Mechanic Falls boards set proposed budget

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MECHANIC FALLS — The Town Council and Budget Committee on Tuesday night proposed an annual budget of $2.4 million, just $667 less than this fiscal year.

The 2017-18 proposed budget should be at least mild relief to local taxpayers, especially with the school budget expected to come in $80,000 more than a year ago.

The 90-minute public hearing Tuesday night featured a few skirmishes and an almost constant whir of adding machines as the two groups presented and then amended the proposed financial plan.

Of particular concern was the matter of the transfer station — the budget for solid waste was originally proposed at $98,332, which would have meant a savings of more than $15,000.

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The committee and council, however, had misgivings about that drastic a cut — it would mean a significant rollback in the hours of operation at the transfer station, for one thing.

“To me, this is a place that is raising money, for a good purpose — saving the planet, so to speak,” argued Yvon Gilbert, of the Budget Committee. “It’s not always about dollars and cents. You have to look at the common sense of the thing, too.”

A transfer station worker who attended the meeting presented a few scenarios: longer lines at the transfer station gate as residents jam the gates to drop off trash during shortened hours of operation; piles of trash in the woods and on the roadsides as those same residents give up trying to get to the transfer station.

With shorter hours, the worker said, the dump would not be run efficiently.

“There’s just no way we can do it, I’m telling you,” he said. “I’m being straight with you folks.”

Swayed, the two panels opted to up the solid waste budget from $98,332 to $106,470. That brought the savings over the current year’s budget from $9,805 to $667, but the vote was unanimous.

The two groups went through the remainder of the proposed budget line by line, making swift work of most items.

The Fire Department budget dropped by more than $3,000, while the police budget went up by $4,099.

Money for the town manager’s office dropped by $3,787 while the budget for recreation went up by $4,000.

After a last-minute adjustment, the budget for pensions and insurance was set at $380,782, a hike of $6,687 over last year.

With the proposed budget agreed upon at Tuesday night’s hearing, the council is expected to formally adopt it and present it to voters in June.

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