SABATTUS – After a contentious two weeks, taxpayers Saturday voted to raise and appropriate the School Board’s recommended budget of $5,803,878 at the annual town meeting.
Selectmen, along with Rep. Scott Lansley, over the past few weeks had questioned a school funding request which exceeded the state’s Essential Programs and Services Fund Act by $334,587.
Superintendent Paul Malinski offered an explanation Saturday. He outlined numerous items that are not covered under the EPS act and explained the increases the school has seen in the last year.
After listing increases in utilities, capital improvement, insurances and a $114,705 special education hike with a decrease in salaries of $41,838, Malinski’s tally totaled an increase of $310,521.
“Thanks to Rep. Lansley’s hard work, we were able to receive more funding for transportation,” Malinski said.
After the presentation, Lansley backed the School Board’s request and the town followed with a 69-to-24 vote to pass.
“We wanted an explanation and we got it,” Lansley said. The overall town commitment increase from last year is $24,268.
In other issues, residents supported the local Police Department and decided not to move into an agreement with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department.
Former Selectman William Luce defended the efforts of Chief Thomas Fales. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After the county’s and police department’s budget were compared, the county’s bottom line was $19,597 more.
Taxpayers finally agreed to raise and appropriate $3,000 for the code enforcement officer’s salary. This article was amended several times – which almost resulted in a passing $1,000 salary, with the difference to be made up through the numerous fees, fines and permits of which the position receives a percentage.
Selectman Guy Desjardins led the march to support an article in favor of budgeting $172,000 and taking $105,000 of that from State Revenue Sharing to help the town conduct its first property tax revaluation since 1990.
“This will help bring older properties up to the fair market price,” he said.
Town officials said actions taken at the meeting Saturday will involve an increase in the towns’ mill rate, but could not determine the amount until the town audit is completed in June.