Town manager vents about state, budget situation

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HARRISON — Town and city managers’ efforts to cope with cuts in state revenue while complying with the state-imposed cap on spending have managers buzzing, Harrison Town Manager Brad Plante told selectmen Tuesday night.

“I want to share with you the frustration I have and the frustration town managers across the state have with the cuts that occurred about three weeks ago when the state passed a supplemental budget to get itself out of a hole.

“They have made cuts in the Homestead reimbursement, Tree Growth reimbursement, revenue sharing, education and highway funds. The bottom line is, we’re going to have to make up the difference. They’ve put balancing the state budget on the backs of the towns.”

Exacerbating the situation, Plante said, is the fact that the state “plans to hold our feet to the fire on LD 1,” a reference to the law that limits spending to a 5 percent cap unless voters decide to override it.

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“I find that ironic,” Plante said. “There’s a lot I could share with you about what the managers are saying but I won’t because we’re on the air, and there are children at home,” he said, glancing at the cable TV camera.

Plante said officials at the Maine Municipal Association, which represents Maine’s towns and cities, “are not very pleased either.”

Taking the highest of three proposed budgets, Plante said Harrison will still be $83.000 under the LD 1 limit.

“But I don’t want people to get excited about that — it should be well under that amount,” he added.

In other action, selectmen decided to keep the town meeting date as printed in the town report: June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Harrison Elementary School.

The board also:

• Approved the warrant article for the annual town meeting.

• Approved the application for a grant for $78,000 from the Department of Homeland Security for the fire department.

• Approved the application for a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection to replace failing septic systems.

• Accepted the recommendation of Town Clerk Judith Colburn to take a straw vote at the annual town meeting to see if townspeople want to hold future meetings on a Saturday.

• Approved accepting a proposal to provide insurance from Chalmers Insurance (Selectmen Dan Schorr and Bill Goodwin opposed).

• Approved an agreement with Cumberland County Communications.

• Agreed to reimburse the harbor master for using his personal boat to carry out his duties, rather than buying a boat.

• Opened two bids for paving the Crystal Lake basketball court (town manager to review them).

• Listened to a presentation on the management of the Murray Scholarship Fund by Brian Noyes of R.M. Davis.

• Approved several liquor and entertainment licenses.

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