MECHANIC FALLS — Town councilors and the Budget Committee are $2,500 apart in their recommendations for recreation spending in 2019-20.

The proposed municipal budget stands at $2.73 million, compared to $2.54 million in 2018.

The council recommends spending $22,986 for recreation, the amount listed in the proposed budget. The Budget Committee supports $25,486.

During their joint meeting March 7, the two panels agreed on all other budget lines, including the Police Department proposal of nearly $385,000. The amount includes adding an officer.

Police Sgt. James Daigle made a PowerPoint presentation showing increases in complaints, violent crimes, drug problems and vehicle traffic. Those activities are taxing police resources, delaying response times, raising overtime costs and adding to officers’ fatigue and stress, he said.

Adding another officer to the force would allow the department to “devote time to bettering community relations and strengthening the bond between police and the public we serve,” Daigle said.

The officer could assist teachers who are having problems with students, help build lasting and strong relationships between children and officers … and bring back the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, he said.

Daigle also said establishing a strong connection with the elderly in town, such as a Coffee with a Cop program, or simply devoting time at an elderly living facility could also be undertaken.

In a prepared statement Monday, Town Manager Zakk Maher said the proposed budget, if approved, would require $1.6 million to be raised from taxes.

“Overall this is a moderate 2 percent increase over the amount raised last year and is less than the anticipated growth rate of the town valuation,” he said.

Maher said his goal is to “ensure we can meet the increased demand for services while still decreasing the overall tax burden on residents.”

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 5 p.m. April 1 at the Municipal Building on Lewiston Street.

“I am planning to open at 5 p.m. in the gym downstairs to provide another opportunity for people” to hear department presentations of the budget,” Maher said.

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