In anticipation of decreases in revenue and state funding for both the town and the school system, Warren town officials have made cuts in the proposed 2010 budget, according to Town Manager Grant Watmough.

The proposed $1,964,456 budget is down 3 percent ($56,590) from last year’s budget of $2,021,046.

Watmough said the proposed budget includes no pay raises for town employees across the board.

Watmough said the decrease in the budget is actually less than $56,590 because town revenues are anticipated to be down by $4,150 in 2010. In addition, last year the town took $260,000 from surplus to decrease taxes. This year, town officials are recommending the town take $240,000 from surplus as revenues decrease. If one subtracts the $20,000 difference and the revenue decline, the decrease in the budget will really be more like $32,440, according to Watmough.

Watmough said the state is having quite an impact on the town and the cuts are coming from a number of directions. He said state revenue sharing has seen a huge cut. He said the town has lost more than $60,000 in revenue sharing with the cut last year and the one expected this year.

He said the state has reduced the amount reimbursed to municipalities for the homestead exemption, but left the benefit to residents the same, meaning the town has to absorb the difference.

In addition, the state has made cuts to Regional School Unit 40. Watmough said the school district has a budget goal of a zero increase, but with a zero increase budget, any decrease in revenues from the state will mean increased taxes.

Ambulance changes

Residents are likely to be asked at March town meeting to make changes to the ambulance service, and that could also impact the budget. In the summer of 2009, selectmen and Watmough met with members of the Warren Ambulance Service to discuss options for the future that may include paying per diem rates to ambulance team members or contracting with another municipal or private service. The issue came to light after the town received bills from ambulance services in Rockland and Thomaston for providing backup service in Warren.

Watmough said last year that was the first time it ever happened. The town has seen a significant increase in its demand for ambulance service driven by an increase in population, moving the prison from Thomaston to Warren and an increase in traffic through the town. Meanwhile, the volunteer ambulance service is the same size at it was when it handled a smaller demand.

In the past, the Warren Ambulance Service has been able to cover the town’s needs, but the bills show that Thomaston and Rockland have had to fill in at a cost of $225 to $250 per ambulance run.

The ambulance service recommends changing from the present stipends for volunteers to a per diem system in which paramedics and emergency medical technicians would be paid to be available for a certain number of hours.

The town has been doing research and looking at proposals from other town and private ambulance services that might provide daytime coverage during the work week when many of the town’s volunteers have to be at their jobs. The town is looking at proposals from the Waldoboro service, Sterling Ambulance in Union, Delta Ambulance in Augusta and North East Ambulance in Rockport.

At the moment, the budget for the Warren Ambulance Service is $64,200, up $1,000 from last year. The budget change reflects a $6,000 cut in volunteer wages (from $26,000 to $20,000) and a $7,000 increase in funds for advanced life support backup (from $8,000 to $15,000). Watmough said in his notes to the budget committee that Thomaston, Rockland and Waldoboro advanced life support backup rates have increased.

All other portions of the ambulance budget stayed exactly the same as last year.

Other budget items

Watmough also said that the county dispatch fee is up $10,385 for the town.

The proposed $386,500 highway budget is down $4,800 and the $245,000 paving budget has been cut by $45,000. The town manager said the town is still on schedule for the paving and most of its roads are in good shape. This year the town will pave Greenwood Avenue, Stirling Road and Vaughns Neck Road.

The transfer station budget has been cut by $23,400.

The fire department budget is proposed at $71,920, up $6,970 from last year. The change in the budget mostly reflects the movement from another part of the budget to the fire department budget of payment for mowing duties performed by the fire chief last year.

The proposed $41,400 recreation department budget is up by $7,500. The part-time recreation director’s pay has increased from $10,000 in 2008 to $16,000 in 2009 to the proposed $23,400 in 2010. Watmough wrote in his notes to the budget committee that the recreation director position has gone from 20 hours a week to 30 hours a week. “The program continues to increase the number of children participating each year,” he wrote.

The proposed $2,950 library budget has been cut by $6,500 from last year. The town has eliminated the amount it usually gives the library for books each year. Watmough said book funds will have to come from the library trust fund.

The proposed budget also includes the following items:

Town manager salary, $54,200, same as last year.

Selectmen’s salaries, a combined total of $6,300, same as last year.

Town clerk, $33,900, same as last year.

Librarian, $23,500, same as last year.

Bookkeeper, $39,260, same as last year.

Office clerk, $32,225, same as last year.

Code enforcement officer, $35,500, same as last year.

Town buildings, $58,250, down $4,700 from last year.

Various insurances, $140,200, up $500 from last year.

Highway equipment reserve, $60,000, up $5,000 from last year. This will allow the town to replace its 1996 plow truck.

Legal fees, $12,000, up $4,000 in anticipation of additional legal action.

Ahlholm Inc. may sue the town over the awarding of a contract to haul municipal solid waste, according to town documents.

Company President Vincent Ahlholm and his attorney Samuel Cohen submitted a notice of claim to the town in October, arguing that a town employee made false statements about Ahlholm Inc. that caused selectmen to choose another company for the work. A notice of claim is not a lawsuit, but a notice must be filed by those who intend to sue government agencies.

Meetings and elections

The budget committee will take up the proposed budget Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the town office. Selectmen have approved this draft of the budget. The budget committee can only make recommendations for townspeople who will vote on all town budget items at town meeting.

The town election will be held Monday, March 22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office.

The town meeting will be held Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. at the Warren Community School.

The selectman’s seat held by Arnold D. Hill is up for election this year. Hill has taken out and returned nomination papers to run for re-election.

Two RSU 40 board seats are up for election this year. The seats are held by Juanita Brown and Theodore V. Brown. Theodore Brown has taken out nomination papers to run.

Nomination papers must be turned in to the town office by Friday, Feb. 5 with 25 to 100 signatures.