Spending plan gets all scrutiny

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AUBURN – All eyes on are city spending now.

Councilors reviewed proposed cuts to the municipal and school budgets over four hours Monday night. Mayor Normand Guay said they’d be back again at 5:30 tonight to settle on a spending plan for city schools.

The evening featured cost cutting suggestions by the Budget Review Committee, rebuttal by school department officials and plenty of back-and-forth between councilors.

But they didn’t talk about a citywide revaluation. Lewiston officials announced last week that they planned to scrap Lewiston’s revaluation and they urged Auburn to follow suit.

This is not the time, Guay said.

“We can talk about the reval once we’ve figured out the budget,” Guay said. “But right now, we’re working on the spending plan. That’s where we need to concentrate now.”

Guay said the city must settle the school department budget before June 1, the deadline for the schools to announce which teachers will be back next year and who faces layoff.

Ron Potvin, spokesman for the budget committee, recommended $1.1 million in cuts to the school budget. That called for eliminating 20 jobs, including three assistant principals, three teachers and five education technicians. It also spelled out cuts in overtime, insurance and benefits, cleaning, repairs, buses, supplies and utilities.

“This year, the people have different expectations concerning budgets,” Potvin said. “They are expecting you to give something back to them. If you have to make any changes, this is really the year for it to happen.”

School Superintendent Barbara Eretzian said the changes would force her to close most elementary school libraries since they are staffed entirely by educational technicians.

But the committee didn’t limit its cuts to the schools. They also recommended delaying the purchase of heavy equipment and cars for the city’s police, fire and public works departments, taking more than $1 million off the annual capital improvement bonds and cutting overtime in several departments.

They also suggested bringing back annual spring clean up trash collections and paying for it by starting a pay-per-bag collection system. Under that system, the city would only pick up trash in special city-approved garbage bags.

City Councilor Eric Samson said he liked the idea of resurrecting spring clean up, but hated the pay-per-bag plan.

“Trash collection is one of the few services most people in the community get from the city,” Samson said. “It may be the one reason they pay their property taxes.”

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