BUCKFIELD — Just three residents attended the public hearing Wednesday on four articles for the Jan. 25 special town meeting.

Voters will head to the polls at the Municipal Center to cast ballots on nine articles. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The main purpose of the meeting is to correct a discrepancy in the budgeted amount between the town warrant and the official ballot on three articles passed at the Sept. 28 town meeting. Voters favored all 43 articles for the $2 million municipal budget.

Because the amounts on the ballot for debt service, winter roads and summer roads did not match the amount listed on the warrant and signed by town officials, the votes were declared invalid, even though they were adopted by voters.

Those three articles contain the exact wording and the same budgeted amount that was on the September ballot — $137,811.53 for debt service, $201,791 for winter roads and $413,321 for summer roads.

“Even though the ballot was correct, we have to take this step,” Chairwoman Cheryl Coffman said.


Residents will also vote to appropriate an additional $52,228 in state revenue that the town received from the Legislature.

In addition to those four articles and one to elect a moderator, voters will decide four other questions. The major one is to set the date for the first property tax payment, changing it from Nov. 15 to 30 days after commitment date, with interest starting after that.

After the September vote, town officials discovered that it miscalculated the property tax rate, a measurement that determines what residents need to pay per $1,000 of assessed value, by including exemption values in the taxable valuation line, according to Town Manager Lorna Nichols. What was initially announced as a $3 dip in the rate should have actually been an increase of about $1 from last year’s rate.

The town rushed the tax rate calculation in order to get tax bills ready before the Nov. 15 due date. The whole process had been delayed because the municipal budget was not approved by residents until late September. Normally, that vote is held during the summer.

Residents who paid the first half of their taxes by Nov. 15 are now facing interest costs for the difference for what the tax bill should have been. A yes vote to change the tax due date would stop the accruing interest. A no vote, however, will require residents to pay the full interest amount from Nov. 15.

The other articles include the elimination of the Board of Assessors, which would not occur until the June town meeting, and eventually replacing it with a contracted professional assessor. Another article would allocate $5,000 to pay for the assessor for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

With no certified professional assessor on the town office staff, Nichols said contracting with someone to work perhaps one day a week would help prevent some of the recent fiscal problems facing the town.

Since so few people attended the public hearing, resident Penny Horsfall asked town officials to place the warrant articles online, as well as an explanation for each one.

Absentee ballots are available at the Town Office.

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