By John Toole
---- — PELHAM — The Budget Committee has rejected cutting 5 percent from the town budget, lining up behind the selectmen’s $13.3 million plan.
Budget Committee member Leo Rush proposed the $642,000 cut, which his colleagues voted down, 8-1, last week.
He recalled how town resident and former Budget Committee member Greg Farris won approval for such a cut from voters on the floor at Town Meeting several years ago.
“The town ran just as smoothly as ever,” Rush said yesterday. “I have no doubt, period, you could take 10 percent off every budget in town, except maybe for the trustees of trust funds. There would be no suffering.”
Other officials felt differently.
Selectman Doug Viger told Rush such a cut would lead to staff reductions, layoffs and delay emergency response times.
Budget Committee member Dave Cronin said department heads had done a good job, resulting in a proposed spending increase of less than 4 percent across the board.
Rush remains unconvinced.
He recalled touring town offices and seeing copy machines sitting out of use and noted Pelham’s library staff has grown over the years from a single librarian to a half dozen employees.
“We have quite a few librarians,” he said.
Rush said the town’s cost for employees isn’t just in salaries, but also the retirement benefits they will one day receive.
He plans to challenge the school budget next.
“I will make a motion to cut 10 percent off the top,” Rush said.
He will be going against the wishes of the School Board.
It is recommending a $25.8 million plan the Budget Committee will review this month and next.
“The board voted unanimously, so it’s safe to say we all approve,” Chairman Brian Carton said.
Superintendent Amanda Lecaroz’s operating budget analysis, prepared for the School Board, showed the budget represents a 2.39 percent increase.
School officials, meanwhile, are expected to bring to voters a proposed $22 million project to renovate and expand the high school.
Town Meeting is March 11.
A Budget Committee hearing on the budgets is scheduled for Jan. 7. The town deliberative session is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 4 and the school deliberative session is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 5.