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by Bette Britt
The business portion of annual town meeting begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, at the historic town house on Route 172, but the length of time it lasts will be determined by how long it takes to ponder and vote on 86 warrant articles appearing in the town report.
While final figures for the municipal budget will not be in until voters have time to make their wishes known at town meeting, town clerk Cindy Reilly was able to supply a considerable amount of financial information on February 19. “If voted at town meeting as recommended by the budget committee,” she wrote in an email, the municipal budget “would be $813,528. That includes the county tax.” She went on to explain that, “of that total, $730,028 would be raised, with some of that offset by revenue sharing, excise taxes, etc., and $83,500 would come from undesignated surplus.
Last year voters raised $668,967 from taxation and appropriated $98,194 from surplus to meet the municipal budget expenses.
Reilly called attention to three social service articles (WA 60, WA 63 and WA 64) on which the budget committee recommended $0, but if voters opt to include them, the total municipal budget would then be $816,128. This is not the total tax levy, cautioned Reilly, as it will be offset by appropriations from surplus and revenue from excise taxes, revenue sharing, tree growth reimbursement, etc.
There are several warrant articles that can be described as new in the 2013 town report. Among those are WA 43, an ordinance which deals with wireless communications facilities in Sedgwick, and WA 45, an appropriation of $15,000 from surplus for the Sedgwick-Brooksville Town Landing at Walker Pond to become a continuing account. WA 46 seeks $41,500 from surplus to engage RJD Appraisal to “update property tax cards … and complete other updates and improvements related to tax assessing to be completed prior to tax commitment in 2014.”
While voters will find a majority of the 86 warrant articles ask for sums to be raised through taxation, selectmen and members of the budget committee felt surplus should be tapped for numerous town office related articles, forest fire fighting, veterans graves and part of General Assistance. The number of requests from outside organizations increased to 20 this year, with all but two of the four new ones receiving budget committee approval; a worksheet indicates some would be funded from surplus.
Aside from the specific ordinance noted above, the warrant has other new articles for voters to consider. Among them is combining the Public Water Access and the Public Shore Right of Way accounts into a single Public Access continuing account; voters will also be asked to make the Town Office Equipment account into a continuing account. WA 16 seeks permission to eliminate the Hearse House Painting account, with remaining money ($800) to be added to the Town House Improvement Reserve.
Throughout deliberations between the selectmen and budget committee members, concern for maintaining the status quo was of primary concern, and this is reflected in the 2013 town meeting warrant where many standard articles show no increases and at least one, the tarring account decreased by $30,000 to $50,000 this year. At $87,315, the county tax is $3,798 less than in 2012.
Budgeters could only guess at what the cost of using the Blue Hill/Surry Transfer Station will be, before sending town warrant material to the printer, and chose $100,000 for a slight $371 estimated increase. Among other modest increases, use of the Hancock County Regional Communications Center for dispatch services will be $2,212, up by $212.
Although selectmen continue to serve at the same rate of pay as in past years—$8,000 for first selectman, $4,000 for second and third selectmen—some of the other town officials will receive pay raises. These include the tax collector to $20,000 from $17,300 plus fees; the treasurer, $12,500 from $7,500; the town clerk, $12,500 from $7,500 plus fees, the selectmen’s assistant, $12,000 from $11/hr. up to 1,000 hours and the animal control officer, $2,800 from $1,400. The road commissioner will continue to receive the state rate plus $2/hr. and the code enforcement officer will receive $4,000.