Selectmen look at town budget cuts

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser asked her and her fellow selectmen to explore $300,000 in cuts to the municipal budget, but she could come up with only $213,000 and selectmen would not endorse the numbers.

For its fiscal year 2017 budget, the Board of Selectmen has proposed $32,414,880, a figure $17,314 less than what it budgeted for fiscal year 2016, marking a 0.05% decrease fiscal year over year.

But as the Board of Finance attempts to address a $2.6 million shortfall — due to smaller than anticipated grand list growth, decreased surplus reserves, and an increase in debt service — it is considering tax hikes, budget cuts, and equations that involve both.

At the April 4 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Vanderslice said, “Jeff contacted me and requested that we provide the Board of Finance with a list of what we would do in reaction to a 1% cut, a 2% cut, and a 3% cut.”

But the first selectman said she told Rutishauser she “can’t even respond to a 2% or a 3% cut” because she’d be “getting into things that just don’t make any sense.”

“He gave me a revised ask of $300,000, which is close to the 1% cut,” Vanderslice said.

Still, Vanderslice couldn’t hit that mark. She moved some things around and got to $213,000, which she called “realistic.”

“If we have to produce $300,000, I can’t produce it all just on the town side,” she said. “I don’t have anything else.”

Selectmen had budgeted $20,000 to replace a health department vehicle, but police have an old cruiser they can decommission and donate for health department purposes.

“Instead of spending $20,000 on a used vehicle, we’ll use that, and that saves us $11,000,” Vanderslice said, because police usually get $9,000 for a trade-in. Swapping out training webinars for travel to conferences would save the finance department $3,000, she said.

“[Public Works Director] Tom [Thurkettle] said that he could move his fiscal year ’17 dump truck purchase into fiscal year ’18, and he felt comfortable moving all the dump trucks out a year,” Vanderslice said.

Other than that, Vanderslice added that she had all the departments look at their respective capital plans and make recommendations for spreading purchases out.

“That whole thing gets you to 213, and I’m OK with that,” Vanderslice said. “The question is, if we have to cut 300, where’s the balance coming from, and do we want to ask the nonprofits who have asked for increases to share in the reduction?”

“I’m not about to endorse this tonight,” said Selectman Dick Dubow.

“I think Dick’s got a valid point,” Second Selectman Michael Kaelin said.

“The four of us [selectmen] aren’t really in a position to make a decision on where the cuts would be tonight. If that’s what they do, that’s what they do,” he said.

“I would prefer to wait as well,” Selectman David Clune added before town executives agreed to pass Vanderslice’s recommendations on to Rutishauser without an official decision or endorsement from the board.