AUBURN, Mass. – The fiscal year 2014 budget isn’t due for several months, but Auburn officials are already looking at ways to attack the budget process.
The Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen held a joint meeting on Wednesday night, discussing the process in which they will allocate funding to town departments in the future.
Kevin Hussey, chair of the Finance Committee, said the town should have a process in which town departments (police, fire) give a budget wish list to the town manager.
“On May 1, we might have to tell the department heads that we have to pull back and can’t give them exactly what they want,” Hussey said. “But at least we went through the exercise.”
The Finance Committee said it’s a logical way to go about the process, as department heads would give their desired budget to the town manager, who would then bring the numbers to the selectmen.
“It has been an extremely frustrating process, and it’s been backwards to me,” Finance Committee member Kimberley Holstrom said about last year’s budget process. “We shouldn’t have department heads waste time, effort and taxpayer money by making their budgets two or three times. These people could be doing something else instead of doing budgets three times.”
But Selectmen Steve Simonian said the current budget process is fine. He said the “zero-based budget process has created an opportunity to prioritize the needs in town instead of asking for a wish list from department heads.”
“We have been able to come to a budget that has been beneficial to the town,” Simonian said. “We are one of the few towns around here with no layoffs, and we haven’t had to slash and burn school budgets.
“I just don’t see how this is a bad way of building the budget,” he continued. “Just because it creates a little more work for people? I just think that’s a poor excuse.”
But all of the selectmen don’t feel this way. Selectmen Kenneth Holstrom said it’s quite frustrating for department heads to have to recalculate their budgets over and over again.
“Let the town administration handle it, instead of going back and forth,” he said. “This is a better way to go instead of bouncing back and forth and causing frustration.”
Selectmen Chair Doreen Goodrich proposed another joint meeting in late September where they can vote on the future budget process.