RUMFORD — Following Tuesday’s defeat of the municipal budget for the third time, residents expressed concerns that it may be too big for a town with less than 6,000 residents.
“When Rumford’s budget is $7 million and every town with the same population has half that, we want to know where the money is going,” Richard Hutchins said. “Maybe employees are making too much money.”
Hutchins was also concerned that voters cut off funding for the Greater Rumford Community Center.
“This doesn’t make sense,” said Hutchins, the part-owner of Treasures on the Island, which pays rent to the GRCC.
During Rumford’s first referendum vote on June 11, a majority of residents turned down a financial request by the GRCC. According to the town’s charter, no second votes may be held on initiated articles.
Residents on Tuesday defeated what would have been a budget of just over $7 million.
Others believe a compromise must be found.
“We definitely need the services; it’s just a matter of priority,” said John Soucy, owner of Carlisle’s Apparel and Footwear. “People have to find out what’s important to them. They’ve got to come to a common ground. The stronger voices want it lower.”
Soucy went on to say that a major factor may be NewPage.
“Everyone’s concerned about the mill,” he said.
Hutchins also questioned the surplus that the town maintains.
“The town shouldn’t be sitting on more than a million dollars,” he said. “People are just unhappy with the selectmen." The third defeat was the result of many people getting ‘no’ in their heads, he added.
The town maintains a state-prescribed percentage of surplus funds to ensure a cash flow before property taxes begin to come in.
Donna White, an employee of Island Indulgence, said she understands that taxes can be high, but she questioned whether lowering them would improve the town.
“I witnessed a crime, and it took 15 minutes for the police to come because of the cutbacks,” she said. “I’m concerned about roads not being plowed or the trash not being picked up.”
Selectmen will meet Sept. 5 to decide how or where to further reduce the proposed municipal budget. A public hearing will be held a couple of weeks later, which will then be followed by a fourth referendum vote.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said some jobs will likely be lost as the budget continues to be reduced. Each election costs the town about $5,000.