RUMFORD — Selectmen made cuts in budget requests for general government and public safety Thursday night, warning there may be fewer services in 2011-12.
Often, they adopted Town Manager Carlo Puiia's figures when they were lower than current budget numbers. For general government they recommended $701,877, which is $90,352 less than requested by department heads, and $13,921 less than Puiia recommended.
For the most part, they voted unanimously 5-0. However, they voted 3-2 to fund the budgets of town manager at $160,000; tax collector at $70,000; and tax assessor at $101,893.
They also reduced police and fire requests in 3-2 decisions. Of the Police Department request of $836,670, they voted $805,000, and of the Fire Department request of $711,363, they voted $678,000.
For other public safety budgets, they unanimously approved $47,545 for building code enforcement, $2,190 less than requested; $481,000 for utilities; and $130,000 for Maine State Retirement System for police and fire.
Selectman Jeff Sterling set the majority's mood for the most part when he said he voted for Puiia's recommended budget last year because he thought Puiia “was brilliant” for recommending it.
However, he said at town meeting last June, “voters voted almost every item at the lower number. In many cases it was by a substantial margin,” he said. “That was a wake-up call that said those that came to vote wanted to spend less.”
He said he hoped by doing that they understood they would lose certain services.
“We have to propose what's right, not what we think people will vote for,” Sterling said.
After each board member shared their sentiments, Chairman Brad Adley reminded them that only three of them would, as selectmen, “have to live with this budget.”
The terms of Selectmen Mark Belanger and Sterling expire in June.
When selectmen first clashed over the town manager's budget under General Government, Puiia stood up for his recommended $165,928 despite Belanger's seconded motion for $160,000.
He said 90 percent of his budget was wages, the other 10 percent operating costs.
“If you're cutting when you say taxes, say it right, you're cutting services and you're cutting jobs,” Puiia said.
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick asked Belanger to explain what he wanted cut, but Belanger would only say “structural changes and hours, whatever the town manager has to do to make it up.”
Volkernick wanted selectmen to figure out what to cut.
Sterling, however, said that would be micromanaging.
When Puiia said $160,000 would mean cutting services, Buccina responded, “I'm not going to sit here and be lectured.”
“I'm not in favor of going with the town manager's budget,” he said. “We understand we may be eliminating services.”
Buccina raised his voice, looked out into the crowd, most of whom were department heads, and said, “People, we may be cutting services.”
“We may have to lose an employee or two or reduce your hours from 40 to 35 ... but that is life. We're not the bad guys. We're trying balance it out.”