RUMFORD — Citing reckless spending by town government as their main reason, a group of residents will try again to put a spending cap before voters.
The campaign to get a spending cap in the Rumford Town Charter will be launched by a committee at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, at Sam’s Italian Restaurant off Route 2.
The meeting “is open to any Rumford voter or property owner who would like to help reduce town spending,” Phil Blampied, a local organizer of the group, said Friday in a news release.
Members of the committee are Blampied, Jim Windover, Paul Lowell, Henry Zinck and Diana Casey. Windover is a member of the Rumford Charter Commission tasked with updating the charter.
Blampied said they want to have a special election to allow voters to consider putting a $6 million cap on the town budget.
This fiscal year, the municipal budget is $7,723,915, he said. The proposed cap wouldn’t include the school budget, the initiated articles or the overlay.
“Rumford will end high spending or high spending will end Rumford,” Blampied said.
“In 2007, Rumford had a tax base of over $727 million. As of this year, the tax base is down to a little more than $549 million. That’s a loss of nearly a quarter of the town’s value, yet spending keeps going up. That’s why the tax rate jumped to the highest point in recent history this year.”
The petition states: “Given the financial burden of high property taxes on businesses and homeowners in the town of Rumford, we the undersigned believe that a critical circumstance exists.
“In response to the continuing decline of the tax base and the failure of the municipal leadership to restrain the continuing increases in the municipal budget, we are petitioning under the provisions of 30-A M.R.S.A. for the following Charter Amendment be placed before the voters at a special town meeting, conducted as a secret ballot as specified in the statute.”
The petition further states the initiated bill would amend Article III of the charter to enact a spending cap for the town.
“It would place a spending cap initially of $6,000,000 on July 1, 2015, and would be increased during subsequent years only through certain circumstances, including emergencies or if the town’s valuation goes up. If the town’s valuation goes down, however, the spending cap would decrease,” it states.
If the petition drive is successful, selectmen will be asked to schedule a special election for voters to consider whether or not to approve the spending cap.
In July 2013, when this was first broached, selectmen voted 4-1 not to convene a special town meeting for voters to decide if they want to enact a proposed spending cap ordinance. Their reasoning was that it should be done through a charter change, per advice from town attorney Jennifer Kreckel.
Blampied said the group took that advice to heart this month.
The committee is using a section of state law that allows voters to petition for a charter amendment.
“We are just following the town attorney’s advice,” Blampied said.
“Hopefully, such an election would take place early enough in the budget process to give town officials guidance on preparing next year’s budget proposals,” he said.
“The cap is a very modest proposal,” he said. “It would produce a budget only a few percentage points less than last year’s budget, but it would stabilize the budget and stop the reckless spending town officials engaged in when they suddenly added nearly a million dollars to the current budget.”
Refreshments will be served at the Nov. 2 meeting.