quite a few full time jobs. That department has been reduced over the years to match the towns population. The police department however had half the employees that we have now, back in the seventy’s. There were a lot of the same problems then as there are today. I feel with State and county coverage along with a much smaller local police force or even a combined police force ( Rumford, Mexico, and Dixfield ), we would have adequate coverage to keep our town as safe as it currently is.
Now comes the pay and benefit part of this issue. The town employee's benefits reflected and were always compared to the mill employee’s benefits. As a mill employee I know this to be a fact. So after 1986 how did that escape the bargaining table at contract time? We in the mill produce much more while getting much less. Jobs have been cut but not the work. Insurance has taken a big hit as well. I love my town and care very much for the people who work here for the town but we have to start acting like a town that has less than 5000 people or we will never grow. To grow we must attract other businesses and an over taxed town will not achieve that goal.

Josanne Dolloff's picture

Sad we have to go through

Sad we have to go through this process again, but voters have spoken. Time the department heads really look hard at how things have been done and how things have to be done. re: redo "list" on what gets plowed first. School streets need to get plowed first and side walks plowed, our downtown area, etc. if we know a storms coming at night, employees stay home till plowing begins..cannot have 3 employees at fire station at all times, we have an awesome call force and just need to go this way..cannot take big fire truck out every day for a run to make sure it will start when will. Need to cut those fuel cost. We all know employees have an awesome benefit package and wage increase yearly, ask the union to open up contracts to renegotiate..if you what to save jobs, this is one way. Believe everyone deserves a raise, but other companies can't afford it and if wages have to stay the same for a year to hold jobs hopefully employees will understand and try to save their co-workers job.
We need to re think how we manage our departments, what we purchase, fuel cost, be flexible with all schedules, etc.
Wishing our town the best of luck!

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Do you get it now, folks?

Cut the budget down to $5.5 to $6 million and all of this will be over, for a little while. It should have started being gradually reduced 10 or more years ago but there was no foresight from the selectmen.
If the trimming had started then, it wouldn't need to be done with a chainsaw now. As it stands, it will need to be reduced even further in coming years as the tax paying population ages and the new folks coming in become more welfare dependent.
It's time for Rumford and Mexico to look at a complete merger, not just of services, but of communities. It worked when the schools merged 25 years ago, it can work now for the two towns.


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