By Beth David, Editor
Fairhaven still has a projected budget shortfall of $450,000. The numbers from the state are preliminary, but if all holds true, the town will have some tough decisions to make. The amount is a lot to cut from alreay lean budgets, so the town’s budget consultant, Rich Bienvenue, has suggested a Proposition 2 1/2 override to fund the difference. That would require a Town Meeting vote anda a town-wide vote.
Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison said the town has been using free cash and other one-time money to fund the general operating budget for at least several years.
One way it has happened is that expenses have not been realistically estimated by departments. Then the town holds a Special Town Meeting and uses Free Cash to make up the deficit.
“You can’t keep robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Ms. Ellison, kind of like Wimpy from Popeye, who said: I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
“That’s what we’ve been doing.”
The Select Board and Finance Committee have been meeting on an accelerated schedule to go over department budgets and try to figure out where to cut costs.
Ms. Ellison said they will have to present an alternative budget to Town Meeting. One with the $450K included, pending the override vote, and one without, which will have deep cuts.
When asked about possible layoffs, Ms. Ellison said: “I’m not going in that direction at all.”
All department heads need to go through their budgets, she said and look at them from a “fiscal management perspective.”
“We haven’t determined where the cuts are going to come from,” said, but department heads were told to “anticipate some level of cuts.”
The two boards met with Fire, Police, Schools, Marine Resources, Council on Aging, Information Technology, and Cable Access. They will meet this Thursday with the financial departments, permitting departments, Planning, Public Works.
The town is still looking for a Finance Director/Treasurer.
“We need that position to be more of a strategic player and planner of our financial well being,” she said.
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