AUBURN – Money for social service agencies could become a sticking point as councilors work to settle their fiscal year 2006-07 budget.

Three city councilors said they objected to cutting $8,000 from the community budget Monday night. That’s money the city sets aside to donate to community programs.

City Manager Pat Finnigan’s budget does not include that money. Councilors agreed to begin phasing it out of the budget several years ago, she said.

“If you looked back in your budgets several years ago, you’d see we budgeted $50,000 to that item,” Finnigan said. Councilors reduced that to $28,900 in 2004 and to $8,000 last year.

“This is the year we were scheduled to stop funding that item,” she said.

Councilors Belinda Gerry, Bob Mennealy and Donna Lyons Rowell want the city to devote at least $8,000 to social services.

“I don’t mind phasing it out, but I don’t want to see it totally cut,” Gerry said. “Not this year, anyway.”

Councilors split along the same lines last year. A last-minute compromise, adding the money for the social programs back into the budget, let a majority of councilors to vote in favor of that budget.

“I’m afraid we may have the same thing happen, just like last year,” Mennealy said.

Mennealy said he also questioned the city’s priorities, cutting funding for social programs but keeping $8,750 in the same budget to pay for the July 4 Liberty Festival and Independence Day fireworks.

Mayor Normand Guay said it would be up to councilors to debate and settle the matter in the coming weeks.

Ron Potvin, a member of Citizens Budget Review committee studying the city’s fiscal plan, said his group discussed social agency spending, but didn’t reach a consensus. Member Tammie Grieshaber said she favored cutting both social agency spending and fireworks from the budget.

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