EASTPORT, Maine — Eastport city councilors said goodbye Monday night to two longtime employees, presented flowers and plaques, and then got down to the hard business of setting a budget for 2010-11.
Helen Archer, who has been city clerk for 27 years, was recognized for her service. It was also the last meeting for George “Bud” Finch, who has been city manager for 15 years.
Councilors Monday night hired Jonathan Southern of Perry as his replacement. Southern will begin as manager on April 26.
Before he left, Finch prepared a draft budget and warned the council that times are lean and the budget process will be incredibly hard.
“These are complex economic times,” Finch said, noting that this budget was the most difficult he ever had to prepare.
“We are going to have to make deep cuts to hold the line on taxes,” Finch said. He said the proposal keeps the mill rate steady at $20.70 per $1,000 of valuation. However, he added, the high probability that the school could require an increase of 20 percent could raise taxes.
He predicted that revenues on all fronts would increase, but not to the level they did in the past. In state revenue sharing alone, the town will receive $90,000 less than just two years ago, Finch said.
Cuts are proposed through restructuring various departments, retirements and layoffs, including removing 1½ positions from the public works department and one full-time police officer.
Because of a recently approved 18 percent increase in water rates from the Passamaquoddy Water District, hydrant rentals will increase.
“There’s a real need for dialogue, a real need for a conversation and for the community to get involved and find a better way,” Finch said
“Even if this proposal holds the mill rate steady, we don’t know about school increases and evaluation changes. This council will be faced with some very difficult decisions,” he said.
Finch said that although times are tough, working to make Eastport a lean, efficiently run entity will position it well in the future.
“This could be a real opportunity for Eastport to be on the right side of the curve when the economy turns,” Finch said.