Council trims $42k from South Berwick’s $5.8m budget plan

Posted March 16, 2011, at 10:36 a.m.

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Town councilors trimmed about $41,600 out of their $5.8 million budget during a three-hour workshop Tuesday, a result multiple councilors said isn’t enough when looking at the larger picture.

Vice Chairman Gerry MacPherson was the most outspoken about Tuesday’s reductions, the largest of which was the removal of a $20,000 paper compactor purchase in the Transfer Station’s budget, calling them “minuscule” in the overall scheme of things.

He said the moves “don’t amount to a hill of beans” because the board wants to cut as much as possible out of the $632,079 increase outlined in Town Manager Perry Ellsworth’s original budget proposal, but after two workshops has cut only about $49,317.

“We’ve cut nothing out of this budget in two days,” said MacPherson. “What’s the effect of it? These are not big cuts. We’re talking about services to the town. Most of the budget is salaries and benefits. To cut $1,000, add $2,000 here and then cut $1,000 here — we’re back to zero. We haven’t accomplished a thing.”

Chairman David Burke also characterized the cuts to date as small, although he refuted the notion the council has done nothing. He said “there just is not a lot of room to move,” and said the council is tasked to make reductions — something he said they have done during the first two workshops.

“We’re setting the budget,” he said. “That’s our number one accomplishment.”

Before Tuesday’s lengthy workshop, the town was projected to be at about $3,535,024 for fiscal year 2012 once revenues are taken into account, a total which is $534,425 over the $3,000,599 2011 LD1 cap.

Updated revenue and LD1 figures for 2012 weren’t available Tuesday.

Cuts made during Tuesday’s meeting also included $10,000 from the highway department. The council made this cut by “zero funding” wage increases to the department workers as the town and the department’s union work through mediation sessions on a new agreement.

The zero percent raises are in the budget currently as a “placeholder,” something Councilor Jean Demetracopoulos said the town has done before when in contract negotiations. Burke also said these and any other numbers can change, as the budget proposal is still a “working document.”

The other reductions made Tuesday were $10,000 out of the Transfer Station’s operating supplies budget and $1,600 out of the Solid Waste budget for part-time wages. That brings the town’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget to roughly $5,746,252, which is $582,760 more than 2011′s appropriated $5,163,492.

The Town Council still has several budget workshops and discussions left, though, including another workshop tonight at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

The official budget public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m., and the warrant and budget for the annual June town meeting won’t be signed until Tuesday, April 26, during a regular council meeting.

More information about the budget and upcoming meetings is available online at southberwickmaine.org.

To see more of Foster’s Daily Democrat or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.fosters.com/.

Copyright (c) 2011, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

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