Paris taxpayers to see increased budget for fiscal year 2018

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HEARING — Paris Town Manager Vic Hodgkins, left, fields a question from the audience during the Monday, May 1 budget hearing with the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee.

PARIS — A good chunk of the hour-plus long Paris budget hearing focused on decreased funding for the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum on Monday, May 1.

Roughly 27 people, including town officials and members of the selectboard and Budget Committee, were in attendance at the Fire Station. They were there to discuss the proposed municipal operating budget for fiscal 2018, which is $3,941,922. The spending plan represents a $35,049, or 0.9 percent increase, over the current budget. An estimated mil rate has not yet been figured.

Jennifer Lewis, who works at Hamlin Memorial and Paris Public libraries, asked what the rationale was for cutting Hamlin’s funding by $4,000 to $500. Paris Public Library Director Mike Dignan and Town Manager Vic Hodgkins said they tried to figure out what the minimum funding needed for Hamlin Memorial to still receive money from the state.

“I guess we didn’t know you guys have some money put away,” Budget Committee Chairman Rick Little told Lewis. He is talking about roughly $200,000 that is invested and Dignan described as a paper nest egg.

“The money we saved is for when Founder’s Day is gone,” Lewis said about the library’s annual fundraiser. “That money we have saved is not part of our operating budget. … We don’t draw from that annually.”

She added 80 percent of the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum’s roughly $37,000 budget comes from Founder’s Day funds.

Budget Committee members wanted to reallocate the $4,000 to Paris Public Library, which took a hit last year when $18,000 in funding was slashed. Dignan was forced to eliminate a part-time position and reduce library hours.

“My thinking was you have the money available and the [Paris Public] Library could probably use that $4,000 because they don’t have a fund backing them up like the Hamlin Library does,” said Budget Committee member Michael Brogan. “That money could go there so they could increase their hours and Mike [Dignan] could hire back some people he said he needed – $4,000 is not much. If you truly need $4,000 then go to your board and ask for it.”

“I can’t deny the Paris Public Library needs money – it’s going to have an impact on Hamlin as well,” Lewis said. “We will probably end up being open less hours or buying less materials.”

Budget Committee member Richard Penley commented Hamlin Memorial has a board that runs the library and is responsible for its maintenance.

“If they choose not to utilize any of those funds [that are saved], I don’t think the town should have to pick it up,” he said.

Lewis noted $4,000 is 10 percent of the library’s operating budget.

Selectman Kathy Richardson said everyone has to tighten their belt.

“We are basically being penalized for planning ahead and setting this money aside,” Lewis responded. “We’re not squirreling away town funds.”

Hodgkins said he made an arbitrary decision with the $500 number after discovering a minimum number was not set and receiving direction from the Budget Committee to shift more funds to Paris Public Library. He added the decision regarding the funding wouldn’t change Monday night.

“If the voters at town meeting want to do something different, well we will see what happens at town meeting,” he said.

Mary Matthews is a Paris resident and also an employee of the Department of Labor. She asked why the town’s worker’s compensation was going up by nearly $35,000. Little and Hodgkins said there were a number of incidents that happened in town that forced the increase. Hodgkins budgeted $85,000 for fiscal 2018.

Matthews shared the entire town, not just the Fire Department that is currently enrolled, could participate in the state’s SHAPE (Safety & Health Award for Public Employers) program, which could reduce the town’s work’s compensation payment by 3 percent.

Since Hodgkins received the news that worker’s comp was increasing, he formed a Safety Committee to address safety issues and then later formed the Safety Core group with Town Clerk Liz Knox, Code Enforcement Officer Kingston Brown and book keeper Paula Locke.

Other parts of the overall budget include Hodgkins budgeting an $100,000 increase for the town’s contribution to SAD 17 for a total of $3052,415. But preliminary school district budget numbers show Paris contributing $3,146,934, which is an increase of $194,519 over the current budget.

The town’s contribution to Oxford County is $3,336,931, or an $106,991 increase.

Residents will vote on the proposed municipal operating budget at the Saturday, June 18 annual town meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Fire Station, 137 Western Ave.

eplace@sunmediagroup.net

Fiscal 2018 Paris budget

PARIS — Selectmen met on Wednesday, April 26, to vote on the proposed $3.9 million fiscal 2018 municipal operating budget, which is nearly an 1 percent increase over the current budget. Town Manager Vic Hodgkins did not have an estimated mil rate at last week’s meeting, but should for the Monday, May 8 selectmen’s meeting.

Selectmen approved:

  • Administration $450,679, down $7,683
  • Debt Service $134,332, down $123,483
  • Police Department $636,735, up $76,404
  • Highway Department $715,509, up $5,865
  • Boards/Committees $6,690, down $930
  • Parks and Recreation $45,034, up $7,054
  • Social Services $174,500, up $7,950
  • General Assistance $19,945, down $688
  • Recycling $250,000, down $25,886
  • Unclassified $520,608, up $57,713
  • Fire Department $384,640, down $8,561
  • Capital $603,250, up $47,294

While the rest of the board approved all parts of the budget, Selectboard Vice Chairman Scott Buffington voted against the Police Department, Social Services and Unclassified budgets.

The roughly $76,000 increase to the Police Department budget is from higher health insurance costs, radios and a slight increase in the reserve officers line.

“This increase is just too high. It is almost like it’s a switch and bait, we sell them one thing last year then here we go this year and we’re actually higher than it before was the budgeting season that we started last year,” Buffington said.

During last year’s budgeting season, the selectboard explored the option of disbanding the Police Department and contracting with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department as a way to save money. But residents voted 2-1 to keep their Police Department last June.

“It’s not competitive to what the county offered us,” Buffington added about this year’s proposed Police Department budget. “I get that we voted as a town to keep the PD but we have to maintain those numbers. It’s too much of an increase for this year.”

Buffington voted against the Social Services budget because money – roughly $7,500 – was added back to the Paris Public Library for fiscal 2018. To do so though, Hamlin Memorial Library lost $4,000 in funding and was allocated $500 for this year.

Buffington voted against Unclassified because he thinks there will be too much in contingency – around $60,000. Hodgkins noted it doesn’t take much to spend the contingency account. He said there are new bills coming in due to the ongoing union contract negotiations and there have been “enhanced attorney fees” because of union happenings and other reasons.

eplace@sunmediagroup.net