Selectmen hear from public on budget
Lincolnville — The Board of Selectmen heard comments from the public on the draft budget for next fiscal year, and continued its own budget review process Monday, March 10.
Tracy Colby, who serves on the Wage and Personnel Committee, questioned the amounts allocated for town office employees' salaries. She said the selectmen and Budget Committee should review the Maine Municipal Association's salary survey and consider what towns similar to Lincolnville pay in determining town office salaries.
In response, Selectman Jason Trundy said, “We've vetted these salaries time after time.” He added that he thought the 1.5 percent salary increase budgeted for town office workers was "pretty minimal,” considering that employees had gone without raises for several years.
Colby expressed frustration that pay in other towns was not taken into account, saying “There hasn't been any interest in reviewing [town office salaries].”
Her comment elicited a reply from Board Chairman Ladleah Dunn, who noted the responsibilities belonging to a particular job title were different from one town to another.
“There's not a cookie-cutter, this is what a town administration looks like,” she said.
Colby also suggested selectmen give themselves the same 1.5 percent raise they had budgeted for most town office employees.
Several budget areas came in for comments from more than one speaker. These included $12,000 for a new town office computer server and $3,500 to establish live web streaming and video-on-demand of the local government access channel. Budget Committee Vice Chairman Cathy Hardy and resident Jim Sinclair both suggested looking into leasing the server. Later in the meeting, Town Administrator David Kinney proposed paying for the server with money left over from the amount allocated in this year's budget for Town Office renovations, and removing the item from next year's budget, which the Board voted to do.
Trundy advocated keeping the amount budgeted for streaming and video-on-demand in the budget, so that town meeting voters could see that the Board was responding to requests for greater communication and transparency,and decide for themselves whether the cost was worth it. The item was retained.
Another item that got particular attention was for Route 1 sidewalk and parking snow removal at Lincolnville Beach, which had been requested by businesses there. Both Hardy and Sinclair thought the item should be cut, and the businesses told to clear their own sidewalks. After the last Board meeting, Kinney had contacted the group of Beach businesses that had requested the snow removal to see if they would split the cost with the town. They were unwilling to do that.
As a result, the Board voted to cut the snow removal item. “I have a really hard time asking the rest of the town to pay to have cleared sidewalks [at the Beach],” said Dunn.
Sinclair and Hardy also both questioned the $10,000 budgeted for contingency, suggesting it could be reduced. In response to a question from Hardy, Kinney explained that in an emergency money could be taken from the unassigned fund balance, but it would require a special town meeting. In the end, selectmen left the item alone, feeling that, although the town had not so far needed that much for emergency purposes, it was good to be able to act quickly if necessary.
As of the end of the meeting, the amount to be raised from property taxes stood at slightly more than $1 million. The next budget meeting is scheduled to take place March 18 at the Town Office at 7 p.m.
In other business, the Board approved a warrant article asking residents to appropriate $220,000 from the unassigned fund balance to complete renovation and expansion of the Town Office and to rescind the borrowing authorization approved at a Nov. 6, 2012, special town meeting, which was voted to finance part of the project. The special town meeting to vote on the article was set for Monday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Office.
The meeting is being held now, Kinney explained, because if voters reject the article, next year's budget will have to be revised to include debt service on funds borrowed. Should residents approve expenditure of the $220,000, the renovation and expansion would be paid for in full without borrowing funds.
Selectmen also adopted resolutions regarding the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), which represents 187 Maine towns that contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. for municipal solid waste disposal through March 2018. According to the resolution document, the resolutions support the MRC's “efforts to continue the MRC mission by providing a regional solid waste solution beyond 2018,” and the “reasonable expenditure of funds as may be approved by the MRC Board of Directors to support the foregoing efforts.”
The Board also renewed the liquor license of McLaughlin's Lobster Shack.
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.