Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 13, 2014
Sedgwick voters approve total $3 million budget at town meeting
by Bette Britt
There were fewer warrant articles to discuss, and the entire school budget for 2014-15 was included in the town meeting warrant this year, but voters still took their time in making decisions at town meeting on Saturday, March 8.
When moderator David Anderson announced the meeting adjourned, it had taken about three hours to approve a total budget of $3,014,974. According to town clerk Cynthia Reilly, voters approved raising $782,271 for the municipal budget (plus appropriating $39,950 from surplus) and $2,014,353 for the school budget (plus $178,499 from surplus). The budget totals also include the county tax of $87,524, a figure that wasn’t available at last year’s town meeting, noted Reilly.
With approximately 65 voters present at the 9 a.m. start of town meeting, the first few warrant articles passed with little comment, but the proposed changes in pay for selectmen raised questions to which selectmen Nelson Grindal and Victor Smith responded. Smith explained that time spent in the office has grown considerably and included trips out of town as well as “hours and hours, days and days” taking care of routine business in the area.
Grindal asked voters to consider the greater cost of hiring a town manager, pointing out that the job of selectman in the 21st century requires more diversity; he went on to cite decisions that have to be made, such as discontinuing some roads, closing others in winter. Not unexpectedly, selectmen were asked about what their counterparts in neighboring towns are paid, but no figures were available. Grindal quickly answered a question about the number of hours selectmen work each week, indicating it could be 15-18 sometimes and included all sorts of background work before turning over data to professionals to complete.
Despite an effort to amend WA 9 to divide $16,000 between the three selectmen, the article passed as written—each selectman is to be paid $8,000, with an extra $1,000 for the chairman. Voters also had questions that led to discussion about amassing surplus funds, with Selectman Neil Davis explaining that it had been surplus funds used for “capital improvements,” such as construction of the Sargentville (fire department) substation. A lengthy discussion took place about local roads, with shorter discussions about welfare, sign theft, the superior job done by local firemen during 2013-14 and the success of the Walker Pond access project.
The school budget passed with a minimum of questions, and those fielded by Superintendent Mark Jenkins.
Anderson patiently read amendments to the subdivision ordinance and additions to the wireless telecommunications facilities ordinance, the latter new at last year’s town meeting. Both passed, as did the final 18 warrant articles pertaining to requests for funds from nonprofit organizations. After initial questions of the budget committee as to why members had made no recommendations this year, most requests were granted through taxation, except Sargentville and Sedgwick libraries, Downeast Transportation and Maine Coast Memorial Hospital whose donations will come from surplus. As meeting goers filed out of the town house, incumbents re-elected to public office—Davis, school board member Michelle Levesque and Reilly—were sworn in for new terms by town meeting moderator Anderson. During voting at the town house on Friday, March 7, Davis defeated political newcomer Jeff Buchholz by a narrow margin; running unopposed, Reilly netted 162 votes for treasurer, while Levesque breezed back onto the school board with 160 votes.