Brewer draft budget includes loss of 4 full-time jobs

Posted May 12, 2010, at 9:26 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — City finance officials have burned the midnight oil to find ways to reduce cuts needed to balance the coming year’s budget, but to maintain the tax rate they could not avoid slashing four full-time municipal jobs, Finance Director Karen Fussell said on Tuesday.

“The general news is we’re very pleased to be able to maintain the current mill rate of $17.95,” she said on Wednesday. “That’s the third year in a row that we’ve been able to maintain that mill rate.”

The municipal and school budgets will be presented to residents and the City Council at a public budget hearing scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The bottom lines of both the draft city and school budgets have decreased, and “represent significant belt-tightening by the city and the schools,” Fussell said.

The projected $11.7 million municipal budget for 2011 is about $350,000, or 2.9 percent, less than last year. The proposed fiscal year 2010-11 school budget, minus construction funds that flow through the department, is nearly $16.73 million, and represents a 1.3 percent decrease, Superintendent Daniel Lee said on Wednesday.

The draft municipal budget for fiscal year 2011 is about $350,000, or 2.9 percent, less than last year, and includes a massive $500,000 drop in state funds, mostly from decreases in revenue sharing, road assistant funds and Homestead Exemption reimbursements, Fussell said.

“We’re also losing $360,000 in tax revenues,” she said, adding that is mostly from the closure of LZ Lemforder.

An administrative position in the police department, and one post in Public Works, the library and the finance office will be eliminated, as well as a part-time position in the assessing office, a memo from Fussell to City Council members states.

“The reductions in police and public works will require layoffs; the two others are being accomplished through early retirements,” she said.

Other changes designed to reduce costs include eliminating five part-time seasonal workers — three in Public Works and two in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, eliminating side street snowplowing in the middle of the night and going to a single-stream recycling system and a “pay as you throw” trash program.

“We cannot maintain the status quo of weekly trash pickup with monthly curbside sorted recycling collection,” Fussell’s memo states. “We are proposing the city take this opportunity to implement a new approach to solid waste” that lowers municipals costs.

As part of the municipal budget, there is a 4 percent sewer rate increase, but no increase is planned for water users. The requested sewage rate would increase the cost of 100 cubic feet from $7.24 to $7.53, and would result in a $5.79 increase per quarter for the average residential user, Fussell said.

The goals for this year are to maintain service levels and the tax rate and to plan for the future, she said.

“The budget we are presenting is one that lives within our means,” she said. “The council has worked very hard to keep the tax rate flat and minimize the impact on services.”

The school budget for next year includes some employee cuts and changes in programs offered, Lee said.

The proposed budget cuts include not filling two high school teaching positions, and eliminating a second-grade teacher, five special education technician positions, and two library education technicians.

Combining freshman and JV football, eliminating some stipends, reducing supplies, and defunding JV ice hockey and fall cheering also are planned to save funds.

The bottom line of the draft $19.5 million school budget is inflated by $2.7 million in construction funds for the new elementary-middle school, which are funneled through the district, Lee explained. By looking at the figures without the construction funds, the budget is more than $200,000 less than last year, he said.

Plans to move another $200,000 from the undesignated fund balance eliminates the need to ask residents for more money, Lee said.

Copies of the municipal budget are available at the city clerk’s office and at the library, and the school budget figures can be found at the superintendent’s office at Capri Street School.

City councilors are expected to accept the budget at Tuesday’s hearing, then will take it up again at their June 1 meeting. Residents also will head to the polls on June 8 to vote on the school budget referendum.

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