PARIS — Voters at the annual town meeting Saturday cut funding to the Fire Department, used surplus funds to lower the tax rate and reallocated money for the two town libraries.

There were 119 people in attendance at the Paris Fire Station, which delayed the start of the meeting because more chairs were needed. Vern Maxfield was elected moderator.

The fiscal 2018 budget totals $7.22 million, after voters cut $149,627 to the Fire Department budget. The municipal budget is $3.79 million, down more than $114,500.

Paris projected to pay School Administrative District 17 $3.14 million for fiscal 2018, an increase of $194,519.

The town’s contribution to Oxford County is $284,516, an increase of $6,991.

The projected mill rate is expected to increase by 90 cents to $17.70 per $1,000 of assessed value. The current rate is $16.80.

Budget Committee Chairman Rick Little made a motion to cut the $384,640 Fire Department budget to $239,011, which was seconded by Board of Selectmen Vice Chairman Scott Buffington. Little wanted to include eliminating per diem firefighters and leave a three-month window for the transition, along with reducing the fire chief’s salary from $40,000 per year to a $5,000 stipend plus hourly wages.

Maxfield said he would not entertain those specific parts of the amendment, only the monetary part.

Town Manager Vic Hodgkins said the town is in the middle of negotiations with the per diem firefighters’ union and “everything is frozen.”

“You cannot change the paradigm,” Hodgkins said.

Hodgkins told the audience he was unsure if the changes in the department Little suggested were legal to make and he would confer with attorneys. He added cuts to the Fire Department would most likely be for equipment and not personnel. 

Fire Chief Scott Hunter told attendees it’s their choice about how much coverage they wanted, but said he’s worried about not having enough people to quickly respond to fires or medical emergencies.

The greatest question here right now is, if we vote this and the per diems walk, what happens then?” asked outgoing Board of Selectmen Chairman Janet Jamison.

Buffington said at last week’s selectmen meeting he handed in five member applications for the Fire Department.

Our volunteer Fire Department can be a very healthy, viable option again,” he said.

Newly elected Selectman Gary Vaughn, who was sworn in at the meeting and replaces Jamison, said he has Firefighter I training and would turn in an application for the department.

The motion prevailed 52-37, with two abstaining. Voters approved the article as amended.

For the $217,000 in town surplus funds, voters had two options: fix the entirety of Mount Mica Road and complete the project quicker, or offset the tax rate.

Voters opted to use the surplus money to offset the tax rate after a motion to repair Mount Mica Road failed.

Little made an amendment to reallocate money in the social services account, and voters approved it. The total account is $174,500, an increase of $7,950.

An amount of $170,000 was approved for the Paris Public Library and $4,500 for the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum, which was originally requested by library staff.

The Budget Committee recommended allocating $500 to the Hamlin Memorial Library and using the other $4,000 toward Paris Public Library, since that organization had a $18,000 budget cut last year, and Hamlin Memorial has roughly $200,000 in savings.

Incoming Selectman John Andrews offered to donate his selectman stipend toward the Paris Public Library. He defeated Kathy Richardson in last week’s election and was sworn in on Saturday.

Little made an amendment to cut the Police Department’s budget by $75,000, which was seconded by Buffington. That motion failed, and the original article for the Police Department’s $636,735 budget passed, an increase of $76,404.

Voters also approved:

• Administration, $450,679, down $7,683;

• Debt Service, $134,332, down $123,483; 

• Highway Department, $715,509, up $5,865;

• Boards/Committees, $6,690, down $930;

• Parks and Recreation, $45,034, up $7,054;

• General Assistance, $19,945, down $688;

• Recycling, $250,000, down $25,886;

• Unclassified, $520,608, up $57,713, and

• Capital, $603,250, up $47,294.

Residents also authorized the use of surplus funds for overdrafts for fiscal 2017. Hodgkins said the only department exceeding the budget is the Police Department, because of a budgeting error made by former Police Chief Jeff Lange regarding health care last year. 

Voters accepted the assets of the Fairview Cemetery Association, which included land and trust funds of $102,233. This allows selectmen to authorize ongoing care and maintenance of the Oxford Street cemetery. Logistics of the care and selling the plots will be determined in the future, Hodgkins said.

Members of the Fire Department’s 50 Plus Club were honored for their more than 50 years of service. Those members are Brad Frost, Willie Buffington, Ben Conant, George Brown and Danny Morse.

Hodgkins also honored Dana Chandler, who received the Spirit of America award.

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Paris fiscal 2018 budget details

Approved Unclassified includes:

• Unemployment, $9,100;

• Workers compensation, $85,000;

• FICA and Medicare, $825;

• Animal control wages, $4,178;

• Responsible Pet Care — cats, $2,200;

• Animal control shelter, $5,183;

• Street and traffic lights, $55,600;

• Hydrants, $167,921;

• EMA director, $6,600;

• Storm water treatment, $45,367;

• Cemeteries, $1,750;

• Memorial Day, $50;

• Well testing, $6,925;

• Liability bond insurance $55,000;

• Audit, $8,500;

• Legal, $20,000;

• CMP Paris Hill, $497;

• Fox School, $497;

• Lien filings, $6,000;

• Contingency, $20,000;

• Maine Municipal Association dues, $5,100;

• Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments dues, $5,365;

• Contracts, $600;

• Background checks, $1,200;

• Printing, $4,000;

• Web design, $400;

• Advertising, $2,500; and

• Outside office detail, $250.

Approved Capital includes:

• Parks & Recreation, $1,000;

• Police Station improvements, $2,000;

• Fire Station improvements, $3,000;

• Highway Garage improvements, $3,000;

• Town Office improvements, $12,750;

• Roads, $480,000;

• Computer equipment and software, $1,000;

• Police cruiser, $35,000;

• Plow truck, $40,000;

• Highway equipment, $10,000;

• Fire vehicle improvements, $5,000; and

• Fire equipment, $10,500.


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