Voters to consider adopting budget committee

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen voted Tuesday to put a question on the annual town meeting ballot asking voters if the town should adopt a Budget Committee consisting of a nine member board appointed by the select board.

The Budget Committee is currently an ad-hoc committee of the Board of Selectmen and at this time has no right to put the panel’s budget recommendation on the ballot next to the selectmen’s, Town Manager Jim Chaousis said.

He had requested legal review of the warrant and it became clear that the Budget Committee had never been formally established, and therefore the members’ recommendation would legally cloud the ballot with excessive information, he said. Budget Committee recommendations had previously been put on ballots, Chaousis said, but legal counsel said that was an incorrect practice.

If residents vote to formally adopt a Budget Committee at the polls on June 8, then the panel’s recommendation could appear on the ballot.

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Both the Budget Committee and selectmen’s recommendations will appear in the town report. The Budget Committee also plans to get their budget out to the public in various ways.

More than 30 people attended a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the selectmen’s recommendation of $2.18 million and the Budget Committee’s recommendation of $2 million for 2010-11. Both reflect budgets more than $500,000 less than the current $2.7 million.

If the select board’s proposal passes, along with the $9.1 million school budget, and the county’s share is factored in, the estimated tax rate is $22.30 per $1,000 of value. The current rate is $21.

The Budget Committee’s proposal along with the school and county is estimated to be $21.13 per $1,000 of valuation, he said.

Both budgets reduce manpower in departments. Selectmen’s recommendations eliminate three full-time positions and the Budget Committee’s proposal eliminates five full-time positions.

Chaousis ran down several other differences including the Budget Committee reducing the amount for payroll service and putting it out to bid. They also made cuts to the audit and legal fees, he said. The Committee believes that the town could do better with a different audit firm and payroll services, he said.

Selectmen are not opposed to putting those out to bid but didn’t have enough time to do so to meet the budget timeframe, Chairwoman Louise Chabot said. The money is there in case no services could be found cheaper.

The Budget Committee is also in favor of reducing raises for elected officials and a nonunion office employee. However selectmen are not.

Selectmen recommend $379,048 for the Police Department budget and the Budget Committee recommends $323,552, both less than current budget.

The biggest difference is the Budget Committee‘s eliminates two police officers while selectmen don’t. .

The Budget Committee‘s proposal for the Fire Department is $65,555 and selectmen‘s is $87,705, both also reflecting decreases.

Budget Committee member Ron Chadwick said initial information showed that there would be a projected $25,000 carry-over at the end of the year. The Committee felt that with the carry-over and reducing the proposed budget that the department would still get the same amount.

Carry-over for most accounts are going back to offset the tax commitment.

However, Fire Chief Mark Chretien said he estimated the carry-over to be about $10,000.

The Budget Committee’s recommendations for all department’s represents the need for belt tightening to live within the town’s means and what taxpayers can afford, Chairman Scott Roberts said.

Chretien said it is hard to project the number of calls the department would have next year. But this year has been a quiet one and they’re running about 40 less than last year.

Selectmen propose the Public Works budget at $340,025 and the Budget Committee at $291,900. The selectmen’s figure represents reducing a wage line by not filling a vacant position but adding in money for overtime due to a smaller crew. The Budget Committee recommends reducing wages from $182,000 to $152,000, Chaousis said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

This story has been modified to reflect the correct current tax rate that was incorrect in the initial story.

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