News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 20, 2014
Ordinances, budget on tap for Brooksville town meeting

by Rich Hewitt

Voters will decide the fate of two proposed ordinances as well as the town and school budgets when they gather for the annual town meeting next month.

Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 3, at the Town House. Discussion of the rest of the warrant articles will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4, at the elementary school gym.

The two ordinances will be on the Monday ballot. The proposed shellfish ordinance is designed to provide the town with a way to manage the town’s clam flats and improve its shellfish resource. The proposed “Notice of Intent to alter or Construct Buildings Ordinance,” would require property owners to provide notice of planned improvements to their property. The intent of the ordinance is to provide the selectmen and the town assessor a way to keep track of property improvements to ensure that they are taxed fairly.

The Notice ordinance has no cost attached to it, but the shellfish ordinance will require up to $15,000 in funding. Although the ordinance will be voted upon on Monday, the funding for it will be decided at the general meeting on Tuesday.

That $15,000 represents a portion of the increase in the proposed municipal budget. The budget for 2014 totals $896,035, an increase of $51,907 or about 5.7 percent above the 2013 town budget.

That figure does not include the County Tax, which is expected to come in at about $175,000, an increase of about $3,300 from last year.

The municipal budget figure will likely go up by the time town meeting starts, according to Selectman John Gray.

The current proposed budget includes $14,000, the town’s share of the planned library expansion, Gray said. Under the “roommate agreement” with the library, the town is responsible for the outside portions of the building. The project is scheduled to begin this spring and the contractors determined that they will need to “stiffen up” the south end of the existing wall in order for that wall to be strong enough to support the planned addition.

“We don’t have a figure yet on how much more that’s going to cost,” he said.

But that information should be in hand in time for town meeting. Although the new figure won’t appear in the town report, Gray said they should have the numbers in time to include them in the official posted warrant, which can be changed up to seven days before the actual meeting.

Gray said the selectmen planned to put two tax-acquired properties up for sale this year, which should help to cover that additional expense.

The budget also includes a request for $28,000 to fund a cafeteria type health benefit for qualified town employees. The idea behind the plan, Gray said, was to provide some help for town employees who had opted out of the Maine Municipal Association’s Employee Health Trust. Just two town employees are covered under the trust plan after several employees, including Gray himself, had left the MMA plan when they went on Medicare.

“What we wanted to do was put money in to help them buy their insurance,” he said. “But the accountant said we couldn’t do it that way.”

The proposed article, he said, would authorize the town to reimburse the seven qualified employees up to $4,000 each for health care costs they incur during the year.

The budget also includes a $4,000 increase in the fire department budget, to $41,164, after the department spent more than budgeted in 2013.

The administration budget shows an increase of $2,000, to $105,000, reflecting salary increases for town office personnel, and the highway account is up by $3,000, to $54,000, in anticipation of increased brush clearing that needs to be done this year.

The budget proposes an increase of $1,000 for the support of the poor and $500 each for legal fees and Social Security payments.