For 10 hours during the last week, Waldoboro selectmen and the Budget Committee reviewed the proposed $3.5 million municipal budget.

The review yielded a few changes to the proposed budget that was put together by town department heads and the interim town manager. Those town employees presented a budget with no cost of living increases and various cuts in expenses such as supplies and equipment. This year, there was no $275,000 from the fund balance to use, and there were increases for fuel and insurance.

At the end of the review, changes included cutting $2,000 from the office of the town manager for legal books, reinstating the stipend for firefighters who are certified to go into burning houses, and cutting $10,000 to close the transfer station one day a week.

The budget review process included the possibility of cuts to personnel in the town office, including the recreation director, the town clerk, one or two police officers, and the benefits for a full-time EMS employee. At the three budget meetings, some town employees had to sing for their supper.

Several concerned residents urged the town to make serious cuts to the budget. They asked probing questions on topics ranging from $200 for brochures to the impact on the town if Penobscot Bay Medical Center bids out the transfer of patients and Waldoboro EMS loses that revenue.

Significant decisions were tabled during the first two meetings and were left to the final Board of Selectmen/Budget Committee meeting on March 22.

On March 22, selectmen and the Budget Committee endorsed the budget accounts — with no cuts — for the town clerk, police department and recreation director.

On the accounts for the recreation director and police department, several residents asked for cuts in personnel to lower the tax burden.

Comments from residents on the recreation department were indicative of criticisms for other issues, such as the library. Phase it down, said Craig Lewis. It’s a great program but not absolutely necessary, said Duncan Morrell. Put it on hold until the town can afford it, said Ronnie Miller.

But supporters of the library and the recreation department, for example, said those programs are vital to the town. They get children outside on the ball field, or put books in the hands of readers.

When Waldoboro citizens decide in June whether or not to approve those budgets, they will see the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee.

The Board of Selectmen includes Chairman Rebecca Maxwell, Theodore Wooster, Robert Butler, Craig Cooley and Steve Cartwright.

The Budget Committee includes Chairman William Blodgett, Valdemar Skov, Charles Maxcy, Dr. Ted Mohlie, Norman Golden, Jodie Ruano, Michael Dean and Bruce Metrick.

Eileen Dondlinger is the finance director and interim town manager.

Transfer station

Public Works Director John Daigle said the budget for the transfer station could be reduced by $300,000 if a pay-per-bag system is adopted. He reported on March 22 that there was not enough time to get the system in place to make cuts to the current transfer station budget, but perhaps savings could start this year.

Selectmen voted unanimously March 22 to endorse a pay-per-bag system for the transfer station. Proponents say it will reduce the mil rate, lower costs at the transfer station and encourage recycling. Others cited concerns that the costs will be shifted to individuals, and garbage may be dumped in the woods or along roads.

Daigle said a pay-per-bag program could save a total of $300,000, with $180,000 as Waldoboro’s share. Cushing and Friendship also use and help pay for the transfer station.

One change made to the transfer station budget was to go from being open six days a week to five. This could save approximately $10,000, with 66 percent of the savings going to Waldoboro.

Police department

The police department’s proposed budget had increases only for fuel and to bring to pay for two officers to the level of their coworkers. Selectmen Steve Cartwright and Craig Cooley voted to cut the budget by approximately $10,000. But the other three selectmen favored the police chief’s original proposed budget.

Police Chief William Labombarde said he wants to keep his trained officers in Waldoboro, rather than training new recruits every few years and having them leave for other departments that pay better.

One suggestion was to cut two police officers from the budget, but this was not endorsed by selectmen and the Budget Committee.

Concerned citizens

Many concerned citizens urged cuts to the proposed budget. They did not want to be nickel and dimed — this or that service will add $2 to your tax bill — on the way to an increase in the property tax rate.

That tax rate could go from $12.10 to $13.30 because the town does not have money to use from the fund balance, and there is an expected increase in the school district budget.

The property taxes for the proposed municipal budget total $1,698,506, which is up $277,355 from the current budget of $1,421,151. That increase nearly corresponds to the $275,000 fund balance that was used last year, but is not available in the fiscal year 2012 budget.

Resident Craig Lewis got the last word, at 10 p.m. on March 22. He said the process was backward — the Budget Committee should have reviewed the accounts first, and then selectmen should have made their decisions. He thanked the fire department for proposing cuts, but criticized selectmen for putting the stipend back in the budget. “I’m ashamed of this board, I’m ashamed of this town that we couldn’t cut $5 out of this budget,” Lewis said. He said all town employees should pay a share of their health insurance. “Just put it on the poor taxpayers out here to pay the bill,” he said. “A lot of us are struggling very hard. There’s a lot of people here that are on a fixed income that are barely scraping by.” He said they are proud people that will not ask for help; they will go without.

What’s next

In the coming months, the Board of Selectmen will formally set the town warrant and decide how to call the election. It is expected to be a secret ballot vote at the polls, although the vote by townspeople to stop holding town meeting was a non-binding vote.

In addition to deciding on all the budget articles, Waldoboro residents will elect two selectmen as well as school board directors and Budget Committee members. Nomination papers are available now at the town office.

For a copy of the budget and meeting agendas, visit waldoboromaine.org.

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