Easton Senior Center director Valerie Buckley supports the proposed 2011-12 town budget, but with trepidation. She fears that once services are cut to keep the mill rate down, the town will be headed down a path from which it will never recover.
This has been the most miserable budget. I have seen a lot of fellow employees who probably don't even want to talk about it tonight. They're demoralized and probably fed up to the point where they are making decisions they know are wrong, Buckley said at last night's annual town meeting at Samuel Staples Elementary School .
It was the last stop for the budget before the May 3 referendum. As it stands, Easton is looking at a rise in the mill rate from 22.4 to 22.96 and a total increase in the overall operating budget of 1.5 percent, from $40,505,363 to $41,113,936.
No alterations were proposed for the budget. Rules dictate that the annual town meeting can push for reductions, but not increase spending. Because the budget is going to referendum, no vote was required last night.
The largest cut in the budget comes from the police department. Two records clerk positions have been eliminated. Factored into the rest of the department's budget request, it means the police will get $113,559 less this year.
Gas prices and wages were repeatedly referenced by Board of Finance Chairman Mark Palma as driving budget increases. Still, with cuts, the town side of the budget going to referendum increases by only 0.35 percent. But cuts aimed at keeping that increase to a minimum are exactly what has residents like Buckley concerned.
We'll watch buildings and maintenance go down the tube, we'll see programs in the schools never come back, Buckley said. These things never come back.
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