FARMINGTON — Selectmen Thursday night approved a budget that is up $741,252 over the 2020 budget.

The board also set Monday, April 26, as the date for the town meeting referendum. Because of COVID-19, the traditional town meeting was changed. Voters will cast their ballots at the Community Center with the hours to be determined. A tentative date of April 12 was mentioned for a public hearing where voters can ask questions about the budget prior to going to the polls.

The almost $6.85 million budget is up 12.1% with most of the increase coming from workers’ compensation. The adjustments are a result of the 2016 explosion at the LEAP building on the Farmington Falls Road.

Workmen’s comp increased 408%, Town Manager Richard Davis said. The final figure of $234,88 is a bit better than the over $300,000 originally estimated, he added.

Revenues from last year were more than $400,000 above the revised estimate, Davis said. Almost $300,000 will be returned to the undesignated fund balance, he said.

“That puts us in a very good position as far as revenues we can tap to hold the mil rate down,” Davis said. “Last year we made large cuts to bring our budget down to where it was the year before, so we’re starting from a lower starting point to begin with. That makes it look worse than it would have been had we proceeded as planned last year.

“With any luck, we can keep it under 20 mils, my personal goal,” he said. “I think that’s pretty remarkable for a service center.”

Selectmen canceled the 2020 annual town meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Farmington Fire Rescue’s budget request of $771,154 drew the most discussion. It was approved in a 3-2 vote with Selectmen Stephan Bunker, Michael Fogg and Scott Landry in favor and Selectmen Joshua Bell and Matthew Smith opposed.

The fire rescue budget is up $204,604.

A full year of wages is included for the two full-time firefighters added last August. Another proposed per diem firefighter would provide 10 hours of coverage Monday through Friday.

“Our biggest problem is manpower,” Fire Chief Terry Bell said. Volunteers aren’t available all the time, he noted.

Towns nearby have much bigger fire department budgets, Bell said.

Joshua Bell asked if potential for manpower was available through Foster CTE Center programs and the new training center.

Attendance is down at Foster this year with the new law enforcement program and EMT classes offered during the day, Chief Bell said.

Farmington Fire has five new people: three college students along with two other men.

“One college student has been on two years,” Chief Bell said. “I don’t know anywhere where people don’t know firefighters are needed.”

Next year the department be asking for the per diem person to become fulltime, Joshua Bell asked.

Chief Bell said more fulltime firefighters would probably be needed in the future, but maybe not next year.

People are moving here, the town is getting bigger, he said. They want the things they had in the city, he added.

It’s costly to run an efficient fire department, Selectman Michael Fogg said.

“The community has supported, recognizes what it takes. I hope when they see it (the increase) they will understand and support it,” he said.

How much of your workload is because of mutual aid, Landry asked.

Farmington assisted on 36 calls, received help on 18, Chief Bell said.

Bunker asked what the impact of the additional person would be.

For structure fires, departments are required to have two trained people outdoors. Chief Bell said. Without that, no one can go inside to fight the fire – unless there is a person inside who needs rescuing, he noted.

Hardy said during the day two trucks are driven to calls and the additional person would allow a second person on one of the trucks.

This year, the department’s request does stick out, Bunker said. “It’s the only department increasing staffing levels to any extent.”

Chief Bell said the department’s budget would decrease $30,817 for salary and related expenses if the additional per diem worker was not included. There could also be some additional savings in clothing and equipment depending on who was hired, he said.

The cost of the per diem is minimal compared to the workmen’s comp, Landry said.

When asked, Town Manager Richard Davis calculated the increase in mil rate for the fire department’s budget as proposed.

It would be about 0.4 of a mil, he said.

Farmington Fire puts a lot of effort into supporting surrounding communities, Landry said.

“If we go ahead with this, I’d like to see an increase in support from surrounding towns,” he said.

 

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