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Preliminary Freeport municipal budget shows $366K shortfall for fiscal 2011

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Preliminary Freeport municipal budget shows $366K shortfall for fiscal 2011

FREEPORT — Town Manager Dale Olmstead and Finance Director Abbe Yacoben presented the Town Council with a preliminary overview of the 2011 municipal budget last week.

On Jan. 26, Olmstead told the council that town departments have been doing more work with fewer employees. In Town Hall, more than 100 hours and nearly three full-time positions have been reduced and duties have increased, he said.

Olmstead said the recycling department has been reduced from six to four days a week, and the Public Works Department has been stretched because the state has returned 14.5 miles of roads – 17.5 percent of total maintenance miles – to the town to maintain, pave and plow.

In the Police Department, Olmstead said, personnel has not increased in 10 years, although the severity and frequency of crimes have increased 30 percent. In addition, a detective position had to be created out of current staffing, he said, and duties have shifted to avoid overtime costs.

At the library, circulation has increased 56 percent since 1998, creating increased workload and hours. The Fire and Rescue Department has also taken on more responsibilities, he said.

Financially, Yacoben said, there could be a $366,000 reduction in the general fund for fiscal year 2011.

She said there is a nearly $339,000 projected revenue loss from state revenue sharing, tree growth funds, road assistance and the town's investment income. Energy costs of $50,000 are also expected as unleaded, diesel, propane, heating oil and natural gas prices fluctuate.

But she said the town hopes to restore $281,000 in employee wages and benefits that were lost this year because of town-wide furlough days and an employee pay freeze.

While routine debt service reduction and building permits for high-end houses and new business opportunities could generate about $254,000, and other revenue possibilities could generate $35,000, Yacoben said. the town would still be $366,000 in the red.

She said the $366,000 deficit would increase the property tax rate, by about 7 percent to $3.34 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"We need to be creative and look at all options," Yacoben said. "There are good ideas circulating about how to best handle the reductions. We will continue to work on this budget."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net