BUCKFIELD — With the town finances and proposed budget in disarray, the Select Board voted unanimously Monday evening to postpone the annual budget referendum scheduled for July 13.

The town cannot set a new date for the vote, Selectman Martha Catevenis said, until the board gets more info on the town audit and from an accountant, whose services are required to sort through the town’s finances and invoices.

“I’m glad we’re postponing the vote,” Catevenis said. “It’s not ready.”

Selectman Cheryl Coffman and Chairwoman Tina Brooks agreed with that assessment.

New interim Town Manager Bradley Plante, who has been on the job for a week, said the dollar amounts on the warrant questions and the budget do not match.

Plante inherited the financial situation after the resignation of Town Manager John Andrews of Paris six months after being hired in November 2020. About a week later, longtime Town Clerk Cindy Dunn resigned citing long hours, lack of compensation and little help. She also had the roles of town treasurer and tax collector, bookkeeper, payroll clerk, registrar of voters, assessor assistant, motor vehicle registration agent, watercraft-ATV-snowmobile registration agency, and state Department of Inland Fishers and Wildlife agent for the community.

That left Andrews with no one to oversee the Town Office, which closed for a couple of months as a new staff received training and certifications.

In his resignation letter Andrews cited a “toxic environment” and the tremendous amount of extra work that was required to run the town.

“I took this position in the hopes of helping the town of Buckfield as its town manager,” Andrews wrote. “Unfortunately, this is not how things played out. By the end of my first week on the job, my contract was broken and I had the roles of treasurer, clerk and tax collector added to my plate. Had I known that my role would involve those additional jobs, I would have never applied for the position.”

Town residents still have to visit neighboring Paris in order to register their vehicles, but that process has worked out well and has been beneficial, according to Buckfield town officials.

While the audit is ongoing, the Select Board has authorized Plante to hire a certified public accountant to untangle the invoices so the town can pay its bills and help officials understand where the town stands financially. That must be done before the town can finalize the budget, write the warrants and hold a public hearing. Then the town can reschedule the referendum vote.

Plante has already made progress. The town recently made a $48,540 deposit and expects an even larger deposit later this week. He says he’s out and about meeting town employees and residents. He said if anyone wants to talk to him, they can usually find him getting coffee at Tilton’s Market each morning between 10 and 10:30 a.m.

“It’s great to be back in town,” Plante said.

Plante, a former town manager of Poland and Harrison, served as Buckfield’s interim town manager three years ago.

In reviewing the preliminary warrants, Plante suggested to the board that it include one that allows the town to spend a portion of the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

In other business, Plante asked for a workshop so the board can prioritize his to-do list. That workshop will be held Tuesday, May 25.

The board approved a liquor license for Buck-It Grill and Pub.

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