About 80 residents turned out for Cushing’s annual town meeting March 16 and approved a $525,135 municipal budget.

The budget is down more than 8 percent. The 2010 budget is down by $46,963 from last year’s budget of $572,098. The amount to be raised in property taxes to support the town budget is expected to be $322,635, down 10 percent ($37,163) from the $359,798 raised in taxes last year. This figure only relates to the municipal portion of the budget, and not the school or county portion of tax bills.

Residents approved without comment the town officers’ salaries, which totaled $45,754, down $1,026 from last year.

In 2009, this portion of the budget included the treasurer’s salary of $2,026. This year, that salary was not included in the town officers’ salaries portion of the budget, impacting the total.

This year the town also added a new stipend to the town officers’ salaries providing $1,000 for the general assistance administrator. Alton Grover, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said March 17 he has handled the general assistance administration for the town for 26 years for free, and this year the town has added the stipend. He said he does not know if he will be the general assistance administrator this year yet because that will be voted on at the next selectmen’s meeting.

Grover said handling general assistance takes hours, and he sometimes attends meetings in Augusta or Bangor to learn about the process at no charge to the town.

Residents also approved $3,000 for the general assistance account, which is down from $4,000 last year. The town has spent $3,636 on general assistance in the past year, according to the town report.

Residents approved the salaries for the selectmen at the town meeting. Grover, as chairman, is paid $5,449 per year (not including the $1,000 for general assistance), the same as last year. The other four selectmen are each paid $2,536, also the same as last year.

Most of the warrant articles at the town meeting passed without comments or questions.

Residents approved $30,000 for capital improvements to the Cushing Community Center. One resident asked why that money was needed and Grover said it would be used to re-shingle the roof at the center and for work on the siding, windows and chimney.

A question was also raised about the town’s computer account, which is $7,000, up from $2,700 last year. Selectmen explained that the town may need to purchase computer equipment and software this year.

“What did you use before computers?” a resident asked.

“Pencils,” Grover responded, prompting some laughter.

There was also some discussion on the social services appropriations. It was noted that some of the social services listed last year were not listed in the town report this year. In addition, that portion of the budget at $9,846, is down by $5,157 from last year.

Selectmen said it was down from last year because some services didn’t get their requests in by the deadline. This year’s budget included funding for Adapt, Penquis, Coastal Transportation, the Friendship-Cushing Food Pantry, Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice, the Mid-Coast Mental Health Center, New Hope for Women, Senior Spectrum, Trekkers, and Coastal Opportunities. Last year, the budget also included some funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Midcoast Children’s Services and the Red Cross.

One resident also asked why the Budget Committee did not make a recommendation on the social services.

“Lack of courage,” said Budget Committee Chairman David Brown.

The town received an $18,491 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency this year for snow removal, according to Grover. He said he and Cushing Fire Chief Arthur Kiskila worked on the application after finding out the money was available. The town was eligible due to big storms that hit the community last year.

In addition, the town had some money left over in its snow removal budget. As a result, the budget for snow removal is $12,000, down 80 percent ($48,000) from last year’s budget of $60,000.

The snowplow equipment operations budget is $6,000, double what it was last year.

This year’s budget adds $15,000 toward a town truck replacement and another $15,000 toward fire truck replacement. Those amounts were not included in last year’s budget.

The county dispatching fee this year is $30,000, up $3,872 from last year.

Other town budget items include:

Fire department, $18,000, up $1,800.

Professional services (which include legal fees), $25,000, down from $50,000 last year.

Administration, $65,000, up $3,000 from last year.

Recreation, $3,200, down from $7,000 last year.

Library assistance, $2,500, same as last year.

Town building repair and maintenance, $10,000, same as last year.

Town garage operations, $1,000, down from $2,000 last year.

Waldoboro transfer station, $96,000, down $6,000.