Byline: M. Elizabeth Roman
FITCHBURG - Mayor Dan H. Mylott presented a fiscal 2008 budget to City Council members last night that was about $1 million above his estimates and about $700,000 short of being balanced as promised. His attempt to meet revenues by creating a last-minute trash fee won no support.
Mayor Mylott's proposed budget of $96,484,958 included $760,000 in anticipated revenue from a city trash fee program that exists only as a proposal the mayor submitted last night.
The pages of the mayor's budget proposal were still warm from photocopying that occurred minutes before the council's meeting.
Councilors must vote on the budget before June 30, the last day of the fiscal year. "We worked on this until 7 p.m.," Mayor Dan H. Mylott told councilors at their 7:30 meeting. "The city budget is balanced, with severe reductions in all city departments."
He said his budget also would add $20,000 to the city's thin stabilization fund, bringing it to $50,000.
Mr. Mylott said eight positions in the Fire Department and nine positions in the Police Department are cut in the budget proposal. Dozens of school positions would be pruned to allow for a reduced $44.1 million School Department budget. School Committee members voted to approve the changes Monday. "The budget is not balanced," Councilor Stephan Hay told the mayor during his presentation. "I think it's inappropriate (to include the proposed trash fee). It's inappropriate and wrong."
Mr. Mylott told councilors the trash fee was a recommendation from the state Department of Revenue.
"It's something that's been looked at the last two years," Mr. Mylott said. "We didn't just pull it out of thin air."
Councilor David Clark said he thought the trash fee proposal deserved to be discussed outside of budget proceedings. Councilors discussed problems with including a new program in revenue projections, including unknown startup costs and mitigating residents' reaction, or possible rebellion, to the fees.
"This is the ultimate of grasping at straws," Mr. Clark said. "We have to put a stop to it."...