Selectmen adopt $2 million budget

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DIXFIELD — Selectmen adopted a 2011-12 municipal budget Monday night that reflects a 5.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s figure of $1.9 million.

Townspeople will decide whether to approve the $2.02 million budget at the annual town meeting set for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at Dirigo High School.

The board struggled for more than two hours to reduce the final figure so it would not exceed a state law that restricts the amount of money towns can raise through taxation.

In the end, they came within $10,000 of the acceptable figure. Because of that, residents will be required to approve exceeding the acceptable state figure or reduce the proposed budget.

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Cut were made to a variety of accounts, including half of the already-reduced figure for social service agencies, thousands of dollars from public works, police and fire department reserve accounts and contractual cemetery mowing.

Retained was a 5 percent employee wage increase because nonunion staff hadn’t received raises in nearly three years, $1,000 for the River Valley Growth Council and $5,000 for the local access TV channel. No town positions were eliminated.

Several members of the town’s Finance Committee attended the Monday meeting and were working at figures that would result if employee raises were 2.5 percent, rather than 5 percent.

Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky was not pleased with his recommendation to reduce reserve accounts, but believed that more cuts were needed to arrive at an acceptable property tax increase.

“I don’t believe in cutting reserves,” he said. “You’re really not cutting reserves but deferring costs. We should be funding much more for reserves.”

Significant increases in fuel costs and health insurance premiums affected the budget, as well as fewer state revenues and a higher valuation of the town. Skibitsky plans to apply $110,000 from surplus to the total tax liability.

If all articles are passed at town meeting, Skibitsky estimated tax rates could rise at least one mill from the current $16.75 per $1,000 of valuation. That does not include the costs for expected increases in the town’s share of school taxes. That figure won’t be known until mid-June when residents of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 vote on a school budget.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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