MEXICO – Residents will have a chance Wednesday to ask questions and get clarification on the selectmen-approved municipal budget for 2009-10.

“This is the most difficult budget season I’ve ever seen,” Town Manager John Madigan said. “We can’t rely on the state and we get a big part of our budget from them.”

The hearing begins at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Proposed is a municipal budget of $2,458,052, down $32,000 from this year.

Also, Mexico built into its budget $17,000 more than it will actually have to spend because neighboring Dixfield must pay that amount as its share of funding construction of the new Thad White Bridge. The towns shared the cost of constructing the bridge that connects them.

Madigan expects the tax rate of $23.35 per $1,000 valuation to remain the same for the coming fiscal year, although that won’t be known for sure until this summer.

All employees will receive a 3 percent salary increase under the proposal. But to reach a proposed budget lower than the existing one, a number of cuts had to be made.

Among them is a reduction in the five-member Mexico Police Department to four officers, a substantial decrease in the amount of money the town generally provides to the River Valley Growth Council, and a reduction of $20,000 for administration. The police chief has applied for a grant to cover the cost of at least one additional officer. An increase of $20,000 more to the road reserve account was added to the proposed budget.

Madigan said that even with anticipated cuts in revenue sharing, tree growth and homestead reimbursement, he expects the tax rate to remain the same because of about $100,000 coming to the town as a result of the merger of SAD 43, SAD 21 and SAD 39 to create the Western Foothills School District.

Residents will decide on the proposed budget by voting on 21 articles during the town meeting referendum June 9.

The public hearing will be followed by the selectmen’s meeting.

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