Rumford board weighs cutting staff, services for budget

RUMFORD — Selectmen spent more than two hours Tuesday night grappling with whether to flat-line the municipal budget to last year's figures or choose from two proposals and let voters decide in June.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal photo

During Tuesday night's Rumford selectmen budget workshop, Selectman Jeremy Volkernick, left, responds to Chairman Brad Adley's attempt to poll his committment on a budget proposal while Selectman Jeff Sterling listens at center.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal photo

Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, left, listens as Selectman Mark Belanger explains on Tuesday night why he wants to flat-fund this year's proposed budget to last year's accepted budget.

One proposal was a request earlier this month from department heads totaling $7.3 million; the other, that of Town Manager Carlo Puiia's in reducing those requests to $7,084,634.

Late in the budget workshop, Chairman Brad Adley attempted to poll each board member about what they were willing to support. All but a few leaned toward Puiia's proposal. Adley didn't commit either way.

Selectman Mark Belanger recommended funding the 2011-12 budget at last year's approved budget of $6,651,334, which was down $104,381 from the approved 2009-10 budget of $6,755,715.

“Fund the budgets like last year and let the department heads adjust,” he said.

If that means staffing cuts and loss of services, so be it, Belanger said.

Selectman Jeff Sterling said he wasn't comfortable with Puiia's proposal, but would prefer to use it as a referendum to gauge town meeting voters in June.

“But the problem with that is you have to get the Finance Committee to buy in and that isn't going to happen,” he said.

Last year, selectmen went with Puiia's proposal, which was mostly rejected in favor of the committee's lower amount.

That's why Sterling said he believes the committee will stay true to its past and recommend a lower amount, which the majority of voters will again choose, whether they understand the consequences in loss of services or not.

Selectman Greg Buccina said he isn't comfortable with Puiia's proposal but would support it.

Coupled with a possible $208,000 in initiated article requests for donations, Buccina said taxpayers could realize a half to one mill increase, and that's without knowing the RSU 10 assessment.

Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said he would support putting the amount to voters, but if a majority said no to both the board's recommendations and the committee's, then selectmen would be forced to make cuts.

Earlier this month, department heads requested $7,330,717. Puiia pared that to $7,084,634.

Last year, department heads sought $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.

Adley first asked fellow board members if they'd support recommending the department heads' request. Volkernick was the only one who said yes.

Everyone agreed if they flat-line the budget to last year's figure, the level of services would be reduced and employees would be let go.

Prior to polling the board, Adley asked, “I guess what it comes down to is do we want to have the blood on our hands or the voters' hands?”

Buccina said he didn't want anyone to lose their jobs, neither did he want a reduction in services. Instead, he urged the board to figure out better methods for doing budgets to find efficiencies.

"We're going to have to start getting creative,” he said. “We need to start looking at where we want to be two or three years down the road.”

“We need to get to the point where we can stabilize and this year isn't that year. The economy and our population are on a downhill slant.”

Selectmen have two days to mull over what to do.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24, a public hearing will be held on the budget and the board will then vote on its recommendation.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Mark Belanger's picture

Mil Rate

The Rumford taxpayers should be aware that Carlos budget proposal is $360,000.00 more that last years budget. That will mean close to a 1 mil increase on your taxes. If you take into account the initiated articles and the RSU10 school budget we could be looking at a 2 to 4 mil increase. That is why I feel we should keep the budget the same as last year. Make your voice heard. Give your selectmen a call...

Think About This!

Have you wondered why are taxes are going higher? Its because the tax payer doesn't propose the budget. Have you thought about who is responsible for such high taxes in Rumford? You should! Let's figure out the list: Department heads, Selectboard,Finance Committee, town manager, the taxpayer and maybe all the town employees and quasi- municipal boards. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. I cannot think of a single problem that is not traceable directly to these people or groups. Of the above mentioned , the taxpayer, can solve the municipal problems , this includes the tax increase, in Rumford. The taxpayers have the power to make all the above mentioned accountable and responsible when they enter the voting booth. They alone can send the message that enough is enough. The taxpaying voters have to show the gumption to manage those who prepare the budgets, solicit money, and employees of the town. We the taxpayer ,who votes, who have contributed to the rise in taxes and other problems in Rumford, must clean up this growing mess. The voter can vote out of office the big spenders. They can tell the selectboard to bring the level of services in line with the 4795 population of our town. They can tell the town manager to hit the home run that they thought he would do when appointed to his position. What you do with this comment now that you have read it... is up to you. If you want to have the highest tax rate in the state keep voting the way you do. This isn't funny anymore. Start saying "NO" in the voting booth.

Taxpayer Beware

You said it right Ed. No one wants to be withoutout a job. But something has to give. I've said it for years and no one has listened. If you want an over abundant amount of services you have to pay for them. People are now realizing that they can't afford them. It could have been a gradual change if started long time ago and more palatable but certain factions in this town just make that hard to do. Two of those factions are the book ends on either side of the selectboard. The taxpayer has to step up to the plate and say it's time to stop the over spending and send the message to the selectboard, finance comm. and town manger. Most of the people who work for the town have two family incomes so they do quite well for themselves and they are no doubt big spenders. They don't have it as hard as fixed income people . We have businesses struggling to keep their heads above water because people can't afford the things they use to. We have a bowling alley that might have to close it's doors because it can't afford to stay open. A recreation facility that has been here for years but gets no help from the town yet Black Mtn. asks and gets help each year. The census figures are out. Rumford has 4795 people. Of those people how many are actual taxpayers. That means that means we have approx. 1 police and fire employee for every 342 people and in 1960 we had 1 for every 1000 people. Whats wrong with this picture? You have one selectperson still fighting for the people, Mr. Belanger. Let's give hime support and vote no to every money item this June. This would send the message for sure.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

The only issue I have with your statement

Is that the census figures you used were from 2000. The new 2010 census figures for Maine aren't due to be released until 3/24/11 and I think they will be lower than what you have stated. If they are the same or higher, it sure as hell won't be because we had an influx of homeowning, taxpaying citizens. It will be because Rumford has become a haven for section 8 renters where the apartment owners make all the money from the state and pay crap in taxes. Money, which, by the way, Taxpayers are paying for. It's all a big racket.
An employed person can't afford a rent in Rumford but a welfare recipient can. How does that make sense???? Personally, I think that there ought to be a rent control program in Rumford (and for that matter, everywhere in Maine) that makes it illegal for a landlord to charge $750 a month for a 3 bedroom dive apartment on Cumberland St to a working stiff just because the State is willing to pay Portland prices for a Rumford apartment.
Let's see how many Section 8 renters we have when they have to pay 50-60 % of their income for an apartment like the real working people do. There, Now I've gone off on a rant.
There is a place down south where a fire dept let a persons house burn because he hadn't paid his taxes and thereby hadn't committed his due share to the fire dept. Attach a services tax onto all section 8 apartments that THE TENNANT or LANDLORD is REQUIRED to pay to the town (or be evicted) and we might be able to afford all of these services that people are worried about. Those people who pay their rent with cash or check, in full every month, would be exempt. If it sounds like I'm picking on welfare cases, yeah, I am.
Let's not go into disability. That's a whole different kettle of fish and not someplace you want to go with me.
As far as the recreational facility that's been here for years, if they can't make it conform to the ADA requirements regarding accessability, it needs to be closed. I don't care if it's a local landmark and my grandparents went there. It's another dinosaur that needs to be killed off if it can't be self sufficient. As I said before, If it's not self supporting, kill it. Rumford can no longer afford charity.

Census

The figures I got from a sight two days ago that had the 2010 figures already. That's where I got figures

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Just released today

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview....

Select Maine from the drop down menu. Rumford population- 4219, housing units- 2461, occupied- 1989, vacant- 472. Take this to the meeting tonite and ask them to justify their spending based on these numbers. I'd love to go but I work nights.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Cut services, cut jobs, cut spending

Nobody wants to lose their job, I understand that and I feel sorry for those that have to, however, Rumford can no longer afford to provide the same level of services that it did when we had a population 2 times what it is currently. My taxes are high enough already. I couldn't sell my home right now for even what the assesed value is, let alone the appraised value and raising the tax rate even more is going to make it even harder to get rid of.
Mr. Belanger has the right of it. Let the department heads deal with what they're given, plain and simple. I have to make do with my earnings even though prices are increasing every day. Yes that requires that some thing be cut. Also, no more charity. Businesses and organizations that can't make a go of it on their own should go the way of the dinosaur.

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