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Council finds accord on 2003 budget

With few issues yet to be decided on the city’s 2003 budget, Councilman Bill Knobloch was confident that accord could be reached in short order.

“It’s really not that bad,” Knobloch said, as a final budget workshop got under way Monday, “if council members restrain themselves from commentary.”

Four hours later, the council adjourned with general agreement on a $17.13 million operations budget for next year.

The plan represents an increase over operations spending of $16.5 million in 2002 when “carryover” items are factored in, but represents cuts of more than $1 million in spending requests from the mayor’s draft budget.

Finance Director Ralph Eells called it “one of the more aggressive cuttings of a mayoral budget that we’ve seen.”

While hewing to a policy of “no net increase in staffing,” the council Monday agreed to maintain the city’s human resources director as a full time position next year. The decision followed an agreement last week to take the city administrator’s post off the list of possible cuts.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, in turn, said she would come back to the council within six months to propose changes to the city management structure. She declined to elaborate, telling council members only that “I think you’ll all support the recommendations that I make.”

Other positions were not spared as the council made a final pass through the budgets of each city departments.

Pared out without comment was a request for a new police officer, which spells the likely end of the Student Resource Officer in local middle schools. Chief Bill Cooper has said that officer will be reassigned to other duties, probably a new “Community Preparedness Officer” post.

But a new parking enforcement officer – approved in 2002, but not yet filled – got the go-ahead, over the objections of several council members.

“I don’t want to be part of something that turns downtown Winslow into a more regimented, ‘get in, get out’ atmosphere,” said Councilman Michael Pollock, who favored deferring the post until mid-year while other parking strategies are tried.

Agreed Deborah Vancil: “The first thing we’re going to do is fine people in a dysfunctional parking system.”

But other council members countered that better enforcement has the backing of downtown business interests, and was a key recommendation in a report by the city’s parking committee.

Council members generally agreed to pare back the public works department budget through “managed savings” – cutting some funds for projects that won’t be completed next year, with the expectation that they will be added back in 2004.

Among the dissenters was Christine Nasser Rolfes, who called the cuts “symbolic” rather than substantive.

Also, postponed for at least a year was the “Winslow Roundtable,” a street-planning effort for downtown expected to cost about $35,000.

The budget will be adopted by the council at this evening, after discussion of revenue issues that include the size of the water rate hike to be imposed on Winslow residents. A 19.8 percent hike is projected.

Also outstanding is an island-wide increase in the stormwater utility fee, expected to climb from $60 per year for residential users to $84.

Total city revenue for 2003 will fall within the 1 percent growth cap imposed by Initiative 747.

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