BUCKFIELD — Already weeks behind, the Select Board is hoping to fast-track the budget process for this fiscal year by scheduling a joint meeting with the Budget Committee and the department heads before the end of the month.

If they can come to an agreement at the July 27 meeting, the vote on the town budget could take place in late September. This fiscal year began July 1.

“That would give us some breathing room to get the tax rate set,” interim Town Manager Bradley Plante said at Thursday night’s board meeting.

Tax bills are due in November.

The budget referendum was originally scheduled for June, but the process was halted following the resignation of former Town Manager John Andrews in early May. Plante is the fourth Town Manager in Buckfield  in the past 12 months.

Plante has brought in a certified public accountant to review the town’s accounts and help sort out its budget woes. He told the board he is hoping to provide a final financial report by the next meeting July 20.

In other business, Plante said he is looking into a new phone system in the Town Office. The current system is faulty, keeps dropping calls, has difficulty transferring calls and delays voicemails for days. Plante said the system is 20 to 30 years old. He added that he’s not looking for a fancy phone system.

“We just need phones that work,” he said.

“The phone system is a disaster,” said Select Board member Janet Iveson, who has volunteered in the Town Office and is the mother of Town Clerk Melissa Wolf.

Cheryl Coffman was voted board chairwoman after Iveson declined the nomination. Cameron Hinkley was elected vice chairman.

The board announced new business hours for the Town Office, which will begin Aug. 1. The office will open Tuesday from noon until 4:30 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the  office will be open from 9 a.m. to noon, close for lunch and reopen from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

The board also voted to start meeting Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. instead of Mondays starting July 20.

Plante announced the sale of plastic and cardboard at the transfer station brought $3,832.85.

The board also approved a one-year extension for its contract to provide fire protection to Hartford for $20,000.

It was announced that Root Star Farm on McCallister Road was recently honored by the state for its butternut being the state’s Big Tree champion.

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