A proposal by Councilor David Fischer to effect a 1/2 percent across-the-board cut for the working budget for 2015 was defeated at the April 17 Town Council meeting, after extensive discussion.
Fischer, who has advocated for a more proactive approach to the budgets, brought up the topic during a discussion on the Wastewater Department budget.
“I want to see the big picture,” Fischer said. “When are we going to have that discussion?”
Fischer said he had asked Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau for the tax impacts of a 1 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent cut. He received the figures, which were as follows:
• 1 percent, cutting $369,985, 16 cent reduction per $1,000, $39.25 reduction on a $250,000 home;
• 2 percent, cutting $739,790, 31 cent reduction per $1,000, $78.50 on a $250,000 home; and
• 3 percent, cutting $1,190,685, 47-cent reduction per $1,000, $117.76 on a $250,000 home.
Fischer allowed that 2 or 3 percent cuts would cut too deep. “But I’m asking you to carefully consider 1 percent,” he told the Council.
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores asked, “What effect would a 1 percent cut have on services”
“We won’t know until we receive the recommendations back from Larry,” Fischer responded. “But doing this would be fiscally responsible, and doing what the taxpayers asked us for.”
Councilor Michael Fairbanks observed that they were already doing that. “We are looking at proposals, making cuts,” he said. “We may get to the 1 percent on our own.”
Councilor Tom Cardon said, “I understand what Mr. Fischer is saying. But maybe it’s a discussion for later on, for when we go through the budget process next year.”
“It’s an excellent idea to have goals in place,” Councilor Joshua Bourdon said. “But I am torn between passing it on to department heads to make cuts or doing it ourselves. I like being hands-on.” He said he wished Fischer had “brought this up sooner,” and said he would like to see the discussion continue.
Both Bourdon and Fischer were elected to the Council in March.
Chief Financial Officer Frank Childs reminded the Council that the budget they were discussing, Wastewater, and the Water Department budget didn’t figure into the discussion because they were self-funding. “There is no tax funding,” he said.
Fischer observed, “As a Town Administrator or a Town Council, we’re popular when we dispense the money. It is difficult when we make the cuts.”
When Fischer made his motion for an overall reduction of 1/2 percent, it sparked discussion on how to proceed that night and what to do with the budgets they’d already approved.
Council Chairman Mark Osborne’s suggestion if the motion were approved was to adjourn for the evening, have the administration work on the reductions, and come back to resume line-by-line analysis of the new figures.
“We’ve already cut $55,000,” Bourdon said. “I’d like to see us continue in the manner we’ve been.” At $55,000, they are one-third of the way to a 1/2 percent reduction, he pointed out.
Childs said, “It is not appropriate just to make a motion and pass it. You need to give us guidance on what services to cut, because services will be cut.”
“It is the administrators’ job to determine how to reach the bottom line,” Fischer countered. “You create a budget around what our goal is.”
Fischer’s motion for a 1/2 percent cut failed, with him and Osborne in the affirmative and Dimmock, Bourdon, Katsakiores, Fairbanks and Cardon opposed.
“I am not going to vote for this until I know what effect it will have on services,” Katsakiores said.