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Paonia Cuts Staff To Address Budget Deficit, Considers Rate Hikes

Jane Berry, Suzanne Watson

Tuesday night the Paonia Board of Trustees approved the town’s budget for 2015.

Town officials say Paonia is in a ‘fiscal crisis’ and tough choices were made to address its budget deficit. 

The town will cut three staff members by the end of this year. 

Pink slips have been handed to the town clerk, a police officer and a sanitation worker.

Recently hired town manger Jane Berry says the layoffs were necessary to help close Paonia’s $410,000 budget deficit.

"For the last several years the town has felt the effects of several different things: the national recession, the downturn of the mining industry in our area, [and] the other issues and emergencies that have plagued the town over the last few years," Berry says.

She says the Chesnik embezzlement also cost the town and will continue to do so as it plays out in court. 

In addition to the three layoffs planned for this year she says the town is planning further staff cuts next year.

"I would say [there are] at least another 1 to 3 positions that will involve some type of reduction, layoff in 2015," Berry says.

She estimates eliminating three positions this year will save the town about $200,000.

Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman says it was a tough choice to cut staff.

"The cuts that you can do that are none personnel most of those were done over the last couple of years," he says. "We’ve cut out any kind of fluff. It’s really tight now so it’s time for desperate cuts. And it’s at desperate times when you start cutting your personnel and that’s where we are." 

Schwieterman says that with all these cuts, the town is now looking at a balanced budget for next year. 

Rates Hikes

Berry says the town will probably raise sewer and trash fees to help it deal with rising service costs.  

"It also involves quite frankly raising sewer rates by at least 10 percent. And garbage rates will probably go up at least 10 percent plus an additional charge," she says.  

Berry says the town is also considering contracting out waste services to save money.

Resident Feedback

Several Paonia residents expressed concern over staff layoffs at the meeting and wanted to know how the town plans to afford its new manager.

For the next three years, 50 percent of the town manager’s salary will be paid for by a state grant, but after that Paonia needs to fund the position on its own.

Town Trustee Eric Gould tries to address this challenge.

"One of the very primary functions of the town manger that we have currently is to find sources of revenue, find ways to make us money," he says.

Gould says part of the town manger’s job is to find new sources of revenue to help fund her position and town operations.

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