In a town meeting that lasted a little less than two hours March 9, St. George citizens approved a net budget that is 15.7 percent lower than the one passed a year ago. At the same time, voters endorsed recommendations made by the Select Board that will give town employees a 3 percent cost of living adjustment to their wages.

Other adjustments took into account a reduction in interest expenses, the receipt of $231,000 in unexpected cash flow and allowances from the closing of Maine School Administrative District 50, and in increase in state revenue sharing from $90,000 to $100,000.

The following adjustments were made to the warrant items as published in the 2009 annual report.

  • Article 9: Town Office Administration — total approved was $493,904.91, reflecting a reduction of $14,000 in interest expense and the removal of $5,000 for an informational sign.
  • Article 20: Community Services – total approved was $26,900, reflecting a request by the Jackson Memorial Library for a $4,500 increase for general operations and to extend a 3 percent cost of living adjustment to library employees.
  • Article 25: Appropriations from revenues – total approved was $728,000, reflecting a $10,000 increase in state revenue sharing.

 

Several motions were made during the debate on Article 9. In the warrant there was a difference between the Select Board’s recommendation and that of the Budget Committee of approximately $12,250. The Select Board offered the higher figure that comprised the COLA and $5,000 for a sign that would allow for the posting of upcoming meetings and events at the town office.

“Last year town employees got no raise, but we voted in $10,000 for fireworks,” said Randy Elwell. “I know we’re all hurting, but how long do these employees go without a raise?” Elwell said many town residents are retirees who expected and received raises while they were employed.

Following a final motion to remove the cost of the sign, citizens voted to appropriate $493,904.91 for town office administration. Voters approved Select Board recommendations over those of the Budget Committee on all articles where there was a difference between the two, in order to maintain the 3 percent COLA in all town departments.

Library President Susan Bates, who is not a resident of St. George, asked for and was given permission to speak on Article 20. Bates said she had originally requested $20,000 from the town and the figure had been reduced by the Select Board and the Budget Committee to the $17,000 that appeared on the warrant. She requested that $4,500 be added back into the budget line, with $1,500 going to provide a COLA for employees and $3,000 for general operations. St. George resident Penny Read made the motion, which was approved by voters after some discussion..

Bates said 20 percent of the library’s $99,500 operating budget comes from the town, and library use is up due to challenging economic times.

“Knowing that subscriptions are one of the first things people cut, our staff has increased our magazine subscriptions,” Bates said. “Magazines are the top circulated items in our library.”

In response to a request for $20,000 in matching funds for renovation of the town’s tennis courts, voters decided to hold off on such a large contribution until the Tennis Committee could raise its share of the match, and approved putting $5,000 into the Tennis Court Reserve Account.

In 2009 St. George voters passed a budget that was $10,000 larger than the one proposed by the Select Board, reflecting a decision to purchase fireworks for St. George Day. Originally budgeted in 2003 for the town’s bicentennial, the item has been left out of the Select Board’s budget, and reinstated by voters, each year since 2004. This year, the discussion about fireworks came up during the debate on the Contingency Account in Article 24.

“In a time when people are having trouble paying taxes, burning up $10,000 in a half hour of fireworks is excessive,” said Anita Siegenthaler. “If people want fireworks, why not collect the money privately?” Other residents said the annual display brought a huge turnout and was good for families as well as businesses in St. George. A motion to add $10,000 to the Contingency Account to be used for fireworks was defeated

Select Board member Don Lunt said contingency funds were used to pay for unforeseen expenses, such as a water purification system that might be needed for the town office’s well.

“In the past, every department had it’s own contingency line,” Town Manager John Falla said. “We felt that it should be put into one area to cover all departments.”

In voting the previous day, St. George citizens elected incumbent Select Board member Don Lunt to fill the position held by Keith Miller, surpassing former Select Board member Steve Miller by a vote of 187 to 113.

Linwood Smith received 224 votes for the Select Board seat previously held by Lunt, with 38 write-in votes also cast.

Regional School Unit 13 board member George Emery was elected to another three-year term. Emery received 175 votes, with write-in candidate Angela Vachon garnering 101 votes and seven additional write-in votes cast.

In addition, changes to four town ordinances were approved as follows:

  • Coastal Waters Management Ordinance: yes – 204; no – 91
  • Solid Waste Ordinance: yes – 203; no – 101
  • Flood Plain Ordinance: yes – 220; no – 78
  • Site Plan Review Ordinance: yes – 196; no – 112

 

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.