DIXFIELD – If voters approve either the proposed selectmen’s or Finance Committee’s recommended municipal budget for fiscal 2009, they will approve a budget that does not exceed the state-imposed tax cap.

However, they will be eliminating one full-time police officer, which would end 24-hour police coverage, and under the Finance Committee recommendation, provide no funds for any social service agency.

“This is the most difficult budget I’ve ever had to develop in my 15 years as a town manager,” said Town Manager Tom Richmond Monday afternoon. “It’s a flat-line budget with increased costs and fewer revenues.”

Richmond has recommended including a fourth police officer and $20,000 for social services. He said his figure, at $1,998,000, still would come in under the increase allowed by the tax cap.

If voters approve the selectmen’s proposal, they will approve a figure of $1,957,613. If they approve the Finance Committee’s recommendation, that number would be $1,928,475. Both figures are less than this year’s $1,996,217.

The difference this year, said Richmond, is nearly $100,000 less in revenues, due to decreases in state revenue sharing and less excise tax resulting from a slowdown in sales of autos, boats and vehicles. Also, he said, money will not be taken from the surplus to help offset property taxes because the surplus figure is too low for a town the size of Dixfield.

Dollar changes include increases in all major departments, not because of increased costs, necessarily, but because for the first time, benefits are included in those figures.

“The selectmen thought including benefits would be truer numbers,” said Richmond.

Also, the police department will drop to $183,742 plus benefits, from $212,338, plus benefits, because of the recommendation to cut one position.

Richmond said voters attending Thursday’s annual town meeting can change, either up or down, nearly all of the proposed budget amounts.

Other changes include an increase in the town’s hydrant rental from $92,000 to about $118,000, an article asking voters to approve paying $35,000 overage to cover winter snowplowing, sand and salt, and an increase in the town’s annual share for payments to the Med-Care Ambulance Service from $36,000 to $48,355.

Richmond said voters will be asked to approve a four-year loan for the purchase of a plow and sanding truck. The first payment, however, won’t be due until fiscal 2010.

Voters will also act on a new 10-year interlocal agreement with Med-Care Ambulance Service. The higher budgeted figure covers costs for the per capita assessment and the town’s share for payments on a new ambulance building.

Long-time businessman and volunteer Jon W. Holmes will be honored at the beginning of the meeting as the town’s distinguished citizen of the tear. Holmes owned Holmes Market for year’s before his retirement last year. He is an active member of the Podunk Snowmobile Association and the Alumni Association, and has helped the community anonymously through the years.

Richmond said many of the town’s elderly and low income residents do not take advantage of a state program that provides a tax credit for those who qualify. Although it is too late this year to use the so-called circuit-breaker program, he said those who believe they are eligible should pick up a copy of the necessary forms later this year.

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