Selectman has suggestions for budget savings

MILFORD – Towns pro­vide emergency services, and they’re expected to keep roads in reasonably good repair, protect the environment and get rid of trash.

But what else should they do?

With the town Delib­erative Session about two months away, officials are working on keeping a flat budget for next year. Last March, the town’s operat­ing budget was rejected by voters for the second year in a row.

Selectman Gary Daniels suggested at the select­men’s Nov. 28 meeting that they prioritize spending items after thinking about the function of govern­ment.

Providing recreation is questionable, he said, as is some social services spending.

"If it’s not a core func­tion, take it out of the op­erating budget," he said. "It’s incumbent on us to look at things we have to provide and want to pro­vide.

"I just want to get the conversation started."

Other selectmen ob­jected, saying the budget won’t have unnecessary items. Board Chairman Mark Fougere noted there is a lot of spending that is beyond their control, such as health insurance, and that the town has pared down staff in recent years.

"We don’t have two building inspectors or two planners anymore," he said. "We are getting into the bone."

Town Administrator Mark Bender said one police cruiser has been out of the budget and that the town will refur­bish an old one.

Daniels also said se­lectmen could look into privatizing fields mainte­nance.

The big warrant article planned for March is a $5 million road main­tenance bond. Select­men are expected to talk about it at their next meeting, Monday, Dec. 12. The bond was postponed last year in favor of the $5.6 million bond for a new Wadleigh Memorial Library, which voters re­jected.

The plan is to repair roads over five years based on their needs – similar to the road bond­ing project Amherst started a few years ago.

Selectmen agreed that voters need easy-to-understand information on what $5 million will buy.

"We need to put it in laymen’s terms. Most people don’t know what chip seal is," Daniels said, referring to a pave­ment surface treatment typically used on rural roads.

Selectmen met with the Budget Committee on Nov. 19 and were sched­uled to meet again Dec. 7.

The town budget and bond hearing is sched­uled for Jan. 9 and the Deliberative Session for Feb. 4, when voters can review and amend the wording and dollar amounts of warrant ar­ticles.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.