By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Middletown likely will cut its town manager and two other employees under the proposed fiscal 2013 budget.
Town Council members after back-to-back meetings this week decided to eliminate the top administrative post and two part-time positions in order to balance the proposed spending plan. Council approved on a first and second reading a $1.6 million budget for fiscal 2013. The matter goes to a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Monday after which council will take a final vote on the spending plan.
The budget as proposed represents a decrease of $200,000 from the current plan of $1.8 million, according to Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV.
"We're already cheaper than last year's budget," Harbaugh said Friday. "This budget that we put into effect doesn't have to raise one penny in taxes. I think that's a good thing."
The budget as proposed eliminates the three positions. In addition to the town manager, held by Joan Roche, council recommended cutting a part-time detective from the Middletown Police Department and a part-time maintenance worker job with the Department of Public Works. Harbaugh noted council came to an "overwhelming consensus" on the recommendation. Council looked at making cuts elsewhere to balance the budget but ultimately decided on the position cuts, according to the mayor.
By eliminating the manager position the town saves $51,000, according to Harbaugh. Cutting the two part-time positions saves the town a combined $25,000.
"It was a consensus of council that we didn't need a town manager and we believe that the department heads can run the thing themselves and ... they could just report to the mayor when there was trouble, and council believe that the $51,000 position [is] unnecessary and there was a chunk of change that was more than the town could afford at this time," Harbaugh said, adding that the total saved of approximately $75,000 is "a good bit of money on a small town's budget."
The mayor later noted he felt "proud" of the fact council shrunk the budget.
"I'm not proud of having to cut the employee positions but, you know, I've only been on the job two months and your first thing is the budget," Harbaugh said. "It's pretty stressful ... and especially with all new councilors."
Council only recently added the chief administrative position to lead government staff after a recommendation by then Mayor Marshall J. "Mark" Brown. For decades the mayor of Middletown assumed many of the responsibilities of the town manager.
Brown, along with Councilmen Gilbert D. "Gil" Barrington and John Wesley Blaisdell Jr., resigned their seats in March in protest, leaving the remaining members to fill the empty positions and then hash together a budget for the next fiscal year.
Harbaugh assumed the role of mayor and, while he can't vote on the town's budget, noted he feels Middletown is in better financial shape than council thought they might have been.
"We're just trying to send a message that we're tightening our belt," Harbaugh said.