News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 16, 2014
Budget work gets under way as date for town meeting set in Sedgwick

Sedgwick First Selectman Neil Davis

Before getting down to the business of working on the 2014-2015 town budget, Sedgwick First Selectman Neil Davis took time to blow out the candles on a birthday cheesecake presented to him by the office staff.

Photo by Bette Britt Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Bette Britt

Before selectmen met with budget committee members to begin work on the 2013-14 municipal budget to be presented at town meeting, selectmen heard road commissioner Paul Carter’s plea for a sand/salt shed. His request was prompted by theft estimated at $3,000 worth of road salt so far this season. “Don’t you have money (set aside) to do it?” he asked, warning that another year he’ll keep the commodity at his house in order to see that citizens don’t abuse the tradition of helping themselves to reasonable amounts for ice-covered driveways.

First Selectman Neil Davis acknowledged that it is time to do something, with the budget committee later agreeing to add another $100 to the $59,300 salt/sand shed continuing account in the proposed budget to be voted on at the March 8, town meeting. Local voters will have trooped to the polls on Friday, March 7, to elect town officials.

Budget committee members Paul Trowbridge, Bill Pettingill and Horace Wardwell reviewed the current budget approved at last year’s town meeting, and the amount remaining to date in each account. All acknowledged that this was a preliminary run-through, a chance to get up to speed before preparation of warrant articles to go in the town report and, as such, no figures discussed would necessarily be final. Selectmen await presentation of education and fire department budgets.

Before actual review of the budget got under way, a couple office issues were discussed, including the matter of having the town office open every day. Third Selectman Victor Smith indicated tax collector and treasurer have always been part time jobs, and Barbara Grindle, assistant to selectmen, pointed out that the office is open five afternoons a week, as it is. According to minutes of the December 19 meeting, tax collector Belinda Pert “proposed” her hours be doubled, and selectmen, at the January 2 meeting, voted unanimously “to raise pay for the selectmen from $4,000 for the second and third selectman and $8,000 for the first selectman to $8,000 for all three, “plus an extra $1,000 for the chairman.” While budget committee members were silent during this discussion, Davis noted that “by law, selectmen can’t set hours of elected officials.”

Among potential articles likely to show an increase is one to cover repairs at the town office, with $30,400 budgeted and nearly half of that amount spent, yet considerable work remains to be done to comply with Dept. of Labor demands. The price to update the town office computer system is covered under another heading, budget committee members were told, with Pettingill seeking assurance that the project will hook up the machines so they all work together.

Among conclusions reached during the lengthy review, there were some that received more discussion than others. If the tax collector’s hours are doubled, it will add a significant amount to the administration account. There is an estimated 5-percent increase in the cost of snow removal and possibly an increase for tarring Old County Road. Selectmen “don’t see spending on town docks the same as last year” due to hope for receipt of grant funds. Although only $9,000 spent on legal fees to date, Code Enforcement Officer Duane Ford indicated it’s unwise to cut that budget; Smith suggested that it be “kept the same.”

As budget review drew to a close, Davis ventured to express hope that the town may wind up with a better valuation (so high taxes will go lower), “but we have no idea at this point what the tax rate will be.” Smith added, “if budget can be kept basically the same, we’ll be in good shape.” “Wherever we can, we’ll save,” concluded Davis. Budget review will continue during selectmen’s meetings on Thursdays at 6 p.m.