LIVERMORE FALLS — It was clear Monday that selectmen were not in agreement with some of the Budget Committee’s proposals they made on the proposed 2010-11 budget.
Selectmen propose a $2.18 million budget and the Budget Committee proposes a $2.01 million budget. Both plans are more than $500,000 less that the current $2.7 million budget. The difference between the two budgets is about $1.50 per $1,000 valuation of property in the tax rate, according to discussion.
The town is struggling with a loss in valuation due to the closing of a paper mill.
Some selectmen balked at most of the Budget Committee recommended reductions saying it was too much. Those include eliminating nonunion raises, except for the town manager since he has a contract, and cutting highway, police and fire departments and selectmen’s budgets. No decisions were made.
Selectmen want to leave the Police Department budget intact at a reduced $379,048, which is down from the current $389,000 budget. That budget includes about $40,000 added onto the police budget after voters shut down the dispatch center in December.
Selectmen’s budget would retain all police officers and an administrative assistant.
The Budget Committee wants to reduce the department’s budget to $323,552 by eliminating two police officers.
Budget Committee member and businesswoman, Mellette Pepin, said she was not comfortable getting rid of two police officers.
“I’m not comfortable losing one,” she said. But she was in the minority.
Selectman Jackie Knight said she didn’t want to lose any police and if they did, it would be asking for trouble.
It is all about tightening the belt, Budget Committee Chairman Scott Roberts said. It is not about what is wanted, he said, it’s about what the taxpayers can afford.
After some debate about asking voters if they want to eliminate the town’s Police Department and go with Androscoggin Sheriff’s Department, selectmen agreed to ask voters if they want them to pursue an agreement with another law enforcement entity.
Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Louise Chabot asked police Chief Ernie Steward about his thoughts on the matter.
“I just don’t know what to say,” Steward said. “Either they want a police department or they don’t.”
They put their lives on the line to protect the community, he said. If the town doesn’t want a department, then the officers need to find another place to go.
The Budget Committee’s suggested cuts to the Fire Department and the Public Works Department would hurt both departments, fire Chief Mark Chretien and Public Works Foreman Bill Nichols both said. Selectmen are proposing $87,705 for the Fire Department, about $13,000 less than the original request and the Budget Committee is suggesting $65,555 including an $8,000 reduction in wages. The Department had requested a $1-an-hour raise for firefighters to go from $8 to $9 an hour for regular firefighters, and from $9 to $10 an hour for officers.
Roberts pointed out that the budget was in the $50,000 range until recently and now it is in the $80,000 range.
The cuts suggested to maintenance and repairs would make the department fall behind on those items and it will cost more to catch up, Chretien said.
A lot of communities throughout the state don’t pay a salary to the chief, Budget Committee member Ron Chadwick said. A lot of the work done is volunteer, he said.
“You are taking away from our families,” Chretien said of time firefighters put in. “You have to compensate us for our loss.”
Selectmen are recommending $340,025 for public works while the committee recommends $291,000.
When asked what the committee’s reduction was based on, Roberts said he could not remember the details but with that amount of money, it must be the elimination of a second position.
Nichols said those cuts would mean no sweeping or snow removal would be done.