No one ‘blindsided’ by budget

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Man writing on the paper in the office

As the Scarborough Town Council chair I would like to respond to Susan Hamill’s letter. (May 25, “Six new jobs? Residents blindsided”) Ms. Hamill claims citizens were “blindsided” when town officials “slipped into” the budget six new municipal positions, calling it “deceptive and underhanded.”

In presenting the budget on April 6, the town manager emphasized his expectation that the six positions should be considered during the budget’s review. One of his presentation slides was dedicated exclusively to the six positions. He simultaneously published a budget booklet that is made available to the public. It specifically described the six positions and noted that they would be the subject of consideration during the budget review process.

The April 27 Budget Forum offered the public the opportunity to raise any question about the budget. Ms Hamill’s questions dominated the proceeding and included specific questions about the need for the public safety positions. Her questions were answered at the meeting and with online answers posted on our website.

During the weekly Finance Committee meetings in April the department heads appeared before the committee and addressed the six positions. At the May 4 Finance Committee meeting the chair noted that the six positions would be a key agenda item at the final committee meeting on May 11. Each department head appeared at the May 11 Finance Committee meeting to plead their case.

I communicated with every councilor in the weeks before the final budget vote to seek their views on the six positions. Our councilors have made it a point to make themselves available to discuss budget issues with residents and they frequently do. Like myself, several councilors have indicated that they personally explained the rationale for the new hires to a number of constituents. At the May 18 meeting the Town Council adopted the budget 7-0.

The six new positions are critical to meeting the needs of the community. Scarborough has added almost no municipal employees since the recession of 2008. It has, however, added about half a billion dollars in residential, commercial and industrial properties in that time. Protection of that much property, and the many people that go with it, demanded increased personnel. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of calls to fire and police. The two fire positions were specifically recognized in the 2015-16 budget cycle as due but were delayed until this cycle to save money. The two town hall positions focus on 1) hiring a combined purchasing agent (lost during the recession) and financial analyst (also designed to save us money) and 2) a sustainability coordinator (recommended by the Energy Committee in 2011 and 2015 and designed to reduce town spending on trash and energy usage).

Our Town Council is committed to keeping our citizens informed. All of the meetings I have referenced were public and televised and could also be viewed online. All of our budget documents are posted on our website. No one was “blindsided” by our budget.

Bill Donovan
Chairman, Scarborough Town Council

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