Berlin Approves Moves To Address State Budget Cuts

BERLIN – Over $200,000 in budget cuts were confirmed by the Berlin Mayor and Council this week, reflecting state reductions in highway and police aid that came down a month ago.

The town council agreed to the suggested $230,000 in cuts Monday night.

The Maryland Board of Public Works slashed millions from county and town budgets throughout the state in August, leaving Berlin with $223,000 less than budgeted.

Mayor Gee Williams asked the town’s department heads to reduce expenditures by an extra $7,000 to give the town a little cushion against unexpected future budget changes.

Hiring for two unfilled positions in the Berlin Police Department was postponed, saving over $84,000. One position was left vacant by a police officer now on extended medical leave, while the other position was vacated by an officer called up to serve in the U. S. Armed Forces five years ago.

The Berlin police officer now serving in the military will have a job when he returns.

“We’re required to have that job available,” said Williams.

The mayor said that, when that police officer returns, money will be found to pay his salary in the police department by making cuts elsewhere.

“It would be a nice problem to have. We’d love to have him back,” said Williams.

Berlin’s Public Works Department also saw reductions. A $55,000 study on making the town’s public restrooms compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act will now be postponed.

The need for engineering services has dwindled, said Public Works Director Mike Gibbons, so some of that funding can be cut, without the need to engineer road projects for next year. Engineering for such projects is conducted a year in advance of construction.

More work will be done by in-house personnel, rather than by contractors, Gibbons said.

The Planning and Zoning Department will hold off on hiring someone to fill a recently vacated position as well.

“All three positions we’d be seeking to fund for the next fiscal year,” said Williams. “All three are important.”

Currently, the rest of the town staff will have to do more with less, Williams said.

 One position Berlin will fill is the finance director slot, left empty by Jo-Ellen Mason-Foley’s departure for a different position. Interviewing for that position began this week.