PARIS — Selectmen Vice Chair Mike Risica wants to get the budget cuts ball rolling but. right now, his colleagues won’t give it a kick.
At last week’s meeting, selectmen decided to host a joint workshop with the Budget Committee to keep the momentum going surrounding budget discussions. Risica moved to close the Town Office one day a week, but most of the board wanted to hold off making such a decision until further discussion ensues.
The idea of hosting the budget workshop and inviting residents was brought up by Selectman Vic Hodgkins at the Monday, Aug. 10, meeting. He said the board has heard residents and their thoughts on how to save their tax dollars and wants to continue to listen on a regular basis, but now wants the two entities to weigh in.
“Instead of waiting until next year to begin the budget process, in my mind, the budget process for next year is already going on,” he said. “Are we going to try keep the budget level? Are we going to increase it? Are we going to decrease it? And if so, by how much and how do we go about it?”
Selectman Janet Jamison thought it was a great idea and the board decided to host the joint workshop next month.
Risica later moved to close the town office one day a week, as was suggested during the budget workshop before the July 27 selectmen’s meeting. His motion was seconded by Chairman Robert Wessels for discussion.
“We need to show the Paris residents we’re on board with their concerns regarding expenditures,” Risica said. “We’ve got to start saving somewhere and that’s one place to start.”
Hodgkins said he didn’t want to put the cart before the horse, and further discussion between selectmen and the Budget Committee should happen before decisions are made.
“I, for one, am not willing to jump tonight because I would rather take an honest, measured approach instead of wing it as we go thing,” Hodgkins said.
“If we don’t start the ball rolling, it’s never going to roll. Once something’s in motion, it tends to stay in motion,” Risica said.
Selectman Sam Elliot said all ideas need to be considered and studied before pulling one out of the air and implementing it. Wessels said he’s open to the idea of closing the office one day a week but wasn’t willing to vote on the matter last week.
Risica withdrew his motion pending the joint workshop and Wessels withdrew his second.
At last month’s budget workshop, 33 residents attended and a number of ideas were discussed regarding next year’s budget. People looked to cut some services on top of the office one day a week — which Risica estimated would save at least $30,000 annually — including turning off some street lights, no longer funding the Hamlin Memorial Library, combining the Fire Department with other towns and cutting the Police Department by using the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department, according to notes by Town Clerk Liz Knox. Also in the vein of streamlining services, it was suggested area towns conduct assessments all at once so local properties are assessed at the same time.
A capped mill rate was championed by quite a few residents. Others want to look at the last seven budgets and figure out what increases have occurred. They also want to figure out why area towns have lower mill rates than Paris.
Other ideas include having a small group of townspeople go over the budget to see if they can cut more from the document, getting more businesses in town by giving new ones a five-year tax break, holding the town manager accountable for creating a more responsible budget, cleaning up the town and enforcing the Sign Ordinance.
The budget workshop with selectmen and the Budget Committee will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, before the regular selectmen’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.