Selectmen recommend passage of flat budget

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FARMINGTON – Selectmen met to issue their recommendations on the 2009 budget this evening, the night before the budget committee meets to issue their own recommendations.

Selectmen recommend the passage of a budget consisting of $4,352,109 in overall municipal recommendations, representing a $6,000 decrease from the 2008 budget. Their recommendations, along with the budget committee’s, will appear on the town meeting warrant beneath each article.

Citing the difficult economic times, Town Manager Richard Davis and his department heads went back to work after a previous budget meeting, slashing roughly $15,000 from the budget to make it perfectly flat compared to the 2008 budget. These cuts include a $5,000 reduction in the assessor’s reserve account, $1,600 in the municipal building budget for window replacements, as well as reductions in motor oil line items and employee benefits.

Davis himself recommended that his own position be reduced, asking that a 1 percent increase in his retirement line be deferred. That represents slightly more than $500 in the administration’s budget line item.

“It’s unprecedented,” Selectman Chair Stephan Bunker said, “and I’m not sure it’s warranted.”

“I would like to insist,” Davis responded, noting that no other town employee’s retirement benefits were getting adjusted upward.

The budget was kept low through the hard work by the department heads who, in many cases, turned in budgets that were lower than the previous year’s. Major increases include an increase of nearly $30,000 in the fire hydrant rental rate. The Farmington Village Corp., a non-profit, quasi-municipal organization which provides water for more than 1,500 local businesses and residences in Farmington, Temple and a small part of Wilton, increased the rate to meet its costs.

Another $29,000 increase in the next budget is sought after the town took over the care and ownership of the Riverside and Fairview cemeteries. As such, those employed to care for the cemetery grounds have wage increases coming to them because they are now town employees. Also part of the increase is a storage shed’

s roof that needs replacing for $2,000, said Town Manager Richard Davis. The town annually pitched in $30,000 for cemeteries, which offsets the proposed budget total of $59,000.

Reductions in the capital improvements lines helped offset these increases.

The board’s recommendation went slightly beyond the new budget that Davis presented, recommending that $2,500, instead of $3,500, be appropriated for the American Red Cross this year. They also recommended, by a vote of 3 to 2, that the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project receive no appropriated funding from the town this year. That agency had requested $5,000, but selectmen Jon Bubier, John Frary and Nancy Porter cited that agency’s administrative costs as too high, with not enough of the taxpayer’s money going toward the service the AWAP provides.

Those two outside agency reductions result in the $6,000 reduction in the overall appropriation recommendation. Even if the town decides to put those outside agencies back into the budget at the town meeting, the total budget would be roughly $14,000 below the state’s LD1 limit.

However the LD1 article, which asks that residents allow the town to exceed the limit will still appear in the town meeting warrant, in case the town desires to increase the budget significantly. That article will appear before the budgetary articles, due to a 3 to 2 vote by the selectmen in favor of that arrangement.

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