NEW GLOUCESTER — The town’s budget for 2010-11 is yet to be unveiled. But in the final stages of scrutiny, selectmen are striving not to increase taxes for the next fiscal year.

Selectman Steve Libby said Monday the budget request is expected to be at or below last year’s spending.

The budget is expected to be made public next week, said Town Manager Sumner Field.

Libby said the board is looking to eliminate the full-time assessor’s agent position and a quarter post at the Public Works Department, and fund a stipend for the cable TV volunteers through franchise fees.

At the same time a recreational director may be hired using fees generated from programs.

Town employees did not get a raise last year and the anticipated budget will give employees between 0 and 4 percent merit raises.

“We are trying to be creative and realistic in our reviews,” Libby said. “No tax increase is impossible without major changes.” 

Some solutions are cutting hours or pay, or employees contributing more to health plans in light of decreased revenues to the town despite fixed costs.

The following accounts will remain the same: legal, fire department, tree care, cemetery, library and animal control. Decreased funding will affect selectmen, administration, meetings, debt service, care of municipal buildings and solid waste.

And, increased spending is expected to the code enforcement officer, insurance, benefits, streetlights and parks and recreation.

The assistant planner, Amanda Lessard, tendered her resignation effective Feb. 12. Libby said he is waiting for a recommendation on filling that position from Town Planner Paul First. The Planning Board for more than a year has had limited regular business activity.

Libby said he expects to increase funding for the code enforcement officer.

Town Manager Sumner Field said the shortfall of revenues at the state level has caused loss of revenues for New Gloucester in revenue sharing, at $69,000 anticipated this year.

Libby said Maine Municipal Association information shows that towns are reducing social services, not funding expansions, shutting down operational days and restructuring town government.

“New Gloucester has significant funds to operate in the foreseeable future, Libby said. An undesignated fund balance of $4 million and capital reserves and a tax increment financing district have cushioned the town’s financial efforts, he added.

Assessors Agent Nancy Pinette, whose job faces elimination, asked the board if the undesignated fund balance could be dipped into during these hard times.

She said after the meeting, that assessing tasks are constant and don’t change despite economic times. She said she learned her position-faced elimination last week and the board is considering contracting for an assessor one day per week instead.

In other business, the board signed a mutual aid agreement with the town of Baldwin.


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