NEW GLOUCESTER — A public hearing set for next week on the 2020-21 municipal budget, which shows significant differences between recommendations by selectmen and the Budget Committee, has been postponed.

Interim Town Manager Paul First sent an email Friday morning to some town officials indicating all town meetings, except for selectmen and fire/rescue meetings, are canceled until April 1 out of concern for the coronavirus.

It is not known how the budget process will proceed.

Regarding the 2020-2021 budget, selectmen are proposing $5.02 million in spending for the coming fiscal year, while the Budget Committee recommends $4.91 million.

The amounts do not include assessments for SAD 15 and Cumberland County.

The differences between the two panels include:

  • Selectmen want to double the total stipend for all five members to $10,400; the Budget Committee recommends $7,800.
  • Selectmen call for a 3% merit raise for employees; the Budget Committee recommends 2.5%.
  • Selectmen want to cut $36,000 for paving Chestnut Commons; the Budget Committee wants to keep the money for the project.
  • Selectmen favor keeping two part-time firefighter/EMT positions for 24/7 coverage and continue to provide transportation for patients; the Budget Committee wants only one paid firefighter/EMT for 24/7 coverage and have United Ambulance transport patients, saving roughly $200,000.
  • Selectmen want to eliminate the assistant librarian position and cut library hours from 40 to 30 per week; the Budget Committee favors reducing the library director’s hours from 40 to 36 hours per week, maintaining her benefits and maintaining the assistant librarian position for 36 hours and preserving her benefits.

Selectmen and the Budget Committee agree on reducing the Parks and Recreation director’s position from 40 to 36 hours per week and eliminating an after-school program.

Both panels also agree on reducing the code enforcement officer’s hours from 40 to 36 hours per week.

Traditionally, selectmen finalize their budget after reviewing the Budget Committee’s recommendations.

Last year, $550,000 was taken from the undesignated fund balance to offset the expense of expanding the Fire Rescue Department for 24/7 coverage. Interim Town Manager Paul First said that same amount can’t be taken from the fund this year because it would drop the fund below the required amount to cover an emergency.

The town is in the midst of finishing a townwide property revaluation which will be reflected in next year’s tax bills.

Town Manager First and adviser Steve Libby developed the municipal budget.

Selectmen Linda Chase and Karen Gilles represent the board on the Budget Committed but have no voting power. Chase is board chairman and Gilles is vice chairman.

The Budget Committee members are Chairman Peter Bragdon, Vice Chairman Jean Libby, Jeff Hamilton Sr., Joe Bean, Penny Hilton, Jean Couturier and Jennifer Bragdon. They serve as advisers to selectmen.


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