The approved budget, which includes $1.4 million for education and $132,623 for county expenses, will require a mill rate of $20.70 per $1,000 valuation. The current mill rate is $20.50 per $1,000 valuation.
The budget includes $14,500 for overlay, an amount Tax Assessor David Pearson called "pretty skimpy."
Pearson told the council Thursday that Maine law allows communities to have a maximum overlay of 5 percent of the budget. These funds are used to cover abatements, nonpayment of property taxes and for unforeseen circumstances. Typically, the town has had an overlay in the range of $20,000 to $30,000, he said.
Several factors entered into this year's budget, which was slashed by about $300,000 from the first draft, according to Town Manager Robert Simpson. He said the "slice of the town's pie gets smaller and smaller" as school costs increase. The real blow, however, came when the U.S. Census announced in March that the town had a decrease in population, which affects revenue sharing and state subsidy. The town property tax records indicate there are about 500 more residents than the U.S. Census counted, he said. The 1990 Census counted 4,419 people, but the 2000 Census totaled only 3,890. Simpson, who was not counted, said he had discussed these issues with U.S. Census officials but discovered that "there's no recourse on behalf of the community."
In an effort to reduce the budget, less funding was included for improvements to aging town buildings. Simpson said the town is basically faced with "infrastructure that's coming down around our ears."
Some last-minute "good news" helped reduce the amount of money the town would have to raise, according to Simpson. He said the town received a $14,000 law enforcement block grant that will be used to pay for overtime in the police department and the town received more in revenue sharing than anticipated.
In other business, the council approved the $30,000 purchase of two parcels at the corner of Main and Spring streets from brothers Paul Davis of Sangerville and Howard Davis of Dexter. The cost of the land was not included in the budget; rather, the purchase will be paid through proceeds from the sale of tax-acquired property.
Had the Town Council chosen not to purchase the land, the $30,000 could have been used to offset expenses in the budget, keeping the mill rate at $20.50 per $1,000 valuation and providing the town with an overlay of $20,000, according to Pearson.
The town has expended more than $23,000 over the years leasing the so-called Davis Block, but some council members thought that the continuation of the lease was not economically feasible. The town paid $1,200 for an independent appraisal, which determined that the fair market value of the property was $30,000, Simpson said.
One resident who attended the meeting said he couldn't justify the town paying $4.92 per square foot for the Davis lot when commercial property in town on average was selling for $1.53 per square foot.
Considerable discussion was held Thursday about Acadia Street. The council had enacted an emergency road weight limit restriction in May to prevent road damage after learning that Wayne Washburn planned to harvest timber at the end of the road. The emergency measure expires this month, but counselors decided to take no further action after Washburn assured them Thursday that he would not haul the logs over the street.
In a related matter, the town will remove a "not a through road" sign from Acadia Street because the council chose not to designate it as a permanent dead end street as requested in a citizen petition. Simpson, who lives on the street and who pushed for the designation, said he was concerned about liability issues, especially since Washburn has placed a rock barrier on the property he owns at the end of the road.
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