NEW GLOUCESTER — Voters at Monday night’s annual town meeting refused to appropriate money for 10 major town accounts and charged the Board of Selectmen with putting together another spending plan.
Selectmen and Town Manager Sumner Field III listened as residents faulted the board and the budget review process. The procedures, they said, lacked transparency and were not easily understood, and information was inconsistent and not provided in a timely manner.
Two hours of debate on article 2, which bundled seven municipal funding accounts, was amended to raise no money and passed unanimously. Included was $16,900 for selectmen, $275,000 for administration; $4,350 for town meetings/elections; $45,000 for tax assessment; $55,607 for code enforcement; $18,000 for legal expenses; and $15,000 for unanticipated expenses.
In addition, Article 9 was amended from $734,000 for insurance, social security/retirement and debt service to no money.
The two articles impact the full-time assessor position that faced elimination by contractig one for a day per week in the office and an on-call schedule with telephone accessibility.
Full-time assessor Nancy Pinette, a seven-year employee, would face losing her job.
“Selectmen have taken away our ability since 1990 by not letting us take action to increase a budget article, but only lower it,” Roger Levasseur said. He faulted the board for not speaking up to issues and leaving all comments to Chairman Steve Libby.
“You hired a town manager out of 73 applicants who is not certified, has had no experience at being a town manager and earns $4,000 less that our prior town manager who was certified,” Levassuer said.
Penny Hilton argued the budget reviews left out maintenance for the new fire station, and she questioned if $18,000 would defray legal service for next year.
Pinette said many towns that outsource assessing have small populations. “I don’t think that is comparable to what this town is getting now,” she said.
“I have to vote on a budget that I am still learning to process,” Melanie Craig said. “I am a department manager for SAD 15. I can answer every question that taxpayers ask. I can tell you where every penny is spent. I have to have faith in my elected leaders as a taxpayer and I expect transparency.”
Scott Doyle faulted the board for paying the town manager $65,000 annually.
“I get paid half that amount and here we are not having prepared information.
Voters tasked the board to go back and prepare for a special town meeting to deal with the accounts funded at $0. That includes 10 accounts.