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Mayor delays finishing budget.

Byline: George Barnes

GARDNER - On Wednesday, Mayor Mark P. Hawke spent the day notifying six city employees they were being laid off.

Yesterday, he told the Finance Committee he will not present a completed city budget to the City Council on Monday, because he thinks more cuts will be needed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The budget the councilors will see will be $238,000 in the red, based on what the state Senate Ways and Means Committee has in its budget.

"If I cut $238,000, I'm cutting more people, and I don't want to go there unless I know for sure," he said.

The scenarios for the state budget continue to change, depending on which revenue projections the legislators base their proposals.

At present, based on the Ways and Means Committee figures, the city will get $2 million less in local aid for the city's side of the budget.

Aid to Gardner Public Schools was to be the same as in the current fiscal year before the Senate figures were released.

In the Senate committee proposal, city schools would lose $382,000.

The mayor was responding at the meeting to frustration expressed by City Councilor Kim M. Dembrosky over not having a budget to look at when deciding if it was prudent to make such decisions as requiring two-day furloughs for nonunion personnel, department heads, the mayor and city councilors; eliminating stipends for boards and commissions; and reducing extra pay given for longtime service to the city.

But the lack of solid state aid figures would make any city budget not much more than a guess.

"It's a moving cart," City Councilor Ronald F. Cormier said.

Members of the Finance Committee had already expressed reservations about approving the elimination of the stipends and other pay cuts. Councilor Neil Janssens said he was not sure he could support the cuts, especially the elimination of the stipends.

"They (members of boards and commissions) put in an awful lot of time," he said. "For the little bit we will save, I don't know if it is worth it."

Eliminating stipends would save about $21,000.

A lack of money also has the city wondering whether it will be able to afford to clean up brush from the December ice storm. It is expecting to open bids from a second round of bidding Monday. But a lack of information about whether the state will pick up to 25 percent of the cost to go with 75 percent promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency had councilors and the mayor wondering where the city's share would come from.

"I don't know how we're going to be able to pay for it," Mrs. Dembrosky said, adding that spending money picking up brush may not be the best way to use city money.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 15, 2009
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