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Fort Fairfield Tweaks Budget Without Raising Taxes

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, August 10, 2013

Former town councilman Ruel Flannery’s mantra of “no new taxes” is still resonating with the Fort Fairfield town council as they recently passed their new budget with no tax increase, unlike most of the other communities in this area. Losses in revenue sharing from the State are what caused the greatest concern during this budget cycle. Instead of raising taxes to offset the loss of state money, the town council opted to reduce spending by $171,496.00, or 7%, by reducing town staff by three full time positions and all departments seeing a decrease in their budgets. The three positions eliminated were in the police department, highway department and town office/chamber of commerce.

“We have cut one patrolman position in the police department. We are continuing with the same coverage and are using reserve officers more,” said town manager, Dan Foster. “One difficulty we will be having is to adequately cover vacations and when an officer is out sick. We had two deaths in the public works department and we only replaced one employee. This has reduced our ability to fully cover vacations and other time off which just sets us back on our projects.”

The third position was the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director/Community & Economic Development Director position which will be vacated by Mike Bosse this January when he takes over as town manager for Dan Foster, who will be retiring. “We are not replacing Mike's position when I leave in January. This will limit our ability to fully advocate for economic and community development. With the many activities that we have going on right now, it is going to be difficult for Tony and Mike to do the work of three of us.”

Earlier this year, the town office mailed out a newsletter outlining the budget and cash flow issues and solicited advice from the local taxpayers on how best to handle the current crisis. “The overwhelming responses that we received to the newsletter was that costs need to be lowered and taxes should not be raised. That is exactly what we have done,” said Foster. “The bottom line is that service will not be the same; whether it is an acceptable level of service, only time will tell. Every department is having to do with less and until such time that citizens tell us we have gone to far, it is what we need to do.”

Foster says he fully expects to see a further reduction in State funding for next year and it is the council's intent to find ways of not raising taxes. “At some point we will hopefully see the bottom of all of this. It has been a long five years.”



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