CUMBERLAND — A municipal budget of $8 million was approved Monday after a public hearing where there was no public comment.
Although 16 members of the fire and rescue departments were in the audience during a discussion of the reunification of those departments – a key part of the budget councilors approved – none stayed for the budget public hearing, leaving the council chambers empty.
Combining fire and rescue is expected to save about $60,000 in next year’s budget. The departments will recombine effective July 1, after being separated about 20 years ago.
Rescue Chief Chris Bolduc said at the meeting that he wants people to know that the consolidation is not reflective of any failure by his department, but rather was brought about because of regional changes to fire and rescue departments. Yarmouth and Falmouth, which were part of a regional paramedic program with Cumberland until it was taken out of all three budgets for next year, have opted to move toward consolidated fire/rescue departments, too, making it harder for Cumberland to maintain a separate rescue department, he said.
In an ideal world, Bolduc and Town Manager Bill Shane have said, the town would have the funds to maintain a separate rescue department. But in this economy, Shane said Monday, savings of $60,000 is tangible.
Fire Chief Dan Small will become chief of the combined department. Bolduc will take an operations management position within the town, becoming part of the town’s top administrative team.
Councilors voted 6-1 to approve the consolidation. Councilor Bill Stiles, a volunteer member of the Rescue Department, said he was opposed “on principle.”
Town spending approved Monday totals $8 million, and includes many hourly, salaried and staff cuts carried over from this year, as well as funding for a Route 88 drainage and shoulder improvement project.
Expenses are down nearly $4,000, or 0.05 percent, from this year’s budget. Revenues are projected at $3.6 million, down 4.5 percent from this year because of expected decreases in excise tax revenue, reduced state revenue sharing and reduced funding from the state Department of Transportation. Because of clam flat closures, the town also expects to see no revenue from shellfish licenses.
Those decreased revenues will drive changes to the tax rate, since the expense side came in neutral. The mil rate is projected to increase 14 cents from this year’s $14 per $1,000 of valuation, or 0.93 percent, not including the impact of the school budget.
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.