NEWBURY — Budget deficits have necessitated the immediate discontinuation of plumbing, electrical and gas inspections in town until the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
"Because of budget cuts, we simply cannot afford to pay the two inspectors who do these inspections and will therefore not be issuing any permits for these tasks until the new year and new budget arrives," said Sam Joslin, the town's building inspector.
Joslin announced this in addition to presenting an increased fee schedule for fiscal year 2012.
Building re-inspection fees will increase from $25 to $50, bringing the town to a comparable rate with surrounding towns' fees, as well as bringing all re-inspection fees in town — for building, plumbing, gas and electrical — to the same amount of $50.
"The increase is also necessary because when we use an alternate building inspector for a re-inspection, we are charged $30, so we were losing money charging $25," Joslin said.
Joslin explained that the biggest increase in day-to-day fees is a plumbing increase for fixtures from $4 to $5 a fixture. This increase will bring the town in-line with fees that towns such as Newburyport and West Newbury charge for these services, which range from $5 to $8 a fixture.
Other changes in fees include charging a minimum of $150 for a permit when applying after the work has already commenced; an increase in the transfer permit fee from $25 to $50; and an increase in the fee for a zoning verification letter from $25 to $75. Joslin said that requests for these items are minimal so the impact on residents should be, too.
Town administrator Tracy Blais added, "We don't believe this limiting of permits should create any significant hardship, and we are not trying to make it difficult for residents, but we simply have to live within our budget."
Blais also confirmed that other departments may fall short on funding before the fiscal year ends.
"We breathed a sigh of relief when the budget passed at the Town Meeting, but it is now coming to light that the results of operations for 2011 were underfunded, as I have had several departments say they have bills that they cannot pay."
Blais indicated that none of the expenses that cannot be paid, such as in the assessor's office, the building maintenance account and fire hydrant maintenance account, are large and can most likely be paid by a transfer of funds.
"There is nothing major in nature that cannot be covered, but this has brought to my attention the need to more closely review the 2012 budget, as those numbers were based on the 2011 numbers, which are not adequate."
Blais said she was working with the town accountant now to review the departments' finances and would most likely make suggestions to the selectmen in the fall regarding additional adjustments to the budget.
"The 2012 budget will most definitely require month-to-month monitoring to ensure we are on target," she said.