Peter Bragdon, resident of New Gloucester

NEW GLOUCESTER — The town’s Budget Committee said Tuesday night municipal spending could increase significantly for 2019-20.

During a budget hearing that drew about two dozen residents, the committee said the proposed municipal budget is $4.95 million, up by $552,093 — almost 12.6% — from current spending of $4.4 million.

Committee members said the proposed budget does not include school and county taxes. It remains unclear, therefore, how property taxes would be affected.

The Budget Committee said $500,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance, which totals $3.9 million, would be used to help offset the budget increase.

Steve Libby, New Gloucester selectman

The large spending increase is partly due to the creation of a Public Safety Department budget, which combines the Fire and Rescue departments and adds changes to the compensation for firefighters and other rescue workers.

The proposed Public Safety budget totals $643,112, an increase of $264,696 — almost 70% — from current spending. The proposal drew no public response Tuesday night.

“We are asking to increase funding to ensure the ambulance has a committed staff member and paramedic at the station 24/7,” Fire/Rescue Chief Toby Martin wrote in support of the spending hike. “The increased funding will help ensure response times at night are similar to response times during the day.”

The town is also looking to expand its Recreation Department, to include a full-time director. The proposed recreation budget totals $139,000, with about $97,600 to be covered by revenues from programs.

Resident Jim Fitch said he opposed the proposal to tap the undesignated fund balance, saying it is meant to provide a cushion for the town.

Jim Fitch, New Gloucester resident

“We don’t know what will hit us right between the eyes (in the future),” he said.

Resident Don Libby also argued against using the undesignated fund balance to reduce taxes.

Some residents asked that the Budget Committee clarify a proposed Senior Property Tax Assistance ordinance.

Officials said the ordinance would provide property tax assistance to those 70 or older whose annual household income is $40,000 or less and who have lived New Gloucester for at least 10 years.

A $50,000 allocation from the undesignated fund balance would be used for the program, and the town manager would be authorized to approve qualifying applicants.