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Some councilors say budget needed closer scrutiny.

Byline: Matthew Bruun

LEOMINSTER - City councilors voiced frustration last night with their annual task of voting on the mayor's proposed budget, lamenting that they are always pressed for time and have little power to change municipal spending habits.

The $96.2 million budget passed by a 6-3 vote, with Councilors David E. Rowlands, John M. Dombrowski and Dennis A. Rosa opposed. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Mr. Rowlands said the budget deserved closer scrutiny. He said it often seems the only question is whether Leominster is in better financial condition than neighboring Fitchburg, where widespread layoffs are anticipated.

The budget, which includes a 2.5 percent property tax increase, is for about $3 million less than the current fiscal year. It contains no layoffs, but 10 vacant positions will go unfilled and Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella expects to seek other concessions from city employees.

"I honestly don't know if we're as lean as we could be," said Mr. Dombrowski, who added he is concerned about "top-heavy" school administration.

Mr. Rosa said he did not get a satisfactory answer from school administrators about a proposed $60,000 increase in unemployment compensation. He said terminating employees is a fact of life in business, but said there seemed to be a lot of turnover in the schools.

"Maybe we have a problem with the people that are hiring staff," Mr. Rosa said.

Mr. Rosa sought a token cut of $100,000 but no one seconded his motion. Mr. Rowlands suggested a stronger message would be sent by rejecting the budget and going for a month-to-month spending plan.

"This is the year to get serious, to improve the process," Mr. Rowlands said. "You're going to have to go through a little pain to bring about change."

Budget talks were continuing late last night with a look at the self-sustaining water and sewer departments.

ART: CHART

PHOTOG: T&G Staff

CUTLINE: Leominster budget

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 23, 2009
Words:320
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