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Mendon Budget Passed at Town Meeting

Mendon voters passed a $12.1 million operating budget during the May 6 Annual Town Meeting. Despite all town employees, including teachers, agreeing to a zero percent pay increase for Fiscal Year 2012, the level serviced budget contains a $1.1 million shortfall. As a way to help reduce the deficit, the Finance Committee recommended a Proposition 2 ½ operational override which passed by a 2/3 majority vote that evening and will be voted on a second time during the May 17 Town Election.

During the Town Meeting, Finance Committee Chair Chris Felton explained to voters there were four main reasons for the deficit including the state's requirement to fund more of the school district's budget; unfunded and underfunded mandates, including the schools' special education programs and the Police Department's Quinn Bill; efforts in Fiscal Year 2011 to maintain town services without adequate revenue resources; and other uncontrollable costs such as healthcare and pensions.

By law, the Finance Committee must present a balanced budget to the residents. As a result of the $1.1 million shortfall, the Fiscal Year 2012 budget reflected numerous cuts and/or level funded line items.

During the Town Meeting, the Finance Committee reviewed each department's budget and amount. Several questions were raised by residents, in particular the Police Department's $1,151,190 budget, which reflected a $122,000 cut from last year and will result in the loss of two police officers if the override fails.

"It's a lot of money," said resident Linda Labastie of the more than $1 million budget.

Labastie asked if Police and Fire Chief Ernest Horn could take a cut in his $100,000 salary. Horn replied that whether or not he's officially on duty, he works 24-hours a day, seven days a week. "Public safety is expensive but we cover you 24 hours a day," he answered. Horn did take a $5,000 cut in his Fire Chief's salary from $20,000 to $15,000 for Fiscal Year 2012. He also reiterated that the Public Safety budget has been consistently reduced for multiple years.

"These cuts are devastating to the Public Safety Department," he said explaining that the Police Force is already short several officers from prior year cuts and many officers are now working single shifts without backup.

Other cuts in town departments reflected in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget include reducing the General Government's overall budget by nearly $110,000 from last year, reducing the Senior Center's budget by $23,000 and the Parks Department by more than $12,000. The Public Works budget also showed a large cut of $60,000. However, both the Regional School District budget and the Blackstone Valley Technical High School's budget reflected increases of $283,000 and $143,000, respectively.

Revenue projections in Fiscal Year 2012 budget show new growth at $100,000, state aid at $392,989, and the 2 ½ tax increase growth at $240,201.


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