STRONG — Voters at town meeting Saturday could decide they want to shut off half of the town’s streetlights to save money.
The bill for streetlights was $7,600 last year. Selectmen have proposed cutting that budget item by half. Voters could decide to increase, decrease or approve recommended dollar figures to run the town, Board of Selectmen Chairman Milt Baston said.
Selectmen recommend a budget decrease of 5.7 percent, but they can’t calculate the impact on the future tax rate because they have not received assessments from the school district or the county.
The annual town meeting will convene at 1 p.m. Friday, March 2, and polls will be open until 6 p. m. Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbents Joan Reed and Michael Carleton are up for re-election; they are being challenged by Mike Pond. Ann Schwink is running unopposed for another term on the school board.
Taxpayers last year approved raising $561,450 for the municipal budget. This year, $529,157 is proposed. Last year’s budget included one-time appropriations, which won’t happen again this year.
“Last year, we needed $25,000 in matching grant funds to purchase our pellet boiler and we spent money on long-term efficiency improvements,” Baston said.
Standard accounts remain about the same, and employees won’t receive salary increases. Although this winter has been mild with little snow, Baston said several sleet storms have required the road crew to use more sand and salt and to work overtime.
“We do anticipate decreases in the legal, streetlights, roads and bridges, and equipment funds, and insurance accounts,” he said. “We have budget increases from NorthStar Ambulance, and in our paving and equipment operating accounts.”
Taxpayers last year had to increase their share of the SAD 58 budget by 10 percent, to $731,086; and their share of the Franklin County budget by 9.4 percent, to $85,850. Those budgets won’t be available until June. Revenue-sharing comes from the state as monthly checks to all municipalities, and Strong’s share has been declining steadily.
“This Saturday, it’s all up to the voters, and they might decide to give more or take some away,” he said. “We have gone up only 1.8 mills on the tax rate in the past five years, and that was because of an increase in the school budget, the county budget, and reduced revenue-sharing from the state.” A mill represents $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
This year, taxpayers will be asked to appropriate $250,000, as they did last year, from the surplus account to reduce the tax commitment.
The Town Report is dedicated to Dick and Lorraine Chandler for their service to the community. In 1972, they opened the CAT Lumber Co. in Strong and employed 75 people during peak operations.
According to the tribute written by their daughters, CAT Lumber freight liners proudly displayed their bobcat logo and “Strong, Maine” in the Carolinas, as far west as Ohio and into the eastern provinces of Canada. The Chandlers sold their business in the mid-1990s and have spent hours volunteering in school, church and other community activities.
The annual report recognizes Harold “Bud” Haggan for his years as the town’s plumbing inspector and Craig Starbird for his service to the town’s volunteer Fire Department.