PARIS – The Budget Committee approved a $3.2 million budget Thursday night, eliminating one part-time position each in the town office and highway department and three reserve police officers.

Although the municipal 2008-09 budget is $60,332 less than this year, the overall reduction drops to $171 when county and school assessments are figured in.

The proposed municipal spending plan is $3,216,973, compared to $3,277,305 this year

Adding in the county and SAD 17 figures, the total stands at $5,575,401.78, compared to $5,575,572.85 this year.

Town Manager Sharon Jackson said the current part-time office worker will become the town clerk when Elizabeth Larson retires in June. She said the Highway Department position will be eliminated and jail trustees will work alongside highway crews.

The police reserve force will go from four officers to one.

The committee initially voted down the budget 5-4, but reinstated it in another 5-4 vote after a lengthy discussion.

“I don’t think there’s a soul in this room who believes the budget couldn’t be lowered,” Chairman Forrie Everett said. “And maybe it could.”

“People are going to be very nervous about tax increases,” committee member Vic Hodgkins said. He suggested that cuts were possible in library hours or the recreation budget.

Committee member Charles Hurd said the town is already paying for school libraries through the SAD 17 budget and called additional funding for the Paris Public Library “double jeopardy.”

The library’s budget, unchanged from last year, stands at $145,698, although it requested an additional $10,641.

Committee member Janet Jamison disagreed with making cuts in the library funds, saying they would be restored by residents at the annual town meeting.

“I think the library is critical,” she said.

Jackson said the current budget leaves the tax rate unchanged at $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. She said lowering the budget $100,000 would reduce the rate to $3.19, which amounts to $78 less in taxes on a $250,000 property.

Committee member Heidi Ricci motioned to have Jackson find $100,000 in reductions in the budget to present to the committee next week. Jackson protested the motion, saying it would lead to a reduction in personnel and town services.

“If you want to cut personnel, I’ll cut personnel,” Jackson said. “But you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.”

A motion to find $50,000 in reductions was defeated 5-3 before the original budget recommendation was approved.

Some committee members expressed concern over the increase in county expenses. Donald Allen suggested that town managers from the area come up with a plan to address the issue in the coming year.

“I think that’s a rip-off,” he said.

Paris’ share of the county budget increased 8.31 percent, from $195,649 to $211,914. Its share of SAD 17 expenses increased 2.09 percent, from $2,102,619 to $2,146,515.

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