Claremont City Council Gets First Look at Budget

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/12/2017 12:00:51 AM
Modified: 5/12/2017 12:09:47 AM

Claremont — Restoring one of the two full-time library positions to the proposed city budget was strongly supported by some councilors at Thursday night’s review of City Manager Ryan McNutt’s proposed $16.4 million budget, while on a separate issue, McNutt told the council he could probably find money to fund a public bus service without impacting taxes.

After a lengthy discussion on the library’s $342,000 library budget, Councilor John Simonds made a motion to add about $78,800 back into budget for one position, which would add 12 cents to the tax rate.

“I’m torn because I know people are having a hard time paying taxes,” Simonds said. “But I agree with (Councilor Keith Raymond). I’m going to support one cut versus two.”

Raymond said cutting the full-time staff in half — the library also has six part-time employees — would be calamitous.

“Taking two full-time people out will almost make it impossible to keep that place open,” Raymond said.

But before a vote was taken, Councilor Bruce Temple moved to table the decision until all the budgets have been reviewed and the council has the chance to look for money to restore one library position without increasing the tax rate. Temple’s motion passed.

McNutt’s budget cuts $620,000 from this year’s budget but would still add 6 cents to the tax rate, which already is the highest in the state.

“It is past unsustainable,” McNutt said. “We can have what we want, but there is a cost to that, and if we don’t hold the line it will make it harder to grow ourselves out of it.”

McNutt told the council it pained him to cut the library budget by 31 percent. In a perfect world, he said, he would be adding to that budget.

When he decided on steep cuts in the library budget, McNutt said, he did so because he believes it is one department — unlike police, fire or public works — where volunteers could step in and do some of the work of checking out books and other tasks.

“I will be the first person to volunteer,” McNutt said.

Library Director Mike Grace disagreed with the city manager’s rationale on the use of volunteers, calling it a “false premise” to suggest that anyone could walk in off the street and do the work his staff does.

Of the two positions proposed to be cut, one is the children’s librarian, who is retiring but not being replaced. However, McNutt said, he wants the library to continue offering those services with the remaining staff.

Councilor Nick Koloski, who has been on the council for eight years, noted that the library budget gets chopped during each budget review, he said.

“It seems like the library bears the brunt of the cuts,” Koloski said, adding that it was the only budget that people called him about to voice their opposition to the cuts.

Library personnel were at the hearing, along with library trustees, but the council is not allowing public comment until the public hearing on the budget in June.

Grace was asked how the cuts would affect library hours, which currently sit at 46 per week.

“I’m not sure,” Grace said. “There would definitely have to be some reductions. We could go to 40 and see if that is workable.”

McNutt said in his opening statement on the budget that the city has a “structural deficit” of about $500,000 and with the highest tax rate in the state, tough decisions must be made as it works to bring new industry and grow the tax base.

“We need to feel pain for a while because people at home are feeling pain,” McNutt said. “I believe we can grow ourselves out of this pickle but until then, I would like the council to be austere. We need to sacrifice.”

The bus service run by Southwestern Community Services has asked for a $30,000 donation from the city to add to the $14,000 from Charlestown and $10,000 from Newport. A letter from Mayor Charlene Lovett that was read at the meeting also urged funding be restored for the bus. Lovett was not at the meeting.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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