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Council Recommends Eliminating Budget Committee

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio

At its regular meeting on August 2, 2022, the Sanford City Council was set to continue its review of the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations for amendments to the City’s Charter. At the July 19 meeting, the Council got through most of the recommendations, and approved sending almost all of them to voter referendum in November (see this story).

The final remaining item to discuss was the Charter Review Committee’s recommended amendments to Section VI, which included increasing the size of the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee is currently made up of three City Councilors and four members of the public, who are appointed by the City Council. The Charter Review Committee wanted to see the Budget Committee comprised of the full membership of both the City Council and School Committee, plus five members of the public, which would make a total of 17 members.

Instead of reviewing and discussing this recommendation, the Council instead heard a proposal by Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio, developed with City Manager Steven Buck, that would eliminate the Budget Committee altogether, and give the City Council sole control over the municipal budget. (The Budget Committee also reviews the School Department budget, but voters have the final say on it, by state law.)

Mayor Mastraccio argued that the City Council already has full control over the municipal budget, as the Budget Committee is purely an advisory board with no actual power to amend it. “The buck stops with the Council,” she said. She added that expanding the Budget Committee would move the City backward.

Mr. Buck said having the Budget Committee review the budget first, then having the Council go through it all over again, is a redundant process.

There was very little discussion on the proposal. Councilor Becky Brink agreed with the change, calling it a nice forward move for the City: “The public elected this [Council]…we need to step up and do our job, and not rely on the Budget Committee.” No Councilors disagreed with the proposal.

Councilors instead focused their comments on Section 610.3 of the Charter, which addresses the Capital Improvement Program. The Charter currently calls for at least 4% of the combined School and City operating budgets to be put into the CIP. The Charter Review Committee recommended increasing that by a quarter of a percent per year, until reaching 7.5%. Mayor Mastraccio’s proposal would leave the figure where it is now, saying that specifying a higher figure could tie the Council’s hands. The City is already putting more than 4% into the CIP, to keep the momentum of progress that has been made on improving the roads. Mr. Buck noted that in the past two years, the cost of road construction has increased 33%.

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann said she worries that as the membership of the Council changes, making road improvements may be less of a priority and that without the mandated increase to 7.5%, the overall condition of Sanford’s roads could begin to deteriorate again.

Mayor Mastraccio disagreed: “Everybody wants us to keep fixing the roads…I can’t imagine a Council not being committed to that.”

Councilor Jonathan Martell suggested tying the percentage that is put into the CPI to the Pavement Condition Index, a numerical rating from 1 to 100 that is used to indicate the general condition of a community’s roadways. Mr. Buck said that getting Sanford’s PCI to 85, and keeping it there, is the ultimate goal, as that would result in a significant decrease in maintenance costs.

Public Works Director Matt Hill said Sanford’s PCI was last assessed in February 2017, and is due for reassessment. At that time, Sanford’s average PCI was 69.21. Following the road bond approved by voters in 2019, several of Sanford’s roads that were in the worst condition have since been reconstructed.

The Council voted unanimously to approve forwarding Mayor Mastraccio’s recommended Charter amendments to voters in November.

The full City Council meeting video may be viewed on Town Hall Streams here and on YouTube here.

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