APPLETON – The following information was provided by Appleton’s Chair of the Select Board, Lorie Costigan. The secret ballot town meeting will be held at the Appleton Fire Station, 2899 Sennebec Road, on Tuesday, June 14, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

After four years of holding taxes flat, at $22.80, we are set for a mil rate of $21.70, a decrease. If revenue sharing comes in higher than anticipated that number will decrease further.

As a board we are pleased; fiscal acumen, oversight and advocacy has yielded this reality for property owners. Four years held flat and now a decrease doesn’t come without a lot of effort and desk time, especially when contracted expenses rise, such as a 19% increase to the winter roads budget, an 86% increase to ambulance services. The original ambulance budget, as delivered by Union in February, would have been an increase of over 200 percent; fortunately, Union decided to take another look and also now has formed a committee to help give voice to all municipal players.

A 13% increase in the general government line is also at play.

…We are asking voters to appropriate excise tax in the current year, the year it is received, rather than banking in the Undesignated Fund. Articles 4 & 5 show the impact of this proposed financial change. If we use the funds the year they are collected, it’s that much less we have to raise via taxes. Appleton was one of a handful of communities still banking excise in Undesignated. This change, if approved, will add approximately $300,000 to the Town’s General Fund, without appropriating through property tax.

The town has a healthy Undesignated Fund Balance, of which we ask voters permission to use $200,000 to further reduce taxes. These are two of the mechanisms that will allow the town to experience a decrease in its mil rate. In years past the town has used more of its Undesignated to reduce taxes, typically $300,000, but the lower number seemed more prudent until the town experiences a year of collecting and using excise tax in a given year. We will still benchmark having $500,000 in Undesignated at any given time.

Looking ahead, we ask voters’ permission to harvest three town-owned woodlots and also permission to sell 17 acres of a town-owned woodlot. If approved in June, the board has discussed creating a committee to oversee the lot and its sale as one lot, or as many as five lots. With road frontage of lots capped at 150 feet per lot, the 800 feet of the proposed sale lot creates flexibility for additional residences.

The pervading thought was to seize the opportunity of the high real estate market and to offer a lot on W. Appleton Road, paved and residential, as a prudent way to raise funds for future large town expenses. The town owns several woodlots. But this lot, known as the Grover McLaughlin lot and bisected by W. Appleton, with 17 acres approximately on each side, seemed best for possible residential development.

The booming real estate market has led to a number of sales well above assessed value, forecasting the likelihood of a state-mandated revaluation in years to come. Banking the sale of town-owned land, if approved, becomes a way to potentially pay for the revaluation, which can cost upwards of $150,000. Selectively harvesting the wood, and then offering one of the pieces for sale seemed a good way to bank for future expenses. Voters will ultimately decide if they’d like to continue to harvest wood every 10 years or so, or begin to collect property tax on one of the town-owned lots. The town owns 298 acres of woodlots; the majority of which is managed for timber harvest.

We ask permission for the town conservation fund, typically used to fund conservation, to be renamed to become broader in scope. We ask voters to rename it the Town Forest and Conservation Reserve Fund — established to fund maintaining town forests and tax-acquired property and currently containing $12,131.02 — to be augmented to include Town Parks, becoming the Town Forests, Conservation, and Parks Reserve Fund. This would not only fund current forests, but also care of the town parks, like Ness and Getchell. Voters will decide all.

The board requests permission of voters to spend from capital reserves to paint and repair the town office; funds for painting the fire station are in hand and work should begin in May.

More good news? The town also in March received word from the Land For Maine’s Future program that its application for $37,500 to purchase Sherman’s Mill Pond had been approved and, when the appraisal is complete, the town will receive funds to offset the purchase price of $75,000.

On the board for six years now, my first as chair, and it’s been gratifying to be able to put all five of us to work in different areas to move the town forward while also keeping an eye peeled for fiscal responsibility. The mil rate decrease is a cap to a very busy year and our pencils are, I think, permanently sharpened!

Lorie Costigan