Despite doubts from the city administrator and several city councilors and a looming deadline, Fort Fairfield City Council decided not to approve the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 for the time being.
FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine – Despite doubts from the city administrator and several city councilors and a looming deadline, Fort Fairfield City Council decided not to approve the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 for the time being.
Instead, the council will hold a special session on Thursday June 24th, less than a week before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30th. If the city councils don’t adopt a new budget by that date, the city will fall back on its FY2021 budget until the council approves a new one.
After their public hearing on June 3, city officials negotiated the $ 292,041 increase to $ 168,278. During her regular meeting on June 17, city manager Andrea Powers noted that the total budget of $ 6.9 million was only a 1.6 percent increase over the budget of $ 6.8 million last fiscal year.
The total budget for the Fire & EMS division is $ 1.3 million and has been Source of controversy for a local group of taxpayers who have worked to reduce what they see as unnecessary spending on this new urban service.
But Powers stayed consistent in their support for the budget and asked the Council not to make any further changes.
âThis is the most financially responsible household [we can pass] without compromising on services that are vital to our community, “Powers said before recommending that the council approve the budget.
However, councilors Bob Kilcollins and Melissa Libby both raised concerns about the proposed budget being passed, citing the continued opposition they have seen from various parishioners.
“I say we are moving a motion to put the vote on the 2021-2022 budget for further consideration,” said Kilcollins. “With the financial burden we are putting on taxpayers, I think there are concerns that we can address.”
Libby supported Kilcollins’ proposed motion, noting that the city could benefit from waiting to see if state lawmakers vote 55 percent on school funding, which could change the mill rate if that were to happen SAD 20 budget gets more money.
âI would feel more comfortable if we waited a little longer [to pass the budget]”Said Libby. “It would be good to get more answers from the state.”
Councilors Mitchell Butler and Scott Smith and Council Chairman Mark Babin denied Kilcollins’ request, citing concerns about pushing budget negotiations too close to the end of the fiscal year.
Although none of the 20 parishioners and department heads present spoke during the public comment period, Babin referred to the Fort Fairfield Taxpayers Group that said beforehand that it would petition to get the budget to a referendum if passed on Thursday.
“We have already worked a lot on this budget and have services that need to be funded,” said Babin. âOur responsibility as a council applies to the whole city, not just a few people. Nobody wants to pay taxes, but we have to. We ask people to be patient and let us do our job. “
Butler acknowledged Kilcollins and Libby’s concerns but continued to support the adoption of the budget in its current form on Thursday night.
âWe have to support our department heads. We understood that there would be an initial cost [of EMS services] that we had to work through, âsaid Butler. “It would be irresponsible not to vote tonight.”
Smith agreed with Butler and Babin, but conceded that there may be room for police department budget negotiations due to a recent staff shortage.
“You only have one officer now,” Smith said, referring to her recent resignation of Police Commissioner Shawn Newell. “They came to us and asked if we could maybe reduce their overall budget.”
Currently, the law enforcement agency is budgeted at $ 456,803 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, a decrease from the previous budget of $ 539,085.
Despite an initial vote that the budget vote failed to present, the city councils continued to reaffirm their respective positions.
Powers urged them to reflect on the need to support departments like Parks and Recreation and the Library, many of which are already reliant on tight budgets and small staff. She continued to advocate EMS funding as stated in her proposed budget.
âI don’t know what else I can teach people. This is the bare minimum that we can have without sacrificing the services, âsaid Powers. âI’ve heard so much misdirected information [about the EMS service]. Our only new acquisitions were the two new ambulances. There are expenses like medication and insurance that we cannot control. “
In the end, the council unanimously decided to hold a special session on the town budget at the Fort Fairfield Community Center gym on Thursday, June 24th at 6 p.m.