To the Editor:
I am an Auburn City Councilor and a member of the executive board of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation (COLACmaine.org.) I have reviewed the recent consultant’s report presented by the Lewiston-Auburn Joint Charter Commission and am stunned by the lack of depth and any meaningful information in the report.
On the very first page of the report, the consultant states that a merger of Auburn and Lewiston “could” result in annual savings of between $2.3 million to $4.2 million for the cities. Having participated in several budget cycles in Auburn, I can assure you that this “estimate” is pure nonsense. We have cut our budgets to the bone.
We were even forced to take the devastating step of laying off city employees this past year. The City of Lewiston has likewise been forced to cut its budgets drastically and has likewise cut over 30 city positions in recent years.
The commission’s savings “estimates,” produced by a New York-based consultant group at a cost well over $100,000, are based on fantasy. We do agree with the consultant, however, that a merger would result in an “upward leveling” of union contracts.
As new collective bargaining agreements are negotiated, pay structures will level upward to the higher scale of whichever city is paying more for a particular department’s contract. The commission estimates this will cost the cities upwards of $1.1 million more per year to fund union contracts under a merger. We believe the figure is even higher than that, likely closer to $1.5 million.
There are many reasons why a merger of Lewiston-Auburn is a bad idea for both cities. Nobody should be under the illusion, however, that the consultant’s report provides any real guidance. Its conclusions are based on pie-in-the-sky estimates and assumptions that have absolutely no basis in reality.
Leroy Walker, Sr.
Auburn City Councilor