New Gloucester board sends assessing issue to panel

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen on Monday refused to make a recommendation to raise $41,000 from seven possible options presented by Town Manager Sumner Field to fund full-time assessing.

Instead, they voted 3-2 to turn the issue over to the town’s volunteer Budget Advisory Committee for a recommendation.

Opposed to the decision were Selectmen Nat Berry III and Linda Chase.

“This will be a lot for the budget committee to wrestle with. This will take away credibility and is very confusing,” Berry said.

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“Why send this to a group?” Chase asked. “The process is not working right. We usually send them a figure.”

Chairman Steve Libby, Selectmen Pam Slye and Mark Leighton voted to turn the issue over to the budget panel.

“I’m going to take a leap of faith that this won’t slow the town down,” Libby said.

Raising $41,000 from taxes would raise the tax rate 8 cents.

The board said it opposed using the undesignated fund balance, which is roughly $3 million, in light of the current economy.

“I’m a little incredulous,” resident Glenn Turner said. “This town is based on community and this is hardly a rise in taxes. It’s a couple of pizzas and a couple of cokes.”

If voters fail to pass a budget to fund the accounts by June 30, a government shut down may occur, resident Josh McHenry was told.

Larry Zuckerman of the Budget Committee said forecasting the town’s fiscal needs for the next 10 years is imperative. “We have a sacred

duty to the townspeople to keep taxes down as best as could be, ” he said.

After the meeting, Town Manager Sumner Field said he was surprised by the board’s decision.

Last Friday, Field provided a spreadsheet outlining seven possible options to find $41,000 to be added to the $45,000 the board recommended by outsourcing the full-time assessors agent at 36 hours.

Four options impacted some employees directly, while two impacted all employees.

A 10 percent reduction of staff hours to 36 hours impacted the assessors agent, code enforcement officer and administrative employees for $26,136.

Another recommendation would cut completely an office clerk position and part-time buildings and grounds employee at $32,227.

Another option would reduce all wage lines by 4.5 percent at $40,500.

And, employees in another suggestion would have to pay 20 percent for insurance at $26,184.

Another option raises $9,600 by cutting selectmen stipends, elections, emergency preparedness and cable TV at 50 percent.

And, stipends for fire/rescue and the health officer and parks/ recreation would be cut 10 percent.

The public was allowed to speak after the board deliberated funding a wheel loader and discussing restoring funds to seven accounts that had no money at the annual town meeting on May 3.

The board agreed to send the wheel loader request to either repair or purchase to the town’s Capital Improvement Committee and the Budget Committee.

No date was set. Selectmen will meet June 7.

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