Vassalboro selectmen have moved their first meeting in May from the usual Thursday evening to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in the town office meeting room.
A major agenda item needs to be signing the warrant for the June 4 and June 12 annual town meeting, because Town Manager Mary Sabins’ schedule calls for the warrant to go to the printer by Friday, May 4, to be included in the annual town report.
However, selectmen ended their April 19 meeting and the budget committee meeting that followed with nothing resembling a finished warrant. There were three problems:
- Sabins was waiting to hear from the Alewife Restoration Initiative, or ARI, what question or questions the group wants to put to Vassalboro voters. She had set aside two warrant articles for ARI, but expects only one to be used.
The manager and selectmen are working on two changes to shorten the warrant, which had 70 separate articles (68 for the June 4 open meeting and two more for written-ballot votes June 12) as of April 19. They propose combining social services and related agencies’ requests in a single article, without hindering voters’ chance to discuss each request separately; and they suggest combining separate requests for authorization to apply for grants into one article.
- The most important problem was the lack of a 2018-19 school budget. Neither the school board nor AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 officials had submitted proposed expenditure figures for the 14 school articles that require a budget committee recommendation.
The school budget makes up the major part of the total expenditures voters will decide on. Selectmen and budget committee members have recommended substantial reductions in amounts Sabins and town department heads initially requested for the municipal budget, and the school board has lowered its original figures; but the projected tax increase is still higher than many budget committee members are comfortable with.
Looking at the potential – but not guaranteed – increase of more than one mil ($1 for each $1,000 of valuation), budget committee member Douglas Phillips opined that “At some point we’ve got to stop raising taxes and live within our means.”
He and other committee members repeatedly said it will be up to voters to decide what they’re willing to pay for. “The bottom line is the people who are going to be affected need to be at the [town] meeting,” Budget Committee Chairman Rick Denico said.
Denico said School Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said the school board planned to meet April 25. Budget committee members want the school board to further reduce the 2018-19 budget and to have the expected one-time payment from the dissolution of the AOS go toward 2018-19 school revenues, not into surplus.
Denico planned to attend the April 25 school board meeting.
Budget committee members did make recommendations, most but not all unanimous, on municipal warrant articles, agreeing to disagree with the selectmen – at least until May 2 – on minor sums here and there. Both boards abandoned the idea of eliminating the town police department, recommending $69,797 for public safety, including police, animal control and emergency dispatching services. Neither board recommends setting aside money in a reserve fund for a new police vehicle.
June 4 voters will elect six budget committee members instead of the usual five. Denico, Phillips, Richard Phippen and Elizabeth Reuthe are ending their two-year terms, with the option of seeking re-election. John Melrose resigned last fall when he was elected selectman, and Denico said Ed Scholz resigned this month. Whoever is elected to Scholz’s seat will serve for one year, finishing his term.
Town Clerk Cathy Coyne said there will be no contests on the ballot at the June 12 local elections. Unless a write-in candidate declares, Melrose and Jolene Clark Gamage are unopposed for re-election to three-year terms on the board of selectmen and the school board, respectively.
The June 4 open town meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Vassalboro Community School. June 12 voting will be at the town office, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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