Hayden Hayden trustees and town staff members met calmly Tuesday evening to discuss the facts of budget cuts.
The town expects to see $200,000 in revenue reductions this year. In May, Town Manager Russ Martin decided to institute 10 percent furloughs across departments. Town staff members raised objections at Thursday's Town Board meeting, so trustees scheduled a work session to talk it through.
"What I'm hearing from the staff is that there's not an opportunity to communicate frankly both maybe with Russ and maybe with board members," Trustee Jim Haskins said. "And I don't think tonight's may be the forum we want to address that in, but I think we need to address that."
Haskins said he didn't think it was Martin's fault that the trustees weren't aware of the possible effects of furloughs. The board should have sought a meeting earlier, he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Hockett said cutting her department could mean the reduction or loss of programs. She and Parks Superintendent Dave Bantam will cut to 20 and 10 hours per week, respectively, this summer.
Hockett described the possible ramifications.
"The walking paths will not be a priority, the cross-country ski trail will not be groomed, the winter maintenance of equipment will not happen," she said, unless it falls to another already time-strapped department.
After two rounds of cuts, her department would lose about $160,000, Hockett said.
Trustees were apologetic but frank about the need for Parks and Recreation cuts. They agreed that parks services were inessential compared with water, sewer and public safety.
"It's really sad that you guys were on such a roll there. : You and Dave had the place looking as shiny as it ever has," Trustee Tom Rogalski said.
Trustees also suggested that volunteers could help with some parks work. Trustee Tim Redmond offered to help with Hayden Daze, and Haskins said he'd be willing to cut grass for the department.
Streets Superintendent Sam Barnes said he was able to cut more in his department. He plans to save money by not repaving three alleys. Instead, Barnes found some inexpensive gravel to tide over those thoroughfares.
Trustees thanked him for those efforts. Overall, town department leaders cut about $30,000 more from the general fund. It just wasn't enough, trustees agreed, and they plan to proceed with furloughs this week, as well as the additional proposed cuts.
Police Chief Ray Birch said his department would have to prioritize calls. Officers still will address minor infractions such as animal complaints and code issues, but those calls could take a back seat to more urgent ones.
"The feedback that I've gotten from my agency has not been negative," Birch said. "I think they look at this as a challenge."
Town Clerk Susan Irvine said she hadn't received negative feedback from having to close Town Hall on Friday afternoons and during lunch Tuesday through Thursday. She also said she would rather have furloughs than a flat pay cut.
The trustees and town staff members seemed to leave satisfied.
"We're a small town," Redmond said early in the meeting. "There has to be a feeling of trust amongst each other and also open and honest communication. And as long as we can have that, I think we're going to get to a place where everybody may not like it, but everybody's going to be more comfortable with the final outcome."