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The Board Has Made A Thousand Tiny Cuts; But Is Only The Taxpayer Bleeding?

A Look Into The Board's Budget Review

Before the board of finance started its budget hearings this month, taxes were slated to rise 4.57 percent. After three weeks and five hearings, with the majority of budgets approved, taxes are still on course to go up 4.57 percent.

It is not as if the board hasn’t made any cuts; it has made dozens. The problem is the cuts have been minor (as low as $25), with all them totaling less than $20,000.

To have any effect on the tax rate, the board must cut at least $37,000, which is one-hundredth of one mill, Finance Director Rudie Beers said. If the cuts total less than that, it will have no effect on the taxpayer because the tax rate will stay the same, Beers said.

 “I know the cuts are small, but that is our job,” Board of Finance member Alan Wilensky said. “We need to go through each budget and make sure we are only giving what the department needs and can justify.”

A recent example was Monday, when the youth service bureau’s budget was presented. The board pointed out that Youth Service Director Dani Gorman budgeted $300 for postage, when she had spent less than that the past year.

The board motioned for a $50 cut. Gorman protested, saying she uses the postage to send thank-you letters to people who donate to the bureau, but the board approved the cut.

“Every little bit counts,” member J.W. “Bill” Sheehan said in a Tuesday interview.

Cuts Out Of Frustration

The board knows these cuts will have little effect on the budget, but it is “really all we can do,” Wilensky said.

Most of the dollars in department budgets are contractually or statutorily obligated, so there really isn’t much the board can cut, board member George Peteros said. The board of finance does what it can do, he said.

“We will spend a half-hour cutting $50 out of the town clerk’s postage, and then beat our chest like we accomplished something,” Peteros said. “And then will pass a retirement budget with a $1.4 million increase, and not be able to do anything about it.”

Wilensky, Peteros, Sheehan and fellow member Brian Vachris all described their inability to make a larger dent in the budget “frustrating.” But this type of detail sends a message to the budget-builders, Vachris said.

“The department heads have learned,” he said. “We really have cut most of the fat out of this budget.”

Cuts Causing Frustration

Several department heads have grown irritated at the budget hearings over perceived micromanaging, notably Town Planner Tom Wagner and Recreation and Parks Director Brian Flaherty. On Monday, Flaherty grew irritated during questioning from Sheehan about a $4,000 expense, one which Sheehan said Flaherty did not provide the board with adequate justification.

“It is our job to build these budgets with our knowledge of running the department,” Flaherty said. “I think as a board you need to trust us department heads to do that job.”

Sheehan disagreed. If the money isn’t justified, the board can easily cut the expenditure to zero, he said.

Editor's note: The original article stated taxes are expected to rise 6 percent; if the current budget is adopted, they will rise 4.57 percent.

Water Ford March 23, 2011 at 11:49 AM
I guess the only answer is to ask residents to pay more, dig deeper and make the cuts at home. Residents know how to make cuts to food, clothing, energy bills and frivolous spending because they can’t walk into their office tomorrow and institute a pay raise to cover their bills. They must live within their means….but this logic doesn’t apply to the town. The unfortunate truth is they looked at making cuts, they thought about making cuts, but in the end they settled on telling their boss (residents) they are getting a raise….MORE TAXES. Government doesn’t have an income problem it has a spending problem.
Eileen March 23, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I'd like to know how many town vehicles, especially cars, the town owns and maintains and who get to use them, are they taken home during nonworking hours......The federal goverment makes alot of federal employees drive their own vechiles and reimburses for mileage....I wonder if the town could save some money following that type of plan
sjohn March 23, 2011 at 11:04 PM
I would like to see a comparison for what Waterford taxpayers pay compared to other towns.
Tony Dasta March 24, 2011 at 12:06 AM
How about eliminating those blue sand drums at the corner of some street? People can buy their own sand and salt if they want to. I am sure between the labor to distribute the sand drums, the sand, refills and pickup, that really adds up.
Debbie Jones March 24, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Were all those new schools all al once really necessary? And 60 million for the current WTFD High.
farm guy April 07, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Hah! It is peanuts!
BJ April 07, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Water Ford: You are so right! But now what? What are WE going to do about it? Traditionally WE do nothing, and THEY know it! We just work harder to make up for their problem, and THEY will do it again next year, and the next, and the next....
BJ April 07, 2011 at 06:26 PM
NO THEY WERE NOT NESSASARY, but what do they care? They just do whatever they want, and we do nothing about it! WHO IS UP FOR A RECALL OF THE WHOLE LOT OF THEM??? They stick it to us and we do nothing. How about now, can we do something? Will we do something? Who is in?
CU Seaside April 12, 2011 at 09:19 PM
The new schools were not only necessary, they were done at an opportune time. I am sure that the percentage the State pays will be reduced next year. The school were bonded and will be paid over time, the same way homeowners finance their homes. The crime is not the new schools but the operating costs to educate our kids. The operating budget is blbloated and could be considrably reduced. Our Education budget should be reduced to zero percent. By the way, their are no recall provisions.
R Lee Balderdash April 13, 2011 at 12:05 AM
The technology exists to educate over the internet with virtual classrooms. We could eliminate half of the greenhouse gases being spewed into the atmosphere by making coral reefs out of school buses- no need for massive personnel migrations every morning and afternoon. Sell all the school buildings to companies that will produce something and create jobs, instead of creating more dependency on big government.
Alrighty then April 13, 2011 at 12:26 AM
I hope you never procreated. You've gotta be the biggest troll on the Waterford Patch.
BJ April 13, 2011 at 12:36 AM
What does "the state" have to do with it? Tax money is tax money; in fact the further we get from it, the greater the misconception of reality becomes and the greater the waste. The very fact that you say it was "opportune" indicates that you live in an entitlement bubble (i.e. if we can get it, then it must be taken). No small wonder the state and the country is bankrupt.

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