Farmington Selectboard reviews revised budgets
FARMINGTON – Selectmen met Tuesday evening to look at revised budget proposals, and to discuss procedures for a tentatively rescheduled Town Meeting.Farmington Fire Rescue faces a difficult situation in terms of their proposed budget. The department had originally requested adding two full-time firefighters and one additional per diem firefighter to the team, taking the department from four full-time positions to six. Those positions would have added $217,491 to the department’s Personnel Services cost, bringing it up to $601,759.Chief Terry Bell told the board that in an effort to lower their proposed budget, he recommended revoking the requested per diem position, but the full-time positions are still a high priority need for the department who faces a major lack of man power. Currently the evenings of Sunday and Monday are unstaffed, and filled by per diem firefighters when available.“Our biggest problem is the man power. By having those two more full timers we’ll be able to have two people here 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Bell said. “Of the whole budget, I feel it is the most important to add those two positions.”In an attempt to commit to lessening the burden for tax payers, the department suggested using the entirety of the reserve account, which currently has about $75,000 according to Town Manager Richard Davis. Even with the reserve account funds, the overall budget would still be $68,673 more than the previous fiscal year. Bell trimmed down other areas of the budget as well, resulting in a newly proposed budget of $603,896.With the current crisis faced by the state due to COVID-19, Davis said the town is making it a priority to lessen the burden on tax payers.“It’s hard to have good financial practices and add personnel at this time,” Selectboard Chair Joshua Bell said. “Everybody understands the dilemma you’re in, and we all agree that we need to do something in the very near future. But the flip side is, is this the time to be adding more?”Bell and the board agreed to look closer at the idea of adding one full-time position, while trying to keep some funds in the reserve account for unanticipated emergencies. The department will present a revised proposal at the next meeting.Farmington Police Department Chief Jack Peck also presented a revised budget, in an attempt to lower the figure presented to tax payers later this summer. After making reductions in several areas, including reducing a full-time posted position to half time, and cutting down vehicle expenses by half, the final number would save $71,733. Peck said the budget is a work in progress.Difficulties with traffic lights have caused an increase in the proposed budget; Davis said several issues have caused the budget line to go over by $7,000. The town is proposing increasing the Traffic Light Maintenance budget by $10,000, bringing it to $20,000 total.Much remains up in the air as far as the annual town meeting goes, but Davis suggested tentatively planning to hold some kind of vote on July 20. The state primary vote has been moved to July 14 and the board agreed that it would make sense to hold the selectmen’s ballot on the same day. If social distancing is still encouraged by July 20, Davis said a referendum vote could take place in lieu of a regular town meeting, or they could look into keeping social distancing practices in place.