RUMFORD — Selectmen have asked Town Manager Carlo Puiia to schedule a workshop soon so the board can review 2011-12 budget requests from departments.
In a meeting with selectmen and Puiia on Thursday that lasted nearly five hours, department heads presented municipal budget requests totaling $7,330,717.
Puiia stressed on Friday that these are just requests and that he and selectmen will pare them down later this month.
Last year, department heads requested $7,332,775, which was cut to $7,051,334, and then reduced to the accepted budget of $6,651,334 when $400,000 from excise funds was used to decrease taxes.
Puiia said he will review the 2011-12 requests, determine cuts and present his recommendations to the board for a vote at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24, in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.
At that meeting, selectmen usually either accept Puiia's recommendations or make further cuts for their own recommendation, and then the Finance Committee reviews the requests for their own recommendation.
One line item that Puiia said he would reduce is mileage. When employees have to go for training, he said they can use the town manager's car.
Another reduction would be to hold all elections in Rumford Falls Auditorium rather than renting the American Legion hall, which costs $300 each time.
“It's not a big thing, but if we can avoid some of those costs, we can do it,” Puiia said.
“I want to look at what we can do without jeopardizing what the people want for services. The library is a perfect example of this."
Last year, the Finance Committee recommended cutting $40,000 from the library budget without directing what to cut, and a majority approved it.
To stay within the greatly reduced budget, newly hired library Director and Head Librarian Luke Sorensen reduced staff, which reduced hours that the library could be open.
Puiia said some people were OK with that, but many library patrons were upset that the library was no longer open on Saturdays or after 3 p.m. during weekdays for schoolchildren and workers.
As a result, Sorensen said the library had 31,200 patrons this past budget year, when normally it would have 40,000 to 50,000.
Responding to those complaints, in his debut budget Sorensen proposed on Thursday to increase his staff by two employees to enable the library to remain open longer during weekdays and again on Saturdays.
He said the library would still have one less employee than it did in 2009-10.
Sorensen also proposed several new accounts in presenting a total budget request of $260,662, which is $62,342 more than last year's budget of $198,320.
Among the other department head budget requests were:
$2,216,868 for Public Safety, among which are $836,670 for police (up $33,240 over last year), $711,363 for fire (up $36,363), $481,000 for utilities and $49,735 for building code enforcement (up $2,190).
$1,110,823 for Public Works, among which are $322,636 (up $37,674), $593,187 (up $11,782) and $60,000 as Puiia's new request for building demolition.
$1,068,200 for Unclassified accounts (up $53,900).
$792,229 for General Government as proposed by Puiia (up $59,318).
$702,900 for Health (up $16,300)
$500,221 for Public Service, among which are the library mentioned above, $195,279 for the Parks Department for parks (up $20,729) and $12,280 for cemeteries (up $6,480). Previously, the department cared for seven cemeteries, but now that's increased to 16.
$492,098 for capital improvement accounts (up $242,098).
Driving many of the hikes are increased costs for fuel and energy, which can only be guessed at, Puiia said when creating budgets in March that don't become final until town meeting in June for the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1.
For instance, police Chief Stacy Carter anticipated that the price of fuel would be $4 a gallon by July 1 and budgeted $30,000 accordingly.
The budget process continues with Initiated Article requests being taken by selectmen on Monday, March 14, and on Monday, March 21. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.