May 20, 2018
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Calais council agrees on spending cuts, sets budget hearing

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — The City Council has reached consensus on spending cuts for the proposed 2014-15 municipal budget and set a public hearing on the budget for June 26.

With only four councilors present for a budget workshop Thursday night and without taking a formal vote, the council picked from a list of about a dozen options recommended by City Manager Diane Barnes and Mayor Marianne Moore. The consensus cuts totaled $292,000.

The proposed budget is a little over $5 million, little changed compared to the current budget.

The Police Department took the biggest hit in the spending reductions. The cuts that were approved include the elimination of three positions — a detective, an administrative assistant, and an open position for an officer.

Those personnel reductions, which will mean layoffs for two employees, will save the city nearly $174,000.

Police Chief David Randall, who attended the budget workshop, told the councilors that the personnel cuts mean the department will have to reduce or eliminate some services.

“Tell me what I’ve got to work with, and I’ll do the best I can,” he said.

At one point Randall also suggested the council may be able to cushion some of the personnel reductions with money saved because of the impending departure of Barnes, who is leaving later this month to become town manager for Lisbon. The city will accrue some savings when her employment ends and before a new manager is hired, he noted.

“I’ve asked that question,” said Councilor Art Mingo

“It could help substantially,” said Councilor Billy Howard.

The council was scheduled to discuss the exit of Barnes, a personnel matter, during executive session.

In other personnel-related spending cuts, the City Council agreed to reduce the hours for a part-time children’s librarian position, a savings of $8,361, and eliminate pay increases for part-time cemetery workers, a savings of $7,000.

The other single biggest spending cut was $50,000 that had been targeted toward the purchase of a new ladder truck for the fire department.

Other cuts included $20,000 that was to go toward the purchase of a new police cruiser, $20,000 from a public works rip rap project, and $10,335 in stipends and benefits for members of the City Council.

The council also directed Barnes to look for other spending cuts that could be used to restore hours for the part-time children’s librarian position.

It’s not the end of tough budgets for Calais and other cities and towns, predicted Howard, a real estate broker who does business throughout Washington County.

“People are maxed out,” said Howard. Virtually every community in the county is facing similar financial struggles, he said.

Calais has had to curtail spending for capital needs, noted Howard. “We have zero money going into infrastructure,” he said.

The city likely will face another round of budget cuts next year, according to Howard.

“It’s just a sign of the times until we get some growth going on,” he said.

The public hearing on the proposed 2014-15 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 26, at Washington County Community College.

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