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by David Bowden
In Penobscot, its time again for citizens to gather for their annual municipal elections and town meeting.
Polls will open on Monday, March 7, at 10 a.m. at the Penobscot Town Hall. Residents will be asked to choose a moderator for this year’s assembly and select municipal officers from a short list of unopposed candidates. Candidate interviews were published in the February 24 issue. There are no referendum questions on the ballot and polls will close promptly at 8 p.m.
The meeting will reconvene on Tuesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Penobscot Community School. This forum affords townspeople the opportunity to participate in open public discussion, express concerns and consider all 62 articles on this year’s warrant.
The articles include municipal and school budget items, the “Town of Penobscot Communications Tower Ordinance,” the “Town of Penobscot Wind Energy Systems Ordinance,” and the revised “Town of Penobscot Shoreland Zoning Map.” In addition, hands will be counted regarding a proposed “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance.”
It is also expected that there will be the annual debate regarding requests from Blue Hill Public Library representatives for taxpayer-funded support.
Town reports are expected to arrive back from the printers soon and will be distributed punctually to residents.
The annual report consists of, among other inclusions, various department and audit reports, a record of property taxpayers complete with valuations, and the warrant articles with recommendations from the Finance Committee, the School Board, and the Board of Selectmen.
According to chairman of the selectmen Paul Bowen, the total proposed budget is $419,624. This is down from last year’s total of approximately $442,550. The chief explanation for this drop is that in 2010 Penobscot made its last payment on the new firehouse.
Among major town expenditures this year (not including the school budget) are requests for $85,000 to be raised and appropriated from property taxes for the transfer station, $90,000 to be appropriated from excise taxes for snow removal, sand, and equipment repair, and $23,350 from surplus for the School Septic Loan Account.
Due mostly to harsh economic conditions, in their annual report, the Board of Selectmen write “In the past eight years the town has lost close to $500,000 annually in funding from the State of Maine, primarily through the loss of education subsidies, municipal revenue sharing, and road funds. All indications are that this trend of shifting the state’s obligations onto the local property taxpayers will continue. We have seen an increase in the number of people having difficulty paying these taxes and ultimately they risk losing their homes.”