Vassalboro Budget Committee members ran out of time to finish their work at their April 12 meeting, so they will meet again at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in the town office. Selectmen have consequently moved their meeting time to 6 instead of 6:30 that evening.
Budget committee members continued discussion of municipal budget requests April 12, taking one vote and one straw poll and reaching informal consensus on other items. They still need to make recommendations on spending requests in warrant articles for the June 4 town meeting. Selectmen have made their recommendations, but board member Robert Browne said they could be changed.
Selectmen are scheduled to review a draft of the warrant April 19. The preliminary version Town Manager Mary Sabins prepared for the April 12 meeting has 68 articles. Two more articles, confirmation or denial of the school budget approved June 4 and local elections, are be decided by written ballot on June 12.
The one vote was to recommend voters appropriate $10,000 from the alewife reserve fund (money gained from selling alewives each spring) for the China Region Lakes Alliance, currently Art. 51 in the warrant. The vote was 5-2, with Donald Breton, Elizabeth Reuthe, Douglas Phillips, Dick Phippen and Peggy Shaffer in favor, William Browne and Phillip Landry opposed and Chairman Rick Denico abstaining.
The selectmen recommended $5,000; the organization asked for $15,000.
The straw poll was on whether to recommend no funding for a Vassalboro police department, relying instead on state and county law enforcement officers. If committee members so recommend when they make final decisions, Selectman Lauchlin Titus said a separate police department warrant article would be appropriate to clarify the issue for voters. In the preliminary draft warrant, Art. 11 asks for $69,797 for police, animal control and emergency dispatching services.
A majority tentatively favored recommending no funding, at least to create a separate article and give voters a chance to discuss the issue separately.
Committee members revisited requests from Public Works Foreman Eugene Field, First Responders and the volunteer fire department, whose members want a replacement roof on the Riverside fire station.
Public works issues include paving roads and the public works dooryard; equipment rental, especially an excavator for roadside ditching; and Field’s requests for a new generator and a new power washer. Committee members also questioned estimated future fuel costs. A majority favored not recommending $30,000 that would either do the garage area or allow additional road paving. When committee Chairman Rick Denico asked Field what he would cut, Field replied, “It depends on what the board [of selectmen] and residents want for service.” First Responders Chief Dan Mayotte explained what supplies his volunteers need to buy. Committee members reached informal preliminary consensus to support the group’s $13,250 budget request.
Fire department officers had quotes averaging $25,000 for a new metal roof for the Riverside fire station. At the budget committee’s request, they got an estimate of around $12,500 for asphalt shingles, the current roofing material.
Budget committee members talked about recommending $12,500 in 2018-19 and postponing the other half.
Firefighter and budget committee member Donald Breton said the department’s board of directors do not want to redo asphalt shingles; if voters approve $12,500, they will either reroof half the building with metal or hold the money hoping for more in 2019.
Several people said the price of metal is rising rapidly, because of national tariffs. Titus gave an example of the price of steel doubling since February and wondered whether the companies would be able to honor the quotes they gave the fire department.
The prolonged discussions are part of budget committee members’ effort to limit the 2018-19 tax increase. They also met with the school board on April 10, but did not have final school budget figures.
As the meeting wound down, Denico proposed future meetings after “the pre-town meeting crunch” that would give committee members time to consider major money-saving changes, like limiting school choice. Other committee members seemed to approve. Selectman Browne reminded them, as Titus had done during discussion of the police department, that setting policy was the selectmen’s responsibility, not the budget committee’s.
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