This story was corrected to say that Plante’s plan increases the property tax rate by 1 percent.

 

Windham is looking for ways to cut $1 million from a projected $14.4 municipal budget, and town officials say layoffs and reduced programs and services are likely.

Town Manager Tony Plante said Thursday that cuts will be made by leaving vacant jobs open, not replacing workers who retire and cutting some seasonal, part-time and full-time employees.

Plante said hours at the town office, the public library, and parks may be reduced.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “None of us are finding this easy, but we all recognize that the situation has changed.”

Plante said reductions in state aid and municipal revenue, along with increases in fuel costs, health insurance and general assistance, are producing the budget gap, even with an 8.5 percent increase in the tax rate.

Plante said the projected budget must be cut to about $13.4 million. In briefings with the Town Council earlier this year, Plante presented a plan to increase the property tax rate by one percent. Windham’s 2009 tax rate of $11.75 includes a municipal tax rate of $3.85. One percent of this amount would be about four cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The preliminary budget calls for wage freezes for non-union town employees for a second year. He said town officials are working with union representatives to find savings in existing contracts, but they haven’t reached an agreement.

Wages and benefits represent about 56 percent of the municipal budget.

Town Council Chairman William Tracy said the biggest challenge is determining how to make cuts with an already lean budget and move forward with the town’s major infrastructure needs, such as repairing roads.

“We are in for some pretty difficult choices,” Tracy said. “There will be some positions eliminated. It’s incredibly unfortunate, because then we have to look at the services we will be able to retain and what we have to let go.”

Brian Wolcott, the town’s finance director, said officials have discussed how many positions may need to be cut, but he declined to disclose a number.

“It’s a bleak outlook, and we will have to make some significant cuts to balance revenues and expenses,” Wolcott said.

“If we were to find revenues to be a little more rosy than what we are currently seeing, it would help to lessen the cuts.”

Plante will present the budget to the council March 30. The finance committee will review the budget before it goes to a public hearing. After the council adopts the budget, residents will have the final vote at town meeting June 12.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]