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Donor town status could mean deep budget cuts in Moultonboro

September 08, 2010
MOULTONBORO — The return of donor town status will likely mean hard decisions for the town during the upcoming budgeting process.

On Thursday, Town Administrator Carter Terenzini asked the Board of Selectmen for a sense of direction going into this year's budget discussions.

On July 1, 2011 Moultonboro and many other communities across the state will return to donor town status in funding education. Selectman and state Rep. Betsey Patten was an active opponent of the measure, though the state legislature voted for the system to go back into place.

Terenzini said this would mean the need to raise an additional $1.7 million in the town portion and $1.2 million for the local schools if the county took $880,000. If the county does not take on any share, the town would have to pay $2 million with the local school paying $1.5 million.

Terenzini asked the Board for direction, including if the town could eat the additional money or how cuts could be made. Terenzini said if reductions are proposed in capital projects and equipment, that equipment will still wear out and have to be replaced. He said eating the amount in the operating budget would be the only way to do it.

"It's unrealistic for anyone to ask the town or the school district to eat the $3.6 million in property taxes," said Selectman Karel Crawford.

"I don't see any way we could even consider cutting the budget that size," said Board Chair Joel Mudgett.

Selectman Ed Charest said a level funded budget was recommended for last year and this year the town really needs to look at lowering the budget.

"Some of the other departments and the things we look at could be cut, I don't mean slash and burn," Charest said.

Terenzini asked for a target number and Charest suggested 3 percent.

"We did 1 percent in good economic times, we should do 3 in bad economic times," Charest said.

Crawford said the bulk of the budget is salaries and benefits and the budget process would really have to look at personnel.

"When you cut people you cut services," Crawford said. "Where don't we need people, I guess. "

Charest said he recalled when he worked in Health and Human Services and cuts brought his caseload to double.

"I just feel strongly that we need to look at areas we need to cut and they aren't always easy," Charest said. "Sometimes you had to make hard choices."

Mudgett said the department heads should be told to try to reduce their budgets by 3 percent and see what they come up with. Selectman James Gray said he would like to see the budget cut further, but realistically that might not be feasible unless the town wanted to give up services. Mudgett said residents probably do not want to see services cut.

"I do believe there are long term areas maybe can be reduced, maybe not overnight," said Advisory Budegt Committee Chair Jean Beadle. "It's hard to put a hard and fast number on it. I think that's shortsighted."

Beadle said she would want to see a barebones budget and a less barebones budget.

"Ideally targeted cuts are the best way to do it, but they're also the most difficult," said ABC member-at-large Allan Ballard. "I think it's worth looking at, but boy is it difficult."

Terenzini said these would not be across-the-board cuts, as many smaller departments cannot absorb that. Terenzini said cuts would have to be done to fit the bottom line.

Beadle said she once worked for a company that had mandatory cuts on a regular basis in departments.

"The long term effects of that is devastating to an organization," Beadle said. "It creates fear in a department. I can't begin to tell you what that does to employee morale. You don't want to go there."

Terenzini talked about one position that is being advertised at the transfer station. The station has already lost two full time equivalent positions and Terenzini said the transfer station would be prepared to discuss why that position is needed.

Terenzini said he would work with the staff, asking them to look at ways to make 3 percent cuts.

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