BUCKFIELD — Voters will head to the Town Hall on Tuesday to decide on the long-awaited 2021-22 municipal budget.

The ballot has 43 articles asking residents to fund all town services, from the fire department, public works and rescue department to winter roads, street lights and cemeteries.

The polls will open at 8 a.m. on the first floor of the Town Hall at 34 Turner St., and will close at 8 p.m. Absentee ballots must be returned by Tuesday at 8 p.m. Masks are not required at the polls, but are recommended.

The $2 million municipal budget, which former interim Town Manager Bradley Plante described as “bare bone,” represents a 3% increase over last year’s number.

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

The lone major capital expenditure is to allow the town to enter into a three-year lease that would finance the Town Office’s transition to TRIO software. The software in use is Windows 7, an obsolete operating system no longer supported by Microsoft. The switch to TRIO should also enable the town once again to process new vehicle registrations. The town has relied on neighboring Paris for much of the past year to handle the registrations, which is now costing the town $7 per registration.

That is one source of the frustration that has been growing in town during the past year, which has been a struggle for town officials. The town has gone through four town managers in the past 13 months, with the last one, Plante, leaving Friday due to health reasons.

The Select Board met last week in executive sessions to discuss options and could have a new town manager on board soon.

The frustration has led some residents to urge their neighbors to vote against Tuesday’s proposed budget. A couple of signs were seen around town Monday, with one saying “Caution. Faulty budget ahead. Vote No! Sept. 28.”

A successful no vote on any of the budget articles will force the department head of the affected account to rely on last year’s budget amount.

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