AUBURN — City Manager Clinton Deschene discussed the rationale behind the city’s budget and philosophies for managing municipal government at a public meeting Monday in Auburn Hall.

“What Auburn really has to do is figure out what we want, commit to it and stick to it,” Deschene said at the first of two public meetings to review the budget and city decisions. “As manager, I will tell you that if there is anything that will undermine your efficiency and taxes, it’s inconsistency — changing things at a whim — you change it, change it, change it.”

A second public meeting is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Auburn Hall.

Deschene originally scheduled the meetings in the wake of the council’s decision to adopt the 2013-14 fiscal year budget. That budget included $1.7 million in service cuts in an effort to make up for lost state revenue.

Councilors changed their minds a week later, finding $165,00 to pay for the most egregious cuts — closing New Auburn’s Fire Station No. 2 when staffing levels dropped, ending the city’s curbside recycling program and reducing overtime to the point that police and public works staffers could no longer provide in-kind support for downtown special events.

Deschene said the city received $110,000 more from the state’s revenue sharing than expected. Councilors also agreed to spend $20,000 from a special police revenue fund and skip replacing a police cruiser for $35,000.

But the cuts had to come from somewhere, Deschene said.

“You cannot reduce your taxes without reducing our spending,” he said. “The state is going to give us less money, and there is no way to make that up. The only way to do it is to spend less. So the discussion we need to have is, are we at rock bottom? Some would say ‘yes,’ some would say ‘no,’ but we are looking at a lot of different options about what we can and cannot do.”

A handful of residents talked about various service levels. Resident Priscilla Miller said she wanted to see the city target services more efficiently, only plowing the road when it was necessary and using less sand on the sidewalks.

Resident George Mathews said he wanted to see the city charge fees for services such as trash collection.

“A small family on a fixed income would have less trash than a big one, and they’d pay less,” he said.

Deschene said councilors and residents need to discuss those issues before the next budget is settled, possibly at more frequently scheduled meetings in Auburn Hall and in the neighborhoods around the city.

Deschene urged residents to use regular meetings in Auburn Hall.

“The council meets twice a month, they have open sessions twice each meeting,” Deschene said. “If you have questions or comments those are the times to take advantage of. So there are two citizen engagement meetings every month, all year round.”

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