Vassalboro budget committee begins draft review for 2023-24

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro budget committee members held their first 2023 meeting March 16, unanimously electing Peggy Shaffer chairman and reviewing the draft 2023-24 municipal budget with select board members and Town Manager Aaron Miller.

The draft is subject to change, because some costs are not yet firm.

Budget committee members have not seen the proposed 2023-24 school budget, which is usually more than twice the municipal budget (over $8 million for schools, less than $4 million for the town).

On the municipal side, the administration budget has several proposed changes from the current year, including a decrease in the town manager’s salary, and for select board members increased stipends and three laptops. Board member Chris French would like to see the board working on line, with meetings broadcast and recorded.

Board member Frederick “Rick” Denico, Jr., has a potential source of donated broadcasting/recording equipment. There were questions about other costs and about the adequacy of the town office’s internet connection.

Road Foreman Eugene Field wants to pave several short dead-end gravel roads this year. He said the roads might need some ditching beforehand, but no extensive rebuilding; he estimated paving would last up to 15 years before it needed redoing and said it would save on maintenance costs, including wear on Vassalboro’s elderly grader.

Miller said he has taken Delta Ambulance’s request for $66,285 out of the public safety budget and made it a separate line item. He plans a separate warrant article that will ask town meeting voters to approve both the expenditure and a contract with the ambulance service.

The current expectation is that if Vassalboro does not approve the funding, Delta will stop serving the town on July 1. French said there are no alternative services willing to take over.

Budget committee member Donald Breton reminded the rest of the officials that the budget does not include money for work on the North Vassalboro fire station’s roof, a project that he said has been mentioned regularly in recent discussions.

Field’s request for up to $75,000 for a new storage building on the public works lot on Bog Road is included in the draft budget. He said he envisions an enclosed pole barn, and has an estimated $35,000 cost for materials, but no estimate yet for labor.

Budget committee member Douglas Phillips wondered whether the Bog Road lot is large enough to add the currently-planned building, and how soon public works would need even more storage space. He suggested the $75,000 should go into a reserve fund, to allow time for more planning.

Program director Karen Hatch and library director Brian Stanley each explained the expanded services they will offer if voters approve their requests for bigger budgets.

A new article asking voters to donate $5,000 to the Webber Pond Association for work on the outlet dam generated a request from Tom Richards, speaking for fire chief Walker Thompson, for installation of a dry hydrant at the dam. Budget committee member Nate Gray said involved parties plan to meet to discuss the dam soon and he will see that the fire department request is on the agenda.

A previously-scheduled Thursday, March 23, meeting of the select board and budget committee was canceled. Budget committee members planned to meet Tuesday evening, March 21, to make as many recommendations as they can with available information.


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