New Gloucester special board meeting set for Monday

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Lower Gloucester Meeting House to take action regarding funding two warrant articles that voters appropriated $0 for at the annual town meeting on May 3.

Town Manager Sumner Field III released through the town’s website on Friday seven options for the board’s consideration to fund $41,000 for assessing.

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

“The option to use undesignated funds in these economic times is an unwise choice in my opinion,” Field wrote.

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The town has roughly $3 million in an undesignated fund that is excess money from funds raised by taxation over the years. This fund also earns interest.

Roger Levasseur told the board earlier this week that the town’s auditors recommended a cushion of at least $1.2 million in the undesignated fund.

Voters at the town meeting refused to raise and fund $430,657 for the 2010-11 fiscal year, with selectmen at $16,900; administration at $275,800; town meetings/elections at $4,350; tax assessment at $45,000; code enforcement at $55,607; legal at $18,000 and unanticipated expense at $15,000.

Voters also amended Article 11 with $0 to fund insurance, and $0 for social security/retirement and debt service instead of the $734,000 requested.

Voters in both amendments appropriated $0 in protest of outsourcing the job of the town’s assessor. Nancy Pinette has held that post full-time for seven years.

She has been on a medical leave since April 30.

The board said outsourcing assessing would save taxpayers roughly $41,000.

Outsourcing would result in an assessor being available one day per week in the town office and telephone access during the rest of the week.

Voters argued the entire budget process was lacking information in a timely manner and lacked transparency.

The chairman of the five-member Board of Selectmen, Steve Libby was faulted for being the only voice heard while board members remained silent throughout any discussions and never offered alternative options. Voters also faulted Field, who is not a certified town manager, for information gaps.

At last Monday’s selectmen meeting during audience participation a steady stream of residents continued to hammer away at the board’s inability to work cooperatively with citizen requests.

Chris Rheault said he would gladly pay extra taxes to keep the assessor’s agent in place.

Penny Hilton told the board, “You may not be aware, but town employees are feeling that taxes are being used to make them the whipping boys.”

Libby said, “We are not looking for anyone to suffer. Nothing has been decided.”

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