VASSALBORO, ME — Vassalboro Budget Committee members made their recommendations on the 2022-23 municipal budget at their March 31 meeting. Not all votes were unanimous, and because the school budget is still unknown, committee members did not guarantee their recommendations are final.
Members had varying attitudes toward the school budget. Optimists said the school, like the town, should have enough extra federal revenue so that the proposed 2022-23 budget will not be significantly higher than the current year’s.
If the optimists are wrong, some budget committee members would revisit the municipal budget with the goal of lowering their recommendations, so that the two budgets combined would not increase taxes.
Chairman Rick Denico, Jr., quoted former select board member Lauchlin Titus’s advice: don’t base budget decisions on the mil rate, don’t penalize either the school or the town for the other.
Member William Browne said if the school budget does provide a surprise, anyone on the budget committee who voted in favor of an item can move to reconsider it.
And the final decisions will be up to the voters who attend the June 6 open town meeting, where they will have the option of disregarding any recommendations.
A longer-range pending issue is whether the Vassalboro Select Board will adopt a salary schedule for town employees, following up on a study they commissioned (see The Town Line, March 10, p. 3, and March 24, p. 3).
After discussion of potential costs, and despite Select Board Chairman Robert Browne’s reminder that the select board decides policy issues, Denico called a straw poll and announced that eight of the 10 budget committee members supported the estimated $37,000 additional cost in 2022-23. That figure includes one-time larger raises for employees below scale.
Committee members then proceeded to review Town Manager Mary Sabins’ draft budget and draft warrant for the June 6 part of the annual town meeting item by item. They discussed two articles.
Article 5 in the draft asks voters how much they want to raise and appropriate to support 14 individually-listed town departments or services totaling $2,582,004. Individual figures range from $3,000 for general assistance to $593,925 for public works.
Public works brought concern from budget committee members about paving costs and a question about a recently-announced federal grant to the Maine Department of Transportation, from which $800,000 has been allocated for about three-quarters of a mile of Route 32, in Vassalboro.
Road Foreman Gene Field, from the audience, said he budgeted assuming paving material will cost $85 a ton. That is not a firm price. The large grant, he said, is for road and sidewalk improvements in North Vassalboro in 2024.
The amount proposed for recreation in 2022-23 is $44,327, and for the library, $60,500. Both are significant increases over the current year and both include personnel: Sabins recommends hiring a half-time recreation director, and library trustees want to add hours for the library director, to open the library one more day a week and for programming (see The Town Line, March 24, p. 3).
Sabins told budget committee members she expects the two positions would complement each other, not overlap or compete. The recreation director would organize sports programs on the ballfields and she hopes could also write grants, do long-range planning and help the town in other ways. She is working on a job description for select board review.
Library programs would be intended for residents of all ages, Sabins said.
A motion to recommend a lower library budget was defeated by a one-vote margin.
Draft warrant Article 6 has three fund requests: $20,000 for streamside park development (parking, picnic tables and perhaps other improvements at the town-acquired lot on Outlet Stream and Route 32 between East and North Vassalboro); $25,000 to demolish a dangerous building (the former church on Priest Hill Road in North Vassalboro); and $106,000 for roadside mowing equipment (if obtainable, Field’s recommended attachment for the loader).
Budget committee members endorsed all three, the mowing equipment by a one-vote margin. Field has been renting mowing equipment. He expects rental to cost around $16,000 for two mowings. Omitting a fall cutting one year let roadside grass grow high enough to block visibility some places, he told select board members at their Feb. 24 meeting.
The proposed April 5 budget committee meeting is canceled. As of April 5, committee members expected to hear on April 6 whether the 2022-23 school budget would be ready for review at an April 7 meeting. Residents who want to know whether the budget committee will meet the evening of April 7 should contact school Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Town meeting to be in two parts
The first part of Vassalboro’s two-part 2022 town meeting is the open meeting, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Vassalboro Community School. Voters will assemble in person to act on funding and policy issues for 2022-23.
Written-ballot elections and the written referendum on the school budget adopted June 6 are scheduled for Tuesday, June 14, with polls open at the town office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Local officials to be chosen are one select board member and two school board members. Signed nomination papers must be returned to the town office by noon Friday, April 8, for candidates’ names to appear on the June 14 ballot.
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