Berlin Eyes $600K In Budget Cuts

BERLIN – Although it is far from finalized, Berlin officials this week had high praise for the first draft of their fiscal year 2010 budget, which appears to come in at around $600,000 less than the current spending plan.

The Berlin Mayor and Council continued to work on the town’s proposed $13.7 million budget during a special work session before the regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. While there are still a few variables, including the amount of grant funding Berlin will receive from Worcester County, town officials expect next year’s budget to come in at around $600,000 less than last year while preserving the quality of services and including a modest pay hike for town employees.

While other jurisdictions are struggling with major budget cuts and potential layoffs and furloughs, Berlin officials are comfortable with their budget this year. The town has asked the county for $400,000 in grant money in the current funding cycle and it remains to be seen if Berlin will receive that amount. Ocean City, for example, was informed this week it was getting about 10 percent less than what it requested.

Nonetheless, Mayor Gee Williams was pleased with the town’s budget plan as the special session concluded on Monday. He praised the town’s department heads for scrutinizing their own individual budgets.

“We got a lot of detailed information provided by staff to allow us to make informed decisions,” he said. “Basically, what we did this year is we empowered the staff in the budget process. This is your budget too.”

Williams said that empowerment has resulted in considerable savings for the town as it moves forward in its budget process.

“They know they have the authority when they see something that needs changing,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have the right people in the right places with our department heads.”

It’s no secret Berlin has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and Williams said that growth spurt has insulated the town from some of the problems other communities are facing.

“We’re benefiting from the growth that took place during the boon years,” he said. “It’s kicking in now. We’re basically dealing with a financial slowdown rather than the financial crisis other communities are feeling. … Hopefully, we can get through this time of uncertainty without any cuts in basic services and might even be able to do some new things.”