At an in-person March 4 meeting, Vassalboro selectmen made minor decisions before turning the Vassalboro Community School gymnasium over to the budget committee and introducing the draft 2021-22 budget.
The selectmen’s part of the meeting included continued planning for this year’s sestercentennial (250th) anniversary of the creation of the Town of Vassalboro on April 26, 1771; Town Manager Mary Sabins’ report on tax-acquired properties (she and selectmen welcome prior owners’ efforts to reclaim them by paying all taxes and fees); and the usual payment of town bills.
John Melrose, chairman of the selectboard, announced that the town started receiving power in February from the ReVision Energy solar installation in Skowhegan to which Vassalboro and other municipalities had contributed. The town’s electric bill went down dramatically.
Vassalboro is in a 20-year contract to buy power from ReVision. In February, solar power provided about 85 percent of Vassalboro’s electricity supply, Melrose said.
Neither he nor Sabins guarantees the decrease will continue to be as great as in the first month, but so far they are pleased with the investment.
Melrose had prepared a slide presentation introducing the proposed 2021-22 budget for the budget committee, with an aerial view of the solar farm on the cover. Among highlights:
- Excise taxes provided the largest share of Vassalboro’s current-year (2020-21) revenues, at 34 percent. Property taxes were second at 22 percent.
- From 2015 through 2019, Vassalboro’s local tax rate was lower than the average for Kennebec County and the average for the State of Maine.
- Money from property taxes was allocated as follows in the current year: 80 percent to education, 12 percent to municipal government and eight percent to the Kennebec County tax.
- Within the municipal budget, public works got the largest share, 22 percent. Administration was second at 20 percent; paving and road maintenance claimed 18 percent; and solid waste disposal required 14 percent.
- Looking at the municipal budget in terms of total wages or salaries and benefits for all departments, Melrose found personnel costs were 31 percent of the municipal total. In his summary, he pointed out that the “Payroll/benefit package is market sensitive,” a point Road Commissioner and Public Works Director Eugene Field has made repeatedly as he advocates for locally competitive wages for his department employees.
The budget committee’s first action was to re-elect Rick Denico as chairman. Committee members then briefly discussed parts of the proposed 2021-22 budget with Sabins and selectmen.
Half-way through the discussion, Selectman Robert Browne commented cheerfully that it looked as though the tax rate might go down.
However, budget committee members do not know what school board members plan to request. They are scheduled to meet with the school board at 7 p.m. (the school board meeting will begin at 6 p.m.) Tuesday evening, March 23, at Vassalboro Community School.
The next budget committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, again in person in the school gymnasium. Members decided the main topic will be development of questions to ask selectmen, with answers expected when the two boards meet Thursday, March 18, selectmen at 6 p.m. and the budget committee at 7 p.m.
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