By Dominik Lobkowicz
Somerville Budget Committee members (from left) Geraldine Kimball, Susan Greer, Don Chase, Brad Snow, Darlene Landry, and Alice Rafuse vote unanimously
to bring the proposed municipal budget to the voters. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
The Somerville Budget Committee unanimously moved its proposed budget forward for annual town meeting, even though several members are concerned over a 40 percent larger request
from the Somerville Volunteer Fire Department.
Budget committee member Brad Snow said the committee concentrated on keeping costs down in light of anticipated increases in the town’s share of the RSU 12 and
Lincoln County budgets.
The overall municipal budget is proposed at $412,069, a decrease of $14,614 or 3.4 percent, but the fire department’s request came in at $58,750, up $16,950 or 40.6
According to Fire Chief Mike Dostie, the department’s aging equipment has finally caught up with them and a variety of items now need to be replaced, including
turnout gear and air packs.
Some equipment was also replaced in the current budget, but other pieces are worn out and need to be replaced to meet Department of Labor requirements, he said.
If the equipment is not replaced, the department could still be required to replace the equipment and face fines as well, Dostie said. The department is trying to
get on a five-year replacement plan, he said.
Dostie said the request also includes funds for: duct work and insulation at the department’s north station to reduce heating costs; a fire prevention program at the
new pre-kindergarten program in town; repairs to an electrical issue with the generator at the department’s south station; roof and wall repairs at one of the stations; and for
the installation of two hydrants, one on Route 17 and one on the Turner Mill Pond.
“I have a hard time standing behind $59,000,” Snow said, after Dostie’s presentation.
Budget Committee Alice Rafuse said she understands where Snow is coming from, but if Dostie feels the department needs the equipment, then the townspeople should
vote on that request.
First Selectman and budget committee member Susan Greer said the department’s budget is too high and some areas should be funded through donations or grants, but
agreed with Rafuse that the townspeople should decide.
“We’re doing everything we can to raise money,” Dostie said, adding that Somerville is the only department in the county where no members, including the chief, get
Dostie said he would not ask for something he did not absolutely need, and replacing the turnout gear and air packs are something the department needs.
Snow agreed the firefighters need to be properly equipped, but questioned how much money should be spent on equipment at one time. Spending money on protecting the
firefighters is important, but does not guarantee homeowners a thing, he said.
Many lines in the budget are proposed to remain flat, or had relatively small increases or decreases.
In the administration category, the budget lines for office supplies (e.g. toner, paper) and maintenance supplies (e.g. cleaning supplies, toilet paper) are both
proposed to decrease.
Office supplies would decrease $5,450 or 69 percent, and maintenance supplies would decrease $700 or 29.2 percent.
According to Greer, part of the reason for the decrease in office supplies was a contingency was included in the current budget for a piece of software for the town
office that did not end up being purchased.
“We have all the software we need,” she said.
With both of those supply categories, the town also did not have a good idea how much was actually going to be needed for the current year, and the budget committee
did not want to over-budget on those lines again, she said.
The road maintenance repair line is also proposed to decrease by $4,120 or 7.6 percent to an even $50,000.
The proposal is down because some of the work the line would normally be used for will be taken care of during reconstruction projects planned for certain sections
of road later this year, Greer said.
Also, the full budget was not spent in the current year, so the budget committee felt comfortable lowering the request, she said.
In February, voters approved transferring $200,000 from the town’s general fund to the capital road construction reserve account. At the time, Greer said the funds
would go toward reconstruction of town’s gravel roads with the most serious need.
The budget includes a $926 increase to the town clerk’s salary, which Greer said was due to the current town clerk, Kelly Payson-Roopchand, taking on new duties and
because the town clerk’s pay rate was $2 to $3 lower than similar positions in similarly sized towns.
Payson-Roopchand’s hourly rate is currently $13.20 and would increase to $14; the average of the other clerks were $15 to $17 per hour, Greer said.
Somerville’s annual town meeting is scheduled for Saturday, June 13 at 10 a.m., officials said.