Residents complain about lack of data on town budget

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NEW GLOUCESTER — A public hearing on the proposed 2010-11 New Gloucester budget on Wednesday drew complaints from some of the two dozen residents about a lack of information.

For 75 minutes residents spoke about the limited data to help guide them for the hearing.

The budget became available seven hours before the hearing.

“I was disappointed the booklet was not available until 11:30 today,” resident Patti Mikkelsen said.  “Really, that’s not a good way to look at the numbers.”

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Town Manager Sumner Field said information has been available to the Budget Committee, which approved the spending plan Feb. 26 by a 6-1 vote.

“Another disappointment is the budget doesn’t have line items. There are no explanations like last year’s to compare expenditures,”  Mikkelsen said.

Budget Committee member Lawrence Zuckerman said, “We looked at the budget put together by selectmen. We didn’t take a look at detail, except by account.”

The proposed budget of $2,865,189 would be offset by $2 million in revenues.

Mikkelsen was told the undesignated fund balance totaled $3 million.

Residents were told that selectmen plan to finalize the budget for the town meeting warrant within two weeks.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Steve Libby said if an article is not funded because voters want to spend more funds than requested in the article, a special town meeting might be required.

Questions rose regarding outsourcing the property revaluation that would abolish the full-time position for Assessor’s Agent Nancy Pinette, a seven-year employee.

The public was told that under an outsourcing plan, a person would be available to the public one day per week and by phone during the week for up to 40 hours. All state mandated activities would be provided, Libby said.

New Gloucester Fire Chief Gary Sacco said in support of Pinette, “This a person we all know. Of all the positions in New Gloucester, this is a huge step backward. The position derives revenue for the town.”

Libby added that with outsourcing, all requirements under state law would be provided.

A petition heading to voters about revenues paid to the town through cable franchise fees from Time Warner Cable was questioned.

Selectmen will get an opinion on the petition from the town’s attorney.

More than 300 people signed a petition to bring to town meeting the issue of management of those fees. Conrad Wurtz who spearheaded the petition drive said he was not legally able to talk with Libby and Town Manager Sumner Field about the issue as they requested. He said the people signed the petition and it was their conversation to have in public.

Reconstruction to the Woodman Road and the Morse Roads will not be funded under the budget proposal.

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