BUCKFIELD — In a grueling, five-hour town meeting Saturday, voters passed a 2014-15 budget.

The municipal spending plan recommended by the Budget Committee and selectmen was $1.67 million, an increase of $47,716 over this year’s budget.

About 65 voters cut funds from some articles and added funds to others, for a net reduction from the proposed budget of $148,585. This made for a reduction of $100,868 from the 2013-14 fiscal budget.

The municipal budget accounts for one-third of the tax assessment; the Regional School Unit 10 and the county budgets account for two-thirds.

Voters made changes to four articles.

Article 11 funded the Rescue Department. The recommended budget included $186,585 for this department. Resident Darrell Harvey’s amendment to give the Rescue Department $135,000 was passed. More than an hour was spent on this one article. Residents and selectmen indicated their displeasure with budget overruns.

Article 19 of the recommended budget proposed no funding for social services. After spokesmen for several organizations, such as Hospice, spoke on the number of Buckfield residents their organization helped, voters decided to spend $4,000 for social services.

Residents accepted Judy Berg’s motion on Article 28 that $250,000 be allocated for summer roads. This was $100,000 less than the proposed budget. Selectman Martha Catevenis said the major emphasis this year would be on improving drainage. She said the town would prioritize the roads and work on as many as they could afford.

Voters approved only $215,132 of the $226,132 proposed for debt service in Article 29.

A great deal of controversy arose on Article 35, which covered a $13,600 overdraft by the Rescue Department and a $32,780 overdraft by the Road Department. Last year, the Road Department overdrew its accounts by nearly $60,000.

While no lawyers identified themselves at the meeting, the consensus seemed to be that the town could legally overdraw only the General Assistance and the Winter Roads budgets, and that all other increases in spending had to have the approval of a special town meeting.

Catevenis emphasized her displeasure with the overdrafts and assured residents that the selectmen would be overseeing budgets more closely. Town Manager Cindy Dunn said she would make a point to alert the selectmen to any department that seemed to be in danger of overspending its budget.


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