MECHANIC FALLS — The Town Council on Wednesday signed the warrant for nine municipal budget articles to be voted on July 22.

The council and the Budget Committee made identical recommendations on funding municipal departments in response to voters’ rejection of them last month.

If townspeople approve the articles, which cover fiscal year 2014-15, they will still see an increase in their property taxes.

Town Manager John Hawley estimated taxes on a house assessed at $100,000 would go up by $81, which is significantly lower than the $142 increase residents would have faced had they approved the budget presented in June.

The total amount of the articles is about $83,000 less than the fiscal year that ended June 30.

What have increased are the amounts dedicated to capital improvement projects and reserve accounts for future purchases. Selectmen and the Budget Committee agreed that such funding is critical to the continued well-being of the town.

“Playing catch-up can be very costly,” Budget Committee member Bonnie Payette said.

As of July 1, Hawley, with support of the council, instituted several cost-saving measures, including rescinding raises for town employees and reducing their workweek from 40 to 38 hours.

Purchase of a new firetruck, approved at the June referendum, was also deferred a year to not inflate the debt-service line this year.

The budget for code enforcement/planning was cut nearly in half, from $46,000 to $25,000. Hawley made the move following the resignation of the full-time code enforcement officer and hiring a replacement who is working half time.

“The office is overwhelmed,” Hawley said. “Already, people are not happy with the reduction in hours.”

Several in the packed council chambers spoke in favor of full funding for the Police Department, noting that Mechanic Falls is not immune to the spreading drug epidemic.

Chief Jeffrey Goss presented a budget request that was about $5,000 less than what was rejected in June. He said he cut back on summer patrols and eliminated reserve officers.

Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommended the slightly reduced budget.


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