Buckfield audit shows $743,000 surplus

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BUCKFIELD — Selectmen received good news Tuesday night on the recently completed town audit for fiscal year 2010-11.

“You’ve improved financially. You’re rock solid,” auditor Ron Smith of the Buxton firm of HRH Smith and Co. told the board.

He said the town has a $743,000 surplus, which is where a town the size of Buckfield should be. Last year’s annual budget was $2.7 million.

Smith said the audit showed figures much better than in the past, particularly with revenue sharing and excise tax down, and school costs up.

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Interim Town Manager Dana Lee said the town must be careful about using surplus to lower property taxes.

“We don’t want to believe ourselves to be rich. You can get used to having that fund balance,” he said.

Smith agreed.

“You’ve got to be real careful when you use fund balance. Your town needs a policy,” he said.

He also advised the board to consider borrowing for any needed infrastructure because the current interest rate is so low, often below 3 percent.

In other matters, the board directed Lee to provide a possible plan, or scope, for a new or renovated fire and rescue building at the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.

Lee said three possible scenarios will be presented, along with a possible timetable and thoughts for the future of the two emergency services.

Board Chairwoman Eileen Hotham suggested that designs should be presented that allow for larger apparatus in the future.

“I want to see us looking further into the future. We’ve gone almost 30 years (with the current facility) and have not made many changes,” she said.

The board also approved contracts with neighboring Hartford to provide fire and ambulance service to the smaller town. The rate will rise from $3,000 to $3,450 for rescue service, and increase from $7,500 to $12,140 for fire protection.

Also on Tuesday, the board:

* Approved access to the Maine Municipal Association website by all members of municipal committees.

 * Denied a work order that would have allowed cutting a 64-foot swath along the railroad bed.

 * Announced the need for several volunteers to serve on municipal committees. Members and alternates are sought for the Planning Board, Recreation Committee and Board of Appeals. For information contact the town office at 336-2521.

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