PARIS, Maine — The Paris Budget Committee is struggling with recommending a police budget without wading into the controversy over keeping the Police Department or contracting the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.
At its meeting Wednesday, members said it was important that their recommendation not indicate which way they were leaning. Chairman Vic Hodgkins recommended that a statement to that effect accompany the figure.
Member Rick Little estimated the total cost for the Paris Police Department, including its $591,000 budget request and capital improvements that include a cruiser, at around $660,000. The amount for the first year of Sheriff’s Office coverage is $610,000.
Member Janet Jamison said a recommendation for either figure could indicate an endorsement of either the department or the Sheriff’s Office. She said that even posting two recommendations, one if a warrant article on Sheriff’s Office coverage passes and one if it fails, could be seen as endorsing the less expensive option.
Not everyone on the committee was averse to making a recommendation on the coverage issue.
“As a taxpayer, I want the most secure community I can get for the least amount of money,” George “Buddy” Coffren said. “Why can’t the discussion be about the cost of it and not the politics of it?”
Less controversial among board members was recommending against proposed 2.5 percent raises for town employees and eliminating dental insurance.
“I am not in favor of any raises for anybody at all,” member Michael Risica said. The committee estimated that raises would cost more than $16,000 and passed a resolution asking Town Manager Amy Bernard for an exact figure of how much would be saved by eliminating all raises that aren’t contractually obligated.
The committee also voted to eliminate all dental coverage not contractually obligated. Hodgkins said he agreed with the idea in spirit, but voted against it because he felt the committee needed more information.
Selectman Robert Kirchherr, who was present, said dental insurance was common among municipalities. He said doing away with the common benefit would make it hard to keep current employees and hire new ones.
“I think there’s a lot of good people out there who would love to have a job with as much protection as they’ve got,” Jamison said, referring to town employees.
The committee also discussed web design costs, grounds maintenance and solid waste expenses.
It will recommend a 2013-14 municipal budget for a vote at the June 11 town meeting.
Distributed by MCT Information Services