AUBURN — Budget savings won out over waste collections Monday night as councilors voted 4-3 to cancel this year's spring cleanup collections.
"We have a problem now with irresponsible government at the national and state level and now it's up to us," Councilor Dan Herrick said. "This is a tough decision, because spring cleanup is an important service. That the $50,000 we pay for it is 2.5 cents on the tax rate."
City Manager Glenn Aho announced last week that the collections would be postponed to save money. The city is facing a budget shortfall thanks to a $1.5 million cut in revenue from the state for this year and a $2.5 million cut in the next fiscal year. Councilors challenged Aho to cut $1 million from the fiscal year 2010-11 budget, and this year's spring cleanup was his first cut.
Mayor Dick Gleason argued that it was not the kind of decision that should be made lightly, and argued for a public vote. The annual collection had its supporters.
"I think this is a program that helps make the community more presentable and cuts down on fire hazard," Councilor Belinda Gerry said. "I have heard of instances of firefighters responding to a fire and having to battle old furniture and crap as much as fire and fumes."
Councilor Robert Hayes said he understood that cleanup collections would not be included in the 2011 budget, but said he supported having the collections this year.
Councilors Gerry, Hayes and Eric Samson voted to reinstate the collections, scheduled for May 3. Councilors Herrick, Mike Farrell, David Young and Ray Berube voted to end them.
Councilors are scheduled to continue budget discussions Tuesday night. They plan a 5:30 p.m. workshop to discuss the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, followed by general budget work.
They've scheduled a special budget meeting to discuss curbside recycling from July 2010 through June 2011, which councilors agreed to end last week. That will be followed by an open session to take public comments on the budget.