MECHANIC FALLS — Town Manager Zakk Maher wants to change the face of the municipal budget process.

At last week’s first review of the 2019-20 budget with the Town Council and Budget Committee, Maher called it “structural modifications.” He said he wants the budget to “actually show what the cost of services are” to the town, and to provide an “overall clarity.”

Maher has eliminated seven expense lines that were used in the past. Gone are the Municipal Complex, Legal Services, Safety Compliance Officer, Dispatcher, Emergency Management Agency, Rescue, and Reserves budget lines.

In a note attached to the summary, Maher said, “The Rescue & EMA lines have been relocated to the combined FIRE/RESCUE budget. Similarly, the role of the Health & Safety Officer has been assigned to the town clerk.”

Additionally, the Municipal Complex and Legal Services lines have been allocated to the departments “that are ultimately responsible for those expenses.” The Administration, Police Department, Fire/Rescue, Public Works, Transfer Station and library budgets include a share of costs for utilities, communications, contracted services, office supplies and repairs.

The Reserves budget line will be incorporated into a detailed seven-year Capital Improvement Plan.

In addition, the Administration line will include the town manager and finance director expenses. Before the finance director position, it had been in the town clerk’s line.

Police and Fire/Rescue will share the dispatcher expense line.

Due to increased workload, the code enforcement officer will be made into a full-time position.

Maher said he encouraged each department head to present needs that are required to sustain service. “Not necessarily priorities,” Maher said but the actual means to do their job in a responsible fashion.

Maher said he did not want department heads regulating or censoring their budgets. He wanted them to provide real costs, be it personnel, equipment and/or training.

He told them it would be up to the Town Council to decide how to fund requests.

The preliminary 2019-20 municipal budget is $2.73 million, which is an increase of almost $196,000 from this fiscal year that ends June 30. On the revenue side, mainly due to the addition of Hannaford Supermarket, there was an increase of $161,300. By applying $190,000 from the general fund, the total net to be raised would be $1.6 million, which is an increase of $39,422 from this fiscal year.

Councilman Wayne Hackett said he is not comfortable with the way the budget is being presented. He said, if he could, he would have Maher “come back with a real number.”

Hackett said he did not like the expenditure line increasing to $196,000. He said he would prefer seeing a good portion of the additional revenue go to reducing the tax rate.

Property taxes have always been a “big concern of people ” in this town, he said.

Hackett also disliked eliminating the Municipal Complex line and adding utility costs to all departments. He said when people see the Police Department budget line, “they are going to go berserk.”

The Police Department is seeking an additional patrolman.

“I have no intention that this number is going to be able to stay the same,” Maher said. “I think the whole point was to have the opportunity, to have you as the council to have input in the priorities” to where the dollars go … “same thing with the Budget Committee,” they will have the same numbers.

Maher said the town is “providing a really good service, especially in comparison to neighboring communities and it has a positive impact on your home value. It has positive impact on your quality of life and your ability to feel secure in your home.”

The next budget meeting is Thursday, March 7, in the council chamber, followed by two more before a public hearing April 1.

The budget will be presented to voters in a referendum June 11.


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