In a five-hour meeting March 22, the Rockport Select Board reviewed Town Manager Robert Peabody’s budget for the coming fiscal year, and ended up increasing the net appropriation to $2,465,247. This is an increase of $73,175 over the 2009-2010 budget.

The net budget is the amount raised through local taxation. The gross budget, which includes all revenue and expenses, was set at $3,896,590. This is 1 percent lower than the budget for fiscal year 2009-10. Finance Director Virginia Lindsey said March 23 that this reflected an anticipated loss of revenue of $110,654 or about 7 percent.

The workshop session began at 6 p.m. with a statement by board Chairman Robert Duke.

“There were some areas where the board didn’t seem to have an appetite for the level of reductions,” Duke said of recent Select Board budget discussions in regard to road repairs. On March 3, Public Works Director Steve Beveridge said his department had lost $200,000 over the previous four budgets.

Duke recommended that the board add $90,000 back into the budget for road construction, in order to fund scheduled repairs, when the board reached that section of the budget document later in the evening.

“This is the biggest number you’re going to deal with,” Duke told fellow board members as they began work on the 221-page document. As the group reviewed the budget, Lindsey plugged new numbers into a spreadsheet that was projected on a screen for all to see.

Due to a reduction in the federal mileage reimbursement from 55 cents to 50 cents per mile, most mileage lines were reduced by 10 percent, saving $1,110 — or 8.2 percent — in the overall budget. A great many other small adjustments were made in such items as supplies, cleaning and consulting services. In general, these were reductions from amounts requested by department heads, and the final numbers reflected actual expenditures from past budgets.

Budget lines that relate to water use were all up, reflecting a proposed 23 percent rate hike requested by Aqua Maine, leading to an overall increase of $29,340.

Select Board members decided unanimously to cut the donation requested by the Camden First Aid Association, from $19,000 to $10,000. Duke said the fee was $5,000 per year in the 1990s, and was increased to $19,000 when the aid organization was experiencing financial difficulties.

“They were in hard shape,” Duke said. “That’s a whole different story than now.” Board member Dale Landrith said Rockport’s share of local contributions to the Camden First Aid Association is now more than 50 percent of the total assessed to all the towns served by the association, and 350 calls were generated from Rockport last year. He said he had not been able to learn the total number of calls made by the service.

Duke said he wanted to know whether the association owned any real estate other than its garage and office space. Peabody said there was a question about the ownership of a building and land on Long Lake in St. Agatha.

“They claim they have no assets,” Duke said of a budget review presentation the association made to the Select Board March 17.

It was agreed that the Select Board would revisit that cut if the Camden First Aid Association produces compelling evidence to support its request before the board meets on April 12. Peabody said March 23 that he hoped the information would be available to the Budget Committee when it begins deliberations March 30. In particular, the Select Board wanted to learn the number of calls per town, the donation requested per town, what the town of Camden pays in taxes and other compensation for the ambulance service, and what property the association owns.

The discussion on harbor floats led to a decision to direct Harbormaster Abbie Leonard to use some of the appropriated funds to purchase two dinghies the town would rent or loan to boaters on a half-hour basis, thus reducing the need for more transient dinghy space on municipal docks. Leonard said a similar program is in place in Falmouth, where there is no rent charged for the use of the rowboats.

Select Board members also instructed Leonard to review pricing for winter boat storage.

“We need to either make money on it, or make it so expensive that no one uses it,” Landrith said.

Turning to the public works budget, the board reduced the appropriation for winter road treatment supplies by 20 percent, saving a quarter of the amount needed to restore the paving costs Duke described at the start of the meeting.

The Select Board reduced the budget for the Conservation Commission by $1,800 or almost 50 percent, returned $4,251 requested by the Teen Center that was not in the town manager’s budget, and cut the 50 percent subsidy for summer programs at the Penobscot Bay YMCA after learning that only 23 Rockport children took advantage of it in 2009. Savings of $4,600 were achieved by reducing the electricity appropriation for the former Rockport Elementary School East building.

Throughout the workshop, board members expressed concern that local taxes are strongly affected by school budgets.

“The only way we can do anything about the [school] budget is for taxpayers to get involved,” said Landrith. “The schools are not doing the hard work the towns are doing.”

The Budget Committee will look at the document on Tuesday, March 30, with time set aside on Wednesday, March 31 for further discussion, if needed, and will offer its recommendations for the warrant.

At its regular meeting on Monday, April 12, the Select Board will make its final decision on the budget. The Budget Committee will review any final changes on Tuesday, April 13. Both the Select Board and the Budget Committee recommendations will appear on the warrant for the June 9 town meeting.

The Ordinance Review Committee will hold an informational meeting Thursday, April 1 on proposed ordinance changes appearing on the June ballot. A public hearing on the June ballot articles will be held Tuesday, April 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.

Rockport voters will choose among candidates for the following offices when they vote by secret ballot on Tuesday, June 8.

  • Select Board – one position for a three-year term for the seat currently held by Robert Duke.
  • Maine School Administrative District 28 and the Five Town Community School District – one position for a three-year term currently held by Geoffrey Parker.
  • Library Committee – two positions for three-year terms currently held by Janice Baldwin and Carol Goodridge.
  • Budget Committee – three positions for three-year terms currently held by Walter Greenlaw, Laurence Lehmann and Sharon Stone.

 

Signed nomination papers are due in the Rockport Town Office at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 23.

Rockport citizens will vote for candidates and decide on referendum questions, by written ballot, in the Richardson Room at the town office during the statewide primary election Tuesday, June 8 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Town meeting will be held Wednesday, June 9 at 7 p.m. upstairs in the Rockport Opera House.

For more information, call the Rockport Town Office at 236-0806.

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