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South Thomaston budget, issues set for town meeting vote

Fate of Gilford Butler to be before residents
By Stephen Betts | Apr 29, 2021
The South Thomaston Selectboard met Tuesday evening, April 27.

South Thomaston — Residents will gather June 15 to act on an 18-month municipal budget and decide the future of the former Gilford Butler School.

The Selectboard met April 27 to finalize items for the town meeting warrant.

The time and location for the Tuesday, June 15, meeting have not yet been set.

The town is changing its budget year from a calendar year to one that runs from July 1 through June 30. This would align the town with the Regional School Unit 13 budget and the state budget.

The proposed 18-month budget is $2,250,970. This compares to the 12-month 2020 budget of $1,584,843. Selectmen pointed out that the per month expenditures in the 18-month budget (that runs from Jan. 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022 is $125,054 as opposed to $132,070 in the current budget.

Selectboard Chair Walter Reitz said in a transition of fiscal years, it is challenging to make comparisons. Reitz said department heads were prudent with new spending requests, and said there were no appreciable staff increases.

Tax bills would be due Oct. 1, 2021 and April 1, 2022.

The solid waste disposal budget for 18 months is $462,861 of which $126,296 goes to the Owls Head, South Thomaston, Thomason transfer station.  $336,565 monthly for 18 months in FT22 is 18698 v 18436 in 2020.

The administration budget is proposed at $391,085.

The ambulance service budget is proposed at $352,177. The department overspent its 2020 budget, due mostly to COVID-19 related expenses, Reitz said. Some or all of that is expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Management Agency.

He said the number of emergency medical calls were down in 2020 compared to 2019 but it can be expected that the trend of increase from 2019 will restart in post-COVID-19 times. The budget includes allowance for the COVID-19 related mandated staffing but also is 18 months seven-day a week 12 hours per day staffing.

The town road budget is proposed at $286,365 driven by the snowplow contract fee of $239,666. He said the town is not paving this year except for the Island Road renovation which is not funded from the municipal budget or its appropriations. The road budget also includes $50,000 for a paving reserve.

The fire department budget is proposed at $202,940. Reitz said the budget is essentially a level function budget with some equipment expenses for self-contained breathing apparatus and other safety items. In addition, there is a first-time payment for an exhaust system in the fire station bay that may be covered by a grant

This reserves account budget funds several reserve accounts notably such as $52,900 for a fire truck, $50,000 for paving, $15,000 for fire equipment, and $10,000 for emergency disaster reserve.

The town forecasts it will receive $784,559 in non-property tax town revenues and $355,127 in state revenues.

The town is estimating that the tax rate for the 18 months will be $24 per $1,000 of assessed property compared to the 2020 12-month rate of $15.35.

Much of the property taxes to be raised will go to Regional School Unit 13. The town expects its RSU 13 assessment will be $5,176,977. Another estimated $312,664 will go to Knox County for county services.

Gilford Butler

Articles concerning Gilford Butler will be on the warrant after being pulled in 2020 because of the expected difficulty in having a full fledged town meeting in the middle of a pandemic.

One article on the warrant would ask residents if they will support the creation of a  Community Center Facility Committee to plan and raise money for a new community center building on the property that would house the library as well as general purpose community space.

Another article would authorize selectmen to relocate the town library to Gilford Butler for up to five years.

A third article would ask voters how much, if any, money they would support raising to prepare the building for the temporary relocation of the town library. The Selectboard will meet with the budget committee, perhaps 6 p.m. May 6 to discuss how much to recommend.

Gilford Butler was built in 1955. The building served as a school until 2018 and was replaced by the Ash Point Community School in Owls Head.

The Gilford Butler Futures Committee issued recommendations in 2019 for the building.

Another proposed ordinance would regulate solar farms.

The public hearing on the warrant articles will be 6 p.m. May 13 via Zoom.

Former Selectman Jeffrey Northgraves has taken out nomination papers to return to the Selectboard. He served several terms before not seeking re-election in 2013.

The seat is currently held by Selectboard member Jan Gaudio.

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