May 27, 2018
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Rockland municipal departments looking at 10 percent cuts

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Department heads in city government have been asked to develop budgets that would cut 10 percent from the current spending level.

City Manager James Smith said Thursday that he asked department heads to see what a 10 percent cut would look like. He said that budget development is still in its early stages.

The manager will submit his budget to the City Council in April. Last year, the proposal was submitted at the end of April.

The 2012-2013 municipal budget is $10.4 million.

The manager has voiced concern about possible cuts in state revenue sharing to the city. Gov. Paul LePage has proposed a state budget that would eliminate state revenue sharing to municipalities.

Rockland’s 2012-2013 budget projects receipt of $729,000 in state revenue sharing.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to support a resolve to its local legislators to strongly oppose the elimination of revenue sharing, cuts to municipalities of commercial vehicle excise taxes, cuts to the homestead and circuit breaker programs which offer property tax relief, and the proposed elimination of reimbursement to municipalities for lost personal property tax from the business tax relief program.

Mayor William Clayton said Friday that while the council as a whole has not given the manager a percentage goal for the budget, the mayor said he has passed his sentiment on to the manager.

“I don’t want it going up at all. I want it flat-funded at most,” Clayton said.

The largest department in the city budget is the Police Department, which has expenses of nearly $2 million. A 10 percent cut would mean a reduction of nearly $200,000.

Police Chief Bruce Boucher said a cut of that magnitude would have a significant impact on services. The department has a 20-person force.

The Fire Department’s expenses total $1.5 million.

Fire Chief Charles Jordan Jr. said a 10 percent cut would mean cutting all budget lines for future equipment purchases, meaning taxpayers would be hit with costs all at once down the road, or there would be staff cuts.

“I don’t want to sound alarmist but if we have fewer staffers, our response time will be longer,” Jordan said.

The department responds to 2,200 to 2,500 calls per year of which more than 80 percent are ambulance calls, the chief said. Many times there are multiple simultaneous calls, he said.

The Fire Department has 15 firefighters/emergency medical technicians, three other EMTs, and Jordan.

The library budget is about $600,000. Library hours were the single biggest area of debate last year when the council restored money to keep the facility open 61 hours per week. The manager’s recommended budget calls for cutting hours by four per week to 57 hours.

The public works budget is $1.65 million and the Recreation Department’s budget is $380,000.

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