Chatham noodles budget numbers while public looks on

CHATHAM – The board met this week for a budget workshop meeting and invited the public to watch the process as board members reviewed village agency budget requests prior to creating the final budget. The village budget needs to be adopted by May 1, and the workshop numbers suggest a $1.2 million budget for 2011-2012.

Eleven village residents attended the Monday evening, March 7 workshop meeting as the board looked at the budgets for the Fire and Police departments, the Highway and Public Works Department, and water and sewer. The only department head attending the meeting was Fire Chief John Howe. Board members serve as commissioners for the various departments, and they presented the budget requests.

Though the public was invited, there was some heated debate about whether private citizens could ask questions of board members during the review process. “This is a workshop, not a public hearing,” said Trustee Dave Chapman, who became annoyed by questions from the audience. “I’m not going to sit here and listen to stupid questions,” he said.

But other board members were more receptive to questions from the public.

Mayor Paul Boehme and village Treasurer Carol Simmons both stressed that the numbers were still being changed and many of the budgets had just arrived at the clerk’s office. Mr. Boehme said after the meeting that this wasn’t even the preliminary budget but just the beginning of the process. “I don’t know of any other town or village who opens up their budget process,” Mr. Boehme said to villagers during the meeting.

The board distributed spreadsheets with budget request figures for the coming fiscal year, which runs from June through May, and the current year’s budget. Board members worked with detailed breakdowns of department budgets.

Trustee Patrick Wemitt said that projected Police Department budget was $272,941 and included a 50% cut in special event coverage and smaller cuts in clothing allowance for part-time officers.

“If you have a special event you want the police force for, you have to pay up,” said the mayor of the proposed cut to special event coverage.

Trustee Lael Locke asked about cutting police presence at events like the Memorial Day Parade, which is hosted by the village. Mr. Wemitt said they are still working on the details for events like that.

The Fire Department presented a $64,650 budget, with about $11,000 for vehicle repair. Chief Howe said the mayor and Trustee Locke, who is the fire commissioner, have asked him to do some long-term planning for new trucks. “We know down the road these are big ticket items,” he said about replacing 26-year-old truck.

The water and sewer budgets, which are created separately and generate revenue for the village, included upgrades to sewer lines, purchasing a new “jetter,” a device to clear out gutters, and general upkeep.  Though each department brings in over $200,000 in revenues the budgets are both over $340,000.

The board also discussed the Highway Department budget, looking at numbers for snow removal, street repair and the possibly of getting a new truck with a bond anticipation note borrowing that would mean paying for the vehicle over five years.

The board plans to hold another workshop meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 24, before the regular board meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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