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Budget demanded and faulted.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

FITCHBURG - Even though the City Council insisted some weeks ago that Mayor Lisa A. Wong provide a budget outline by May 15 for the new fiscal year without having final figures in state aid, some councilors last night attacked parts of her budget as "bogus" and a "dream sheet."

Councilors were reacting to the human services part of her proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. They did not like what they saw left in the budget for senior citizens, or her axing of the $50,000 position of her own chief of staff, Kenneth P. Jones.

Councilor Thomas J. Conry Jr. asked the mayor how her office would function without him.

"How can you justify cutting the position of assistant to the mayor?" he said. "It's one of the most important offices in the city."

Others questioned why she did not let the secretary go to save costs, instead.

Ms. Wong's budget, which she herself characterized as a "lean, meager budget," will also essentially close the senior center by slashing expenses to zero and leaving $7,000 to run the building.

"This budget is a farce," said Councilor Annie K. DeMartino. She asked if the human services budget could be sent back to the mayor for reconsideration.

"There has been a fear put across the city of Fitchburg and I will not be held hostage with fear," she said.

"I don't know what she was thinking when she gave us this budget," she added. "If it is shock she was looking for, she got it."

Councilor Marcus DiNatale said there is money in the budget that could be cut in other places and would give the mayor the option of giving more funding to the senior center to allow it to stay open.

Others said not enough consideration was given to the long-term ramifications of the cuts.

Councilor Norman L. Boisvert said the proposed budget had already been changed six times and said it should be turned back to the mayor until state figures are made final.

"How can we agree to a budget that is bogus?" he asked. "This budget is nothing but a dream sheet filled with heartache."

However, Councilor Joseph D. Solomito noted many councilors were adamant about the mayor submitting her proposed budget by May 15 despite her cautioning them state figures would not be in.

"We got what we asked for," he said.

The council has to approve a balanced budget by June 30, but could have requested an extension from the state Department of Revenue, he said, allowing the mayor more time until state figures were received.

Ms. Wong said she put together a budget that would allow the city to survive and would "spread the pain" across all departments.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 4, 2009
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