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Teachers cut, city workers spared in 2011 budget


June 16, 2010
BERLIN — The city council found a way to pass a budget for 2011 without laying off any firefighters, police officers or public works personnel on Monday night, the culmination of months of work.

The budget did include layoffs in the school department, however, where six teachers were let go.

The final city budget was roughly $37.7 million and should keep the tax rate flat at $29.82 per $1,000 of valuation. It passed unopposed at the special meeting, with firefighters, police officers, the superintendent of schools and union representatives in attendance.

"The 31 cent increase is gone," Mayor Paul Grenier said, referring to the increase that surprised the council when they held their public hearing last month.

The council was able to add back everything they wanted to because of a $1.3 million surplus that is expected to be left over at the end of fiscal year 2010, which ends June 30. Of that surplus, $300,000 is from the school department, and the other $1 million is from the rest of the city.

That surplus allowed councilors to take $850,415 from the undesignated fund balance and put it towards the cuts they had been trying to avoid.

The police department got funding for an extra patrol officer, the fire department got funding for two officers, and the public works department got one position back. The department did lose another position, but it was vacant.

The council also set aside $200,000 to pay to demolition some of the properties the city got in the latest round of tax deeding, $200,000 for street rehabilitation, and $22,000 so the school can buy a plow truck the Berlin Airport Authority is getting rid of.

The recreation department also received $12,450 for equipment, ice time at the Notre Dame arena, program development and field maintenance.

The school department agreed to let the city hold onto the $200,000 they had set aside for out of district placements in the undesignated fund balance account, Mayor Grenier said, with the understanding the city would give it to the school if the need arose.

Members of the police and firefighters' unions also agreed to changes in their health insurance that led to almost $22,000 in savings for the city.

The police department used the $10,375 give back, along with an additional $50,000 authorized by the council, to pay for the reinstatement of the patrol officer.

Superintendent Corinne Cascadden made the point that although the council avoided layoffs in most departments the city lost six teachers, three of which were local kids who came back to Berlin to teach and make the community better. Now they've lost their jobs, she said.

Mayor Grenier said he knew one of the teachers, who had graduated from Gorham High School and came back to Berlin after college to teach math.

"He was willing to work in Berlin for less money," he said, but his job disappeared so he moved on.

But despite the school woes, the mayor was positive about the overall budget situation.

"I think it's the best we can hope for," he said.

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