The Dixfield select board deliberates on the 2018-19 municipal budget. From left are Aaron Jamison, Norman Mitchell, Chairwoman Norine Clarke, Town Manager Carlo Puiia and Gene Skibitsky. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

DIXFIELD — Despite a drop in the proposed municipal budget, increases in school and county assessments mean a proposed increase of $330,493 for taxpayers for 2018-19.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the largest increase in the total budget of $4.94 million, which doesn’t take into account revenue-sharing and other credits coming to the town, is “reflected by (RSU 56) receiving less subsidy from the state.”

The assessment being requested for the school district, $2.41 million, is more than the proposed $2.38 million municipal budget, which is down by $2,257 from last year.

Puiia noted that this town budget is the first in a while that doesn’t include “any large capital items” because the town is in good shape with its equipment right now.

The same is true with construction because quite a bit of road work has been done over the past four years, he said.

Randy Glover, director of Public Works, said no major projects are planned over the next year, maybe a section of Hall Hill.

Puiia said he felt good about this year’s budget process. “I think the board did, as well. They asked a lot of good questions and they scrutinized every line, just like they normally would.”

He added, “I think the board is pleased that the (town) budget is flat, or less than last year’s.”

The proposed Police Department budget is up $27,589 to $394,573.

Police Chief Jeff Howe said $10,000 has been budgeted toward the purchase of a new cruiser. The account has a balance of $26,400.

Puiia had recommended adding $6,000 to an office maintenance account to find a better use of the space the Police Department shares with Public Works. However, selectmen nixed that recommendation.

A similar recommendation was turned down by voters in the previous budget.

Puiia said, “The feeling among the board is that there should be a plan in place before they ask citizens for money.”

For the time being, Puiia said, the Police Department will operate as is in the facility. The select board will discuss the situation over the next year and come back with a plan.

“This way, when they present a capital plan to the citizens, it probably makes it easier to sell the idea of establishing a facility,” he said.

The Fire Department budget is up $2,665 to $93,363.

Fire Chief Scott Dennett said an additional $1,500 is for professional development for potential off-site training for Firefighter I or Firefighter II certifications. He said they have a person interested in becoming an interior firefighter.

Dennett said no new pagers or radios are anticipated. They’re looking to get two self-contained breathing apparatus bottles at $1,000 each.

The department is also raising the pay by a dollar to $11 per hour for call firefighters.

Puiia said the town has undergone a revaluation. “The likelihood is that values are going to go down, which means the mill rate will increase. When the tax bills go out, the new valuation will be in place.”

The annual town meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, at Dirigo High School.

One action item will be a proposal to change the town’s Recreation Commission from elected to appointed. Selectmen will ask voters at town meeting to approve moving the commission under the select board’s umbrella for code of ethics, with the appointed committee to be five members, with an alternate. The new committee would become effective July 1.

Recreation commission members currently serve seven-year terms. That would be reduced to three-year terms, staggered over time. The seven-member board has been operating with only four members.

Puiia has asked commission members to consider whether they want to continue as a commission or become a parks and recreation committee. Taking on the parks would help the select board with planning on future projects to maintain and improve the parks.

The annual secret poll meeting will take place Tuesday, June 12, at the American Legion.

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