BERLIN – As it has for several years, April will mark the start of the town’s budget work sessions.
Berlin department directors are set to meet with the mayor and town council April 16 and April 30 to review the proposed budget. The spending plan for the coming year, which goes into effect July 1, is typically approved in early June.
Town Administrator Laura Allen said that as usual, the challenge in developing the budget was determining which projects should be funded in the coming year.
“We can do anything, we just can’t do everything,” she said. “That’s sort of what the budget process is about, sifting through priorities and figuring out what we’re going to do. The budget’s basically a plan for the coming year.”
On April 16, town leaders will review the proposed general fund budget while the utility fund budgets will be discussed April 30. The Berlin Fire Company’s annual funding request will be reviewed during the regular council meeting scheduled for April 23.
The Berlin Fire Company funding study commissioned late last fall is still underway, according to Allen.
“We should have something in the next couple weeks,” she said.
Completion of the study, which is meant to identify operational and capital needs of the company going forward, was delayed.
“We had some challenges getting information in the right format from the county from the CAD system —Computer Aided Dispatch,” she said. “There was some manual entry the consultants had to do and that’s taking longer than expected.”
Mayor Gee Williams says he’s hopeful the study, once complete, will identify the fire company’s needs, both long-term and immediate.
“Obviously we’ll discuss what may need to be addressed,” he said.
Another issue expected to come up during the budget process is the need for a parking study.
“I expect that will be widely supported,” Williams said. “I’m very interested in getting that discussion started and getting some objective consultants to take a look.”
Allen is hopeful that the parking study will coincide with the review of the town’s comprehensive plan, which is required every 10 years.
“We’re beginning that cycle,” Allen said. “It makes sense to have a conversation about growth and parking in the context of that requirement. To my mind they’re all related.”
She said the town had submitted an application for a grant that would help with the comprehensive plan review but that whether it was received or not the project would need to be undertaken.
“My hope is to get grant funding for that but if not we will have some money in the budget to help with that community engagement process,” she said.
While budget discussions begin in April, the document will be formally introduced in May. The town will host a public hearing to give residents a chance to comment on the proposed spending plan before it’s formally approved in June.