2017-04-27 / Letters

School and city budget presented

To the editor:

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery”

– Calvin Coolidge

Yes, it is the time of year again. Taxpayers: How much do you want your taxes to increase? Answer: It depends on what actions as a taxpayer you take to stop the spending presented by the Saco city administrator and superintendent in regards to their respective budgets. As a resident and taxpayer, right now is your opportunity to speak about the city and school budgets.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government spoke at the public hearing April 18. Posted on our Facebook page and website: www.sacocitizensforsensiblegovernment.org are comments and spreadsheet of amendments, reductions and suggestions presented to the council, mayor and city administrator.

With revenue and expenditures coming in over budget in fiscal year 2016 by $1.3 million on the city side and the fact the city is ahead of projects for fiscal year 2017, there is no reason the taxpayers of Saco cannot see a decrease in their tax bills.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government made some suggestions for reductions in the city and school budget:

 Limit number of summer interns. The budget purposes five interns for a cost of approximately $25,000. No projects were listed to support this request. Is the public aware that last year five interns were hired? What did they accomplish? Saco Citizens for Sensible Government suggests the city administrator focus on current issues. Overseeing five additional individuals for a limited time is not the best use of funds. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government would support one intern.

 Special project position – eliminate it for a savings of $83,000. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government takes this position because the council’s approval was for an audit/ grant writer position in the fiscal year 2017 budget. A five-month delay occurred in the hiring process. When all was said and done, the position was not what the council approved.

 School department. The good news is the projected increase in health insurance was not 8 percent but was 1.293 percent. This saved the school budget $449,613. Still, with these savings, the projected increase in cost for the fiscal year 2018 budget is $2,046,847. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government suggested the school board revisit recommendations previously put forth and reduce the school department’s budget by an additional $600,000.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government presented questions to the city administrator, mayor and council members:

 Assessing department. In fiscal year 2017 a decision was made to collaborate with the city of Biddeford’s assessing department. Additional funds were used for the collaboration. Was this a successful endeavor? What has been the gain for the extra funds spent to the residents of Saco?

 Request to increase human resource staff. The number of city employees is approximately 165 year round. Why does the human resources deputy director require an additional staff person when there is a half-time payroll position to support this individual? The city administrator states there has been significant staff turnover. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government asked the following: How many employees are left and how many staff have beenhired by department. The answer to these questions may indicate an issue with a particular department.

 Amount city engineer bills for services performed. Why is the city using a lower rate for the city engineer to provide services to individuals or businesses in the community? The rate charged should be the going rate charged by an engineer hired in the private sector. Why is the municipality doing this at all?

 Remap Sawyer Brook for a cost savings of $15,000. This would allow taxpayers in this section of town not to have to continue to pay flood insurance. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government believes this remapping can be accomplished by our city engineer.

Amendments proposed to the budget:

 Hire staff attorney. The funds currently spent on an outside attorney exceeds the cost of employing an attorney with salary and benefits internally. This would save the city money.

 Record preservation. The city code is in need of updating. This is an important document for the overall operation of a governmental organization. The cost is $8,000.

These are some examples of proposed amendments.

 On May 1, the council will discuss in workshop recommendations, suggestions and questions presented by all individuals during the public hearing, staff, etc. Between now and May 1 is the time to reach out to your council or school board member representing your ward regarding the budget. City budget link: http://www.sacomaine.org/ departments/administration/budget_ materials.php

School budget link: http://sacoschools.org/departments/ finance/budget_ 2016-17/department_ budgets

Please contact Saco Citizens for Sensible Government at sacocitizenssensiblegovernment@gmail.com with questions, comments or additional information.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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