n-falcouncil-012909 Town Hall to adopt 4-day week Addresses budget cuts

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FALMOUTH — Town Hall will be open four days a week instead of five beginning Feb. 23, Town Manager Nathan Poore announced during Monday’s Town Council meeting.
The new hours will be Mondays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. In addition, between five and eight hourly employees will have their regular hours cut from 40 to 37 per week.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Poore said the idea was first conceived more than a year ago as a way to reduce the town’s carbon footprint as well as a means of saving money. But with the rise in fuel prices and the downward turn in the economy, as well as an increase in online transactions, Poore said he began to consider the idea in earnest.
“Virtual town hall is actually happening; reducing hours may encourage more virtual transactions,” he said.
Poore said many towns are discussing four-day weeks. The town of Cumberland closed its Town Hall on Fridays earlier this month.
The change is not temporary.  “It is being viewed as a permanent, sustainable decision,” Poore said.
Staff whose hours will be reduced may have the opportunity to make up hours by filling in during times Poore would normally hire extra help. While he wouldn’t be creating hours, he said, he would offer these employees the opportunity to work during election season and other times extra assistance is required.
Also during Monday’s Council meeting, in a mid-year budget analysis, Poore presented what he called a “balanced solution” to Falmouth’s financial problems caused by the poor state and national economies.
While he stressed that Falmouth has been fiscally strong for years, with “sound long-term planning capital” and the best credit rating in the state, Poore outlined areas to cut in anticipation of a decline in non-property tax revenues:
• Under capital budget cuts, open space is reduced from $200,000 to $150,000 and payments would be extended for an additional year; fire/EMS reductions would involve closing the Pleasant Hill Fire Station, eliminating a pumper truck or extending the depreciation schedule for a $25,000 savings; and parks capital finding would eliminate Legion Field paths and outdoor ice rink roof projects for a $25,000 savings.
• Under operating budget cuts, administrative and council consultant allotments would be reduced, saving a total of $30,000; public works part-time positions would be eliminated to save $10,000; closing Town Hall on Fridays and reducing hours would save $10,000, and miscellaneous cuts would save an additional $15,000.
• Under realized savings, health insurance, workers compensation, staffing and fuel costs are less than anticipated, saving $77,000.
• And under other savings, the full amount of $200,000 allocated for overlay is not needed and would be reduced for a savings of $33,000.
Total savings realized would be $275,000.
For fiscal year 2010, Poore said he’s predicting a budget gap of $600,000 to $700,000.
“We’re targeting our approach to that similar to how I presented the mid-year analysis,” he said. “If there’s an expectation to balance this and have no mil rate impact at all, it will have to effect services; there will be sacrifices that will have to be made.”
In other council business:
• Councilor Cathy Breen said the Facilities Committee is meeting with at least 30 groups prior to the March 12 Community Facilities Planning Project at Plummer-Motz school.
• Councilor Bonny Rodden said METRO has reduced the amount it will charge Falmouth by $20,000 because it is unable to obtain new or used buses.
• Although a number of appointments have been made to many boards and committees, Councilor Teresa Pierce said there are still more needed. Those interested may apply online at town.falmouth.me.us.
• An item to approve a resolution to protect River Point was tabled because the agenda had it incorrectly listed as the approval of the management plan. It will be revisited with the proper posting at the council’s Feb. 9 meeting.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.