Turner voters face busy town meeting

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TURNER – If voters take the advice of the Budget Committee at Saturday’s town meeting, spending for the 2006-07 fiscal year will remain virtually the same as this year’s $2 million budget.

Town Manager James Catlin recommended spending $2.33 million for the coming year, 4 percent more than this year’s spending. The Budget Committee cut his requests in at least a dozen areas and is recommending $2.1 million, a mere $14,746 more than this year. County taxes are also up slightly for the coming year: $387,402, compared to $364,473 this year.

However, the impact on taxpayers won’t be fully known until the SAD 52 budget is adopted in June.

Spending cuts

Where to site a new town office and how much to spend on it, as well as how to structure the town’s relationship with the blossoming Turner Center for the Arts, also are major decisions facing voters at the annual meeting scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Leavitt Area High School cafeteria.

During half a dozen sessions, budgeters looked at the town manager’s recommended spending in more than 40 categories and reduced the numbers in at least 16 of them.

The biggest cut came in social services, where Catlin’s request for $32,422 was slashed to $10,800. Other categories cut by the committee include administration, rescue, resource officer, winter and summer roads, library and history, recreation, contingency, sidewalks (following Route 117 reconstruction) and solid waste.

Reserve accounts for a fire truck and highway equipment took $10,000 hits from budgeters. The rescue unit reserve was cut by $5,000, as was the dam on the Nezinscot River.

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Buildings, land use

Renovations to the Town Office at its Route 117 location would cost about $388,000 after deducting $70,000 of in-kind services, according to an estimate prepared by the Town Office Building Committee. Available funding falls about $80,000 short of the committee’s estimate.

Selectmen, the Leavitt Institute Building’s directors and directors of the six-month-old Turner Center for the Arts, which occupies the first two floors of the Leavitt Institute Building, have been attempting, with legal assistance, to fashion a relationship that enables the center to function on its own, meet its financial obligations and free the town and building directors from any financial responsibility for the center’s operations. A thorough discussion of the issue is expected Saturday.

An amendment to the town zoning map and ordinance, and another to the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2004, will be put to a vote. In the works for more than three years, the changes have been aired with concerned residents at public hearings, and it is the hope of the Zoning Review Committee that the measures will be approved.

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