MECHANIC FALLS — With the traditional town meeting a thing of the past, Wednesday’s public hearing on the town budget takes on added significance.
“This will be the first time in history that people will have an opportunity to adjust proposed numbers at a public meeting, either up or down,” Town Manager John Hawley said.
The public hearing will be conducted, Hawley pointed out, very much like a town meeting, but not quite as formal.
The Town Council and the Budget Committee will make their recommendations for the budget at this meeting.
“Any public influence at the hearing could sway either group to change their recommendation,” Hawley said.
The next step in the new process for approving the town’s budget will be for the council, on June 6, to approve articles, written similar to how they traditionally have appeared in reports for town meetings, which will then go to voters in a referendum ballot on June 14.
In addition to asking residents to weigh in on the town budget, Hawley will be looking for an extra $95,000 as the town’s match for an equal amount from the Wood to Energy Grants Program that will pay for converting the heating systems for the Municipal Building/fire station and Public Works complex from oil fired to wood pellets.
The conversion, it is estimated, would pay for itself in five years, thanks to the difference in the prices of oil and wood.
“I am proposing the money come from fund balance. There would be no debt to the town, no interest. We have the money in our account,” Hawley said.
As crafted, Hawley’s proposed $2.4 million budget to run the town for the coming year keeps the amount to be raised by property taxes at the current year’s level.
The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, in the Municipal Building’s gymnasium.