NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen will recommend voters approve a 7.33 percent budget cut for town services when the annual town meeting gets under way next month.

The proposed $3.9 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes a $316,296 cut in town services. The amount is 7.33 percent less than last year’s appropriation for town services, said Town Manager David Holt, who made the recommendation to selectmen Thursday.

The recommendation follows that of the Budget Committee, which has been meeting for the past month to formulate its recommendations.

Holt told selectmen in January that department heads were asked by Gov. Paul LePage to plan for cuts of at least 10 percent in the next fiscal year to cover projected cuts in state revenue sharing and other areas — cuts that could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Norway taxpayers.

Holt called the brewing financial crisis “the perfect storm” and suggested department heads develop two budgets to meet the situation. From there, Holt developed one budget which included cuts proposed by LePage and one which assumed the cuts will not be made. The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee decided to go with the budget that includes the LePage cuts.

“We went the safe route,” Selectmen Chairman Russ Newcomb said.

Holt said the Budget Committee also decided to recommend a “bare-bones” budget and let the selectmen put back items if they chose to. The decision was also made to decrease the amount of confusion at the town meeting.

If the cuts at the state level are not made or are not as drastic as assumed, a second town meeting could be held to restore items, he said.

Under the proposed budget, a police officer and a Highway Department position will be cut. Additional cuts include reduced hours at the Town Hall, which will open at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.

“The Budget Committee wanted to express to people that this was a difficult year,”  Holt said. “By and large, the Budget Committee went along with the budget reflective of LePage cuts.” 

Despite the cuts, the Budget Committee and selectmen have expressed a desire to keep the drug enforcement officer on, if they can afford the position.

The town is poised to lose its drug officer because the officer will be forced to take a patrol shift if one officer’s position is eliminated. The police contract calls for the elimination of the newest officer, which is one now at the academy for training, Holt said.

A Highway Department employee, threatened with a layoff because of the budget problems, has already left and found employment in Oxford. That position will not be refilled under the proposed budget cuts, Holt said.

“It cost us a good employee,” he said.

Provider agencies had their full proposed funding of $25,000 cut by selectmen. A committee meets each year to decide allocations among the agencies’ requests. This year, however, the board members said they felt they had no money to spare when there were proposed budget cuts that jeopardized people’s ability to remain in their homes.

The board followed the town manager’s recommendation with a rare exception. Selectmen agreed they should restore $1,350 for the Emergency Management Agency rather than provide nothing under the LePage cuts budget scenario.

“That’s pretty important stuff,” said Selectman Warren Sessions, who motioned to restore the EMA funding.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, in the town office on Danforth Street.

The board said it felt it was important to hold a public hearing this year, particularly because of the major cuts being proposed.

Action on the town budget and other warrant articles begins at 7 p.m. Monday, June 17, in the Forum at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. The election of town officials will be held on Tuesday June  11.   

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