Nearing 0% increase for town departments, selectmen review budget

Within $10,000 of their targeted 0% increase in the budget for town departments — excluding the schools — the Board of Selectmen reviewed some of the “puts and takes” that had gotten it to the verge of a budget that would remain flat from 2018-19 to 2029-20. 
The town departments’ budget was at $36,493,175 when the selectmen met Friday afternoon, Feb. 22 — that would be just $9,462 or 0.03% more than the current year’s allocation.
The selectmen did not formally adjust that figure — no motions were made, and most of the work was by consensus — but they did discuss some areas for possible further review while going through a list of adjustments already made, and First Selectman Rudy Marconi said later that the cuts discussed would do the job. 
“We’re pretty much at zero, after Friday’s meeting,” Marconi said.
At Friday’s meeting the selectmen looked over a $231,000 overall adjustment list that included $23,500 in additions to three budget lines: $10,000 more for Kids in Crisis; a $10,000 increase in the first selectman’s salary, proposed by Selectman Steve Zemo; and a $3,500 increase to overtime in the canine control budget.
The $23,500 in additions were outweighed by nearly $237,000 in cuts, ranging from a $74,000 savings that would be achieved by keeping the town engineer’s position vacant for another half a year to a $50 reduction in the request for office supplies at the Zoning Board of Appeals. 
There are areas board members felt needed more discussion — in some cases more research.
“I’m not 100% convinced we should add $10,000 to the first selectman’s salary,” said Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark.
“I’d like to look at the revenue side of the golf course,” said Selectman Bob Hebert.
He wondered why the golf pro didn’t pay the town rent for the golf pro shop, the way the operator of the golf course’s restaurant pays rent for that space.
“He uses the pro shop to sell golf balls, shoes, lessons, camps, and he keeps all that revenue,” Hebert said.
Marconi said pro Frank Sergiovanni is paid a salary by the town and also allowed to run the pro shop as his own operation, but the town gets the revenue from greens fees and cart rentals at the course.
“We’re usually breaking even or making money, depending on mother nature,” Marconi said,
“We’re $130,000 in the hole this fiscal year — the late opening because of the snow, and all the rains we had.”
The selectmen are moving into more budget work the first week of March when they have budget meetings scheduled in town hall Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, March 4, 5 and 7, at 7 p.m, with budget discussion also possible at a regular selectmen’s meeting scheduled Wednesday, March 6, at 7:30.
“We’ll be reviewing where we’re at,” Marconi said.
He said the town’s major departments — police, fire, highway, parks and recreation — would have a chance to come in during the week of meetings and defend their budget requests, or protest cuts the selectmen have made.
“It’s their option whether they want to come in or not,” he said.
“Eventually, at the end of that week, we have to vote on our operating budget, the total capital budget — both Board of Education and town requests —and finally a non-binding recommendation to the Board of Finance on the school operating budget,” Marconi said.