Friday, May 1–Berlin Expecting County To Decrease Grant

BERLIN – Berlin will base part of its $13.7 million budget around an estimated $400,000 from Worcester County, $50,000 less than the town’s request for fiscal year 2010 (FY10) funds.

Although the County Commissioners have yet to begin budget deliberations, the town asked for an estimate of the county’s grant this week in order to factor that revenue into budget deliberations, which will begin in the next 10 days, and were told $400,000 should be expected.

“I’m really grateful for that. I have no complaints,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

“It’s a roller coaster ride, what you’re reading in the newspaper,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch of the county’s FY10 budget.

A proposed contingency fund included in the FY10 budget could help smooth out any reduction in county money, suggested Councilman Troy Purnell.

Berlin asked for $450,000 from Worcester County for FY10, the same as the amount granted by the county last year. County funding is the only major Berlin revenue source in question.

Berlin’s elected officials will begin making budget decisions on a proposed $13.7 million in requests early this month, during a work session held before the May 11 Berlin Mayor and Council meeting.

The proposed Berlin budget includes a 3-percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for employees and still cuts $210,000 as compared to the fiscal year 2009 operating budget. The town’s operating budget was also amended in February, reducing it by $338,000.

Williams credited staff with the FY10 proposed budget reductions.

“Because they did a good job doing that, it made it a little easier for me,” he said. “I have to give them the credit.”

The budget process will continue with a work session May 11, at 6 p.m., prior to the regular Berlin Mayor and Council meeting. The discussion will last no later than 7:30 and be followed by the regular council meeting.

Williams said he hopes there is not a lot left to discuss regarding budget decisions.

The proposed budget includes more town funds for fire and emergency services, taking over some of the funding burden from the county, as well as moving the Main Street Program manager, Michael Day, to full time and extending the Main Street Program’s economic development remit to the entire town.

“This is the time to be investing in the future of Berlin,” Williams said.

Several new line items, from money for website improvements to sidewalk repairs and funding for a study for a new multi-purpose building, are meant to fulfill specific citizen wishes that enjoy strong support throughout the town.

Approximately $10,000 has been set aside in the proposed budget for environmental initiatives, as part of the town’s partnership with Grow Berlin Green.

“At this point, we’ve brought a lot of enthusiasm but no money to it,” said Williams.

That funding, if kept in the budget, would pay for mini-grants to neighborhoods or citizens for small green projects like rain gardens or be used to construct rain barrels to would be sold at cost.

 The first reading of the proposed budget will take place at the May 25 Berlin Council meeting. The public budget hearing for Berlin will be held at the June 8 meeting, and the budget will either be passed that evening, or at the June 22 town council meeting.

“I want the council to have all the time they need,” said Williams.