Residents explain defeat of municipal budget

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.

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Comments

Mark Belanger's picture

STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL One

STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL

One must admit that the face of Rumford in 2013 doesn’t look like it did in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even into the 90’s. Rumford was once a booming town. Businesses were flourishing. Most of the citizens who lived here owned property and maintained it. There was a time when 10,000 people lived here. Sadly, those days are behind us. Today Rumford’s population is under 5000, and many of these people don’t pay property
taxes. We are replacing our hard-working, dying elderly with folks who feel entitled to as much “free stuff” as they can get their hands on. Rumford’s general assistance budget is too high. We have always been firm believers that it is our duty to help the poor and those who fall upon hard times. The word, “welfare” once meant to give someone a hand up in a time of need. Now, it is given to many who afford beer, cigarettes, drugs, cable TV, new tattoos, piercing and the list goes on.

The idea that Rumford’s spending should be business as usual has also become a thing of the past. It is evident that the results of the last three Rumford budget elections have signaled that the citizens want change. If the select board and finance committee are having difficulty deciphering which direction to go in when they present new budget figures, the key words are LOWER BUDGETS! This shrinking town cannot sustain an $8 million budget for too much longer, especially if something happens to our largest employer.

Many decisions are made behind the scenes in executive sessions which cost the town tens of thousands of dollars. Here, union contracts are filled with goodies such as $500 sign on bonuses for some union employees to sign their contracts, agreements on health care coverage are made with no contributions from the employees, three year contracts are signed which include automatic raises for each consecutive year without knowing what the budget figure will be and the list goes on. These are decisions made by our town officials, and they are financially unsustainable in the long run. It is irresponsible spending in an ever-shrinking town. To top it off, 80% of Rumford’s taxpayer dollars is allotted for salaries, pensions and benefits. Is there any wonder why our infrastructure is crumbling? What’s left for the town?

It is disturbing to witness the town government going after cuts which will punish the taxpayers for wanting to lower the budgets. There is plenty of wasteful spending which can be reigned in. It’s a matter of the select board and finance committee to find it in them to make some tough decisions.

The legislative body has spoken loud and clear (3 times). They are tuned in and educated on the issues. They are not feeble minded. Give the town a chance to vote on a $6.2 million budget, and this will all be over.
Lastly, if the town officials are weary about the cost of going back to the polls multiple times, they only have themselves to blame. Listen to the voice of the people. You were elected by them.

 's picture

personally i wish they would

personally i wish they would only allow people that actually pay taxes to vote on a budget , then we wouldnt have to listen to the nonsense people like c.c. a.k.a. tracy have to say , not that she makes any sense anyway , you dont actually think people want to move here after voting down the only things the town had to offer

Mil Rate

The taxpayers want to see the town work within the population . It is unfortunate that a town our size have departments the the size they are for a declining population. If taxpayers have to live within a budget then the town should also. Why is it not right to compare other towns of our size when it comes to spending? Some say we can't do that. I say we can. We don't hear other departments in other towns our size that have downsized to meet needs threaten safety of its citizens if done so.. Rumford is no different. The police chief should be a working person. The fire chief already is. The road superintendent should be eliminated and the town mamager doing that budget and then create a summer road foreman, winter road foreman and mechanics foreman to run the day to day work loads. We need to put town welfare open one day a week. Code enforce back to 20 hrs. Cut back Clerk and Assessor's office. Look at our Carter and see if we can go to a 32 hr. week in town hall. Insurance contributions should be changed. These are areas where we start living within our means. Tough decisions have to be made now.

Brad Gallant's picture

Oh Frank....

“It is unfortunate that a town our size have departments the size they are for a declining population.”

Rumford currently has 1.71 officers for every 1000 citizens…let us look at some other Towns since Frank says we are SO over-staffed. Bridgton 1.54, Dover-Foxcroft 1.66, Millinocket 1.78, Jay 1.24, Gardiner 2.09, Houlton 2.29, Fairfield 1.49, Oakland 1.6, etc …the average for Towns in Maine with populations ranging 4000-7200 = 1.65. So we are hardly “over-staffed” Frank. This does not even start going into call volume, nature of calls, geographic size of towns, etc. All of which would explain why we need additional officers compared to certain towns. I know some people like facts and numbers so I wanted to put this out there. I presented this and other information at a budget meeting Frank…I am pretty sure it was one you attended so I think you have the full information; if not let me know and I will get it to you. Lastly, the whole “working Chief” thing; how would you propose the grants get written, CCW permits get processed (mandatory time limits on these), scheduling, payroll, policy changes (State mandated), Chief’s meetings, meetings with local organizations, meetings with the public, etc, etc, etc…get done if you want to force the Chief to work a full road shift? The way you explain it you would think he is sitting in his office eating Bon-Bon’s watching ESPN…wake up Frank, what you think goes on and what actually goes on are two very different things.

Brad Gallant's picture

Really Candice?

Candice, lets first start with a look at understanding Census data since that seems to be an issue here. The 2010 census shows the Town population at 5841, there is also a number shown in the census data which is a “CDP” number which was 4218 (which is the number you keep referring to). The CDP (Census Designated Place) is not a matter of a town population. The CDP can be any number of designated non-incorporated areas in which data is gathered. The CDP definition varies depending on the area of the country and how the government chooses to break down the data. Some CDP’s are Town, some are conglomerates of different population pockets shared by multiple towns, etc. So, based on that, I use the 5841 number (which is you conduct a search of the Maine 2012 census you can actually pull up a full copy f the data and review it rather than using a website like city-data which vaguely compiles data) for my data since that is a more accurate representation. You do make a valid point that the population has continued to decline and I will give you another 3.6% population drop, which would be 5630.

Using 5630 the numbers of officers per 1000 would change from 1.71 to 1.77. There are 10 officers on in Rumford, not 12. Prior to the June election we were operating with 11 officers, trying to hire out 12th which was an open slot at that time. The June budget eliminated the 12th spot and the administrative position. The July budget eliminated half a detective and the August budget eliminated a full detective. So, at most, the department will have 10 officers with the new budget and is currently operating with 10.

Candice, lets move onto “From what I have read, the folks looking to save Rumford are looking to reduce the police department to 8 officers…”. Candice, you are the only one preaching about 8 officers. You have presented your plan at budget meetings and you don’t seem to get that Chief Carter understands the importance of having 2 officers on patrol. You, and a few others, keep talking about mutual aid and working with others…that is not how it works. The only people the officers can absolutely count on are the other officers in their agency. The three municipalities work well together at a patrol level as well as working with Oxford County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police. We are constantly sharing information and assisting each other at calls. (Candice, a perfect example is the night a few weeks ago when you sent an extended period tracking “the two Rumford officers” sitting and chatting at Ralph’s store late at night…if you had a clue you would have known that was a deputy and a Mexico officer staying in the area as Rumford officers had people under arrest stemming from a large fight in the area and they wanted to make sure problems did not start back up.)

As on May 31st of this year there were 22 officers between Rumford, Mexico, and Dixfield. If there was one large police department it is reasonable to assume cuts could have been made and money could have been saved. Now there are 20 officers. At some point the individual departments will be cut to the point that merging is not economically sound. As a taxpayer and an officer I would love to see a merge, I think it needs to happen and am glad the three boards are talking September 4th to look at moving the process further. Between the three Towns officer respond to over 7500 calls a year with Rumford having over 60% of that call volume. That is 20 calls a day in the three towns and about 12-13 a day just in Rumford. Those calls do not include traffic stops, school visits, DARE, assisting people with directions, foot patrol, spending time at school sporting events, visiting community businesses to let them know of any current issues, speaking with people about certain situations where they may need an officers help but it does not warrant starting an incident number, business checks, etc.

If anyone actually wants to know what an officer does in the course of their day I would suggest asking one of us, talk to the Chief, get informed. As a community member I believe public safety is important, but I believe each person must decide what is important to them. I encourage people to vote, but vote informed. I respect each person who votes, no matter what their decision…as long as they do it with a knowledge of what services are actually provided. If the only thing you know about the Rumford Police Department is what you hear from Frank Diconzo and Candice Casey (Donna Wilson, etc. etc.)…there are many things you are missing.

 's picture

Just hope they take a long in

Just hope they take a long in depth look at their numbers and make smart intelligent reductions!!..not ones that will make us made.

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