LIVERMORE FALLS  — The Budget Committee is recommending a “no” vote on all spending articles in this year’s annual town meeting warrant except two: donations and capital improvements.

Eight members signed the proposed $2.56 million spending plan for 2019-20, which includes their recommendations and those of selectmen. It was submitted it to Town Manager Stephen Gould this week.

The proposal reflects a 2.26 percent increase, or $60,064 more than the 2018-19 budget.

It will go to a public hearing April 22 and a vote at the polls June 11 at the Town Office.

Budget Committee members recommended spending $15,000 for donations, with $10,000 of it from the undesignated account. However, on March 13 selectmen capped donations at $5,000.

The committee contends that many members were not able to make the hastily called meeting late that day. Chairman Jeff Roy said he didn’t see the the town manager’s email until 7:20 p.m. when he was in Auburn.

Gould told committee members March 27 that he misunderstood the referendum timeline and thought he needed the budget and warrant articles to be finalized quickly. He apologized for any missteps.

It is the first budget process for several committee members and Gould.

In March 2013, then-Town Manager Kristal Flagg received an opinion on the committee’s role from town attorney Patricia Dunn, who wrote, in part, “The Budget Committee is charged with the task of reviewing the selectmen’s budget and making recommendations prior to the town meeting vote.”

“The Budget Committee cannot exceed the scope of its mandate,” Dunn wrote. “Because the Budget Committee was established for the purpose of reviewing the selectmen’s budget and making recommendations, its activities should be limited to those required to accomplish that task.”

The committee, a town entity, is required to follow the procedural requirements of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

“The Budget Committee is not, however, required to keep a record of its proceedings because it is purely an advisory body that makes recommendations but has no decision-making authority,” according to a footnote on Dunn’s opinion.

The committee recommended increasing debt service on the Fire Station renovation loan by $11,000, from the selectmen’s amount of $39,000, to pay it off quicker, but residents voted to pay the loan back over 30 years, Gould said.

The committee also wanted to increase the Treat Memorial Library budget to extend its hours. It recommended raising and appropriating $93,776. Selectmen voted for the trustees’ request of $80,620.

“When we made our recommendation on the increase in the library budget, we were hoping to be able to enter into a discussion with the Selectboard on how we could have more library hours, but that didn’t happen,” Roy wrote in an email. “In hindsight, what could have happened was to have representatives of the library trustees come back in and for the (Budget Committee) or Selectboard to ask if they want more open hours and to have them present a budget that reflects more open hours.”

Roy said the committee worked hard on the budget.

“We showed up to extra meetings, we showed up sometimes within a few hours of being notified of a meeting with the Selectboard,” Roy wrote. “We held our own meetings to discuss each department’s budget — meetings that the town manager attended in order to answer our questions. It was disappointing to us that we all showed up to (the March 27) meeting to find out that everything was “‘locked in'” and that there would be little to no chance for discussion with the Selectboard.”

NOTE: The article has been changed to reflect the correct amount of $11,000 the Budget Committee wanted to increase the Fire Station debt service. It was a reporter error.

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