Council expects to change Murray’s budget

Council expects to change Murray’s budget

CUMBERLAND – Town Council members say they’ll likely make a number of changes to Mayor Bill Murray’s budget, though they say it’s too early to say what the final spending plan will look like.

The first public hearing on Murray’s 2017-2018 budget was set for Wednesday evening, May 17. A second public hearing and first budget vote will be held Wednesday, May 31, at 6:30 p.m. at McCourt Middle School. A final vote is set for Wednesday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

Council President Peter Bradley said he would wait to hear what the public had to say on the budget, but does expect some changes to be made. One change he won’t likely be pushing is reducing the $2.3 million Murray plans to send to schools. He said it’s “obvious that the schools are in trouble” financially, with continued shortfalls.

School Supt. Robert Mitchell said school officials are grateful for the bump Murray has proposed, but the schools are still in a position, given years of small or no funding increases, of having to make cuts to staff. Once school officials find out exactly how much they’re getting from the town, they’ll be in a better position to know where those cuts will come from, he said.

Town Councilor Thomas Kane, part of an apparent new council majority that’s battled Murray on a few fronts, said he is looking forward to reviewing and discussing Murray’s $104 million spending plan, especially with “strong needs across all town departments.”

The budget “must be forward thinking,” said Kane, while ensuring that the town remains competitive on taxes.

“The Town Council will also do our due diligence to provide the proper checks and balances to the mayor’s proposal,” he said. “Cumberland cannot afford another costly budget mishap.”

He was referring to Murray telling the council last year that the town would need a 3 percent levy increase, but due to an error, the town needed 3.8 percent when the levy was set last month, ending the idea of possibly giving the schools more money.

Town Councilor Lisa Beaulieu said she has a number of concerns about Murray’s budget, including more “potential errors” in the levy worksheet. Though the council isn’t setting the levy as part of the budget, the data and calculations do not appear to be correct, she said, resulting in “misleading levy information” and possible issues with Murray’s proposed 72-cent increase on the tax rate.

Finance Director Jason Parmelee, answering Beaulieu, explained that he used no appreciation on assessed values to calculate the tax rate.

“I went as conservative ‘worst case scenario tax rate’ as I could, and didn’t want to account for increases in assessed value prior to us knowing what those could be,” he said.

Additionally, if the town gets hit with lawsuits over the “illegal tax” that Councilor Scott Schmitt mentioned, by us not correcting the ordinance for the tangible tax rate, “we would be in a real pickle if we accounted for increases that would be wiped away by that,” he said.

Beaulieu said she’s concerned about the use of surplus funds on both the town and school sides, and whether they are creating additional structural shortfalls in the future.

Both Bradley and Beaulieu questioned Murray’s goal of trying to make Cumberland more like North Attleboro, Mass., in terms of strict traffic enforcement. Beaulieu said the message in adding three new officers should be more about safety concerns and how police can help solve and manage problems through best practices instead of seeking more speeding tickets.

“Outcomes may absolutely include additional resources and planning changes, but the message should be focused on how we can improve the quality of life for our neighborhoods,” she said. “Plaguing speed issues in town is no secret, but there are much better ways to deliver a solution.”

Bradley said there is no comparison between Cumberland and North Attleboro, especially since Cumberland has far more land mass and North Attleboro has a much larger police force, or about 35 more officers.

He said he’s all about shoring up the police department with more officers, but doesn’t think more ticketing should be the big motivation. Adding officers is “a step in the right direction,” he said, but the town won’t have some sort of glut of police officers if three people are added to the ranks. The town is down about 10 officers from a decade ago, said Bradley. Two officers were supposed to be added last year, but one candidate dropped out. There are also two or three officers who will potentially retire in the next few months, he said, meaning the department could be back at the same numbers it’s at today.

There’s also the matter of whether residents want to live in a town where they constantly have to look over their shoulder, said Bradley. Ticketing can be ramped up, but “within limitations.”

“You can’t have mayhem, but you can’t be afraid to go 26 miles an hour in a 25-mile zone,” he said. “It has to be under control, but not absurd.”

Comments

Beaulieu talks about. "Best practices " so let's hear her recommendations for slowing down speeders who routinely exceed speed limits by 10 to 20 mph in many parts of our town. I know that when speeders are ticketed there is a substantial chance they will not speed again for fear of higher insurance rates resulting in safer roads for everyone. Isn't this the result we want?
As far as Bradley's comment in the last sentence, you have to question where he comes up with this ridiculous statement. He certainly cannot provide any proof that this is being done in Cumberland.

Instead of posting on the main roads in town, how about posting on the side streets instead? Speeding in the plats is out of control.

Does the Town need to hire a liaison for the Mayor and Council?

This is getting ridiculous and I can't believe some-what grown adults would act like this. Mayor won't pay the bills or work with the council, council won't work with the Mayor. Both of your positions are to make this a better/safer town. I think the whole lot of them need to go on a team building retreat.

Maybe time outs are in order? Or maybe if they cant get together to move the town forward WE THE PEOPLE should have a special election to find people that can.