AUBURN — After coming off of one of the longest budget debates in city history, City Manager Clinton Deschene said he’s jumping right back in.

Deschene told a group of six residents Tuesday morning that he met with fire Chief Frank Roma on Monday to begin discussing the 2015 budget.

“I met with one of our departments and started working from a zero base, right from scratch,” Deschene said. “We’ll probably start doing that in the public and with the council. It’s what we need to do.”

It was the second of two public reviews of city decisions and budgets this week, and Deschene said it won’t be the last. He and city councilors are considering hosting a series of ward meetings later this year to discuss the budget. He expects the first round would begin this fall.

“The council likes this idea,” Deschene said. “It’s something they haven’t done in a little while and it’s something we’d like to get started again.”

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Councilors rescinded the controversial cuts a week later, finding the $165,00 to keep New Auburn’s Fire Station No. 2 open all year long, keeping the city’s curbside recycling program and maintaining enough overtime to keep police and public works staff providing in-kind support for downtown special events.

It was a difficult process made tougher by state cuts late in the process. Legislators did not adopt their budget and $70 million in revenue sharing cuts until late in June. According to the City Charter, the council must adopt the budget before July 1. Auburn councilors and city staff had to quickly find a way to cut $860,000 in expected revenues.

“There was not a good way to communicate those cuts to the public,” Deschene said. “We were moving to quickly. I didn’t finish the budget memo until half-an-hour before the council meeting.”

That’s one reason Deschene said it’s important to get started now. The city knows it can expect another $991,000 in cuts to state revenue sharing in the city’s budget and another $700,000 in state mandated education spending.

“It is going to be divisive and argumentative at times,” he said. “But there is no way to change how we deliver services without talking about it. I need to know what you want and what you don’t want.”

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