“We have some people on the budget committee who are very, very concerned with people in town being able to afford things,” said Brian Moser, committee chairman.
“With the economy the way it is and the number of poor people in Winchester, we really have to ask: ‘can we afford to do this?’ ”
But Selectman Gustave A. Ruth Jr. is worried the committee is proposing cuts with little regard for the government functions the budget supports.
The budget committee has been reviewing town departments’ 2012 spending proposals since September.
“Every time someone’s budget comes up they just cut it. It’s automatic without listening to what they need the money for,” Ruth said.
The committee recently voted to eliminate a part-time town employee at the transfer station, arguing the station is already staffed by employees of Monadnock Disposal Services, Moser said. The selectmen responded by saying the station would have to be closed without a town employee assigned to its operation, he said.
Ruth believes the committee will propose a budget down as much as 20 percent from last year. Voters will be able to increase the proposal at the town’s deliberative session by no more than 10 percent — making a proposal of a 10 percent reduction inevitable.
Moser said the committee’s proposal is unlikely to be a 20 percent reduction, but he does expect it will be lower than the selectmen have requested.
A budget reduction will mean that “some services will be cut, and I don’t know if the people want that,” Ruth said.
The budget committee proposes a total budget number that is submitted to voters for approval, but it is the selectman who decide how the approved money is ultimately spent.
If the budget is reduced, the first cuts will most likely be to snow removal and road maintenance, Ruth said.
The $3.5 million 2011 budget that voters approved in March represented a 1.9 percent increase over the 2010 number.
The budget committee is required to hold a public hearing where voters can express their opinions before the committee makes its final proposal.
The 2012 hearing is tentatively scheduled for the second week of January, Moser said.