BUCKFIELD — It took four hours, but the town finally has a budget for the current fiscal year that it can send to the voters.

The town’s department heads met Tuesday night with the Select Board and the Budget Committee to offer explanations and suggest changes to their budgets that were proposed by interim Town Manager Bradley Plante, who was not at the meeting.

Plante had described his proposed budget as “bare bone,” featuring an increase of three percent. The Select Board and the Budget Committee added approximately $50,000 to the budget to keep the increase just over 3% on the $3.8 million budget, which includes county taxes and the cost for RSU 10. The municipal portion of the budget is $2 million.

The largest increases in the budget were in the rescue, debt service and winter roads accounts. Salaries are higher in the rescue and winter roads accounts in order to remain competitive with neighboring towns, who have in the past lured Buckfield employees away with their higher wages after Buckfield paid to train them, department heads said.

They also added a few items back into the budget that they felt were essential, such as covering employer contributions when salaries increase and the expected increase in vehicle parts. The Select Board and Budget Committee increased the salary line for a new town manager, who should be hired before the end of the calendar year.

Debt service increased due to the purchase last year of new plow trucks and an excavator, and another $6,000 was added to the public works equipment account for the furnace and humidifier.

The lone major capital expenditure in the budget is to allow the town to enter into a three-year lease that would finance the Town Office’s transition to TRIO software. The current software in use is Windows 7, an obsolete operating system no longer supported by Microsoft.

Select Board Chairwoman Cheryl Coffman and Budget Committee chairman Glen Holmes oversaw the meeting.

In the coming weeks, the town will schedule two public hearings on the proposed 2021-22 budget, with a referendum vote expected sometime in September.

The town is a couple of months behind in the budget process and is still awaiting the results of the audit for 2020.

Officials say they hope for a return to stability with Plante, who is the town’s fourth person to fill the town manager role in the last calendar year.

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