FARMINGTON — Two selectmen have sent letters to residents stating they would be presenting an alternative budget proposal at the annual Town Meeting this year.

The meeting will be held in person in the Mt. Blue High School gym Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m. Copies of the letter were provided to the Franklin Journal Wednesday, May 4.

Selectmen Joshua Bell and Byron Staples included their names and addresses on the envelopes and signed the letters.

The letter signed by them reads, “The proposed 2022 town budget has caused confusion and concern within our community. The proposed budget currently presented represents an increase of over 20% in spending, including an unsustainable 18% average pay increase for our town employees. This is an increase of $900,000 in personnel cost to the town. Currently, the mil rate is projected to have a slight decrease due to the solar farm project. The tax revenue from the solar farm project decreases every year, therefore, it is important to think and plan ahead in a fiscally responsible manner for our community and its future.”

“We, as a community, are all feeling the impact of the cost-of-living increases on fuel for our homes/vehicles, electricity, and food,” the letter continues. “This is not the appropriate time to place an increased tax burden on our taxpayers by over 20%.”

According to the letter the budget they plan to present will provide the following:


• Substantial property tax relief for our community members.

• Wage increases for our valued town employees.

• Fully funding the police and fire departments; including the purchase of a new fire truck.

• Use of the anticipated increased revenue to pay down current debt.

• Prepare for future road improvements.

• Keep the town in fiscally responsible financial condition for the unknown economic future.


Several attempts to reach Bell and Staples for more information about their plan – by phone and text or email – Wednesday were not successful.

In December selectmen approved a 7.3% cost of living adjustment for employees in 2022.

In January most proposed department budgets were approved 4-1 by selectmen with Bell the only dissenting vote. Selectman Stephan Bunker abstained on the Fire Rescue budget as he is a member of that department.

The proposed $8.5 million budget had been cut some $650,000 from the budget presented a week previously. At that meeting it was noted revenues from Farmington solar farm are expected to be $709,000 per year on average, with more at the beginning of the 20-year lease.

This spreadsheet shows projected revenue from the Farmington solar farm. Years seven to 20 will provide $572,065 annually while the final 10 years will provide $143,016 annually. Screen capture

The approved budget figure is $1.65 million, or 23.65% more than the current spending plan.

The annual town meeting was to be held March 28 but was postponed twice as selectmen grappled with budget figures and approving the warrant articles.


The anticipated tax rate would be set at $19.60 per $100,000 valuation later this year, a $0.40 increase over the current rate.

“I was surprised that I got [the letter] having an opposing view,” Bunker said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. Charlie Webster had a Facebook post that went to a large group of people, he noted.

“Many question why Selectman would support a 20% increase in additional new spending. Honestly it’s difficult to understand,” that Facebook post reads. “First of all, the town received a $1.3 Million windfall as a result of the Solar Farm. These funds will decrease annually for the next 19 years, as the value of the equipment depreciates. The Selectman decided (4 to 1) to spend it all and increased total spending by a $1.7 million and did so without paying off debt and without a long term plan to rebuild Farmington’s crumbling roads.”

Webster’s post states the proposed budget is unsustainable and projects property taxes will double within the next eight to 10 years.

The post was out of balance, Bunker said. “There is a terrible misimpression between the considerable increase in the budget as proposed versus the impact on peoples’ tax rates,” he noted.

Bunker said the increases address or correct four critical issues facing the town.


The first is two-fold – how much Farmington is out of sync with what employees in similarly sized towns are paid and a concerted effort to deal with recruitment and retainment issues.

“We are losing well-trained police officers, just had the loss of our finance officer to a like-sized community where she got a significant increase,” Bunker said.

The number one citizen complaint is the condition of town roads, Bunker noted. “We made a considerable adjustment from $300,000 to $650,000 to try to catch up with our deteriorating roads,” he said.

Two issues with the Fire Rescue Department are the need to replace another fire truck and change two per diem firefighters to full-time positions, Bunker said. The oldest engine should have been replaced two years ago based on the department’s plan, an adequate minimum number of officers need to be available at any one time for minimum fire protection and citizen’s safety, he stressed.

The condition of the Community Center roof is the other issue, Bunker stated. Engineers have looked at it, it is clear it was substandard and needed to be addressed, he noted. American Rescue Plan Act funds have been approved to cover most of the costs, he added.

“Those four issues make this Town Meeting stand out,” Bunker said. “They must be addressed. It is an unfortunate assumption that the first year of revenues from the solar farm could go to decrease the mil rate or pay off bond notes. If this were any other year, perhaps we could have done that. We are fortunate to have that income with the issues the town is facing.”


“My biggest concern beyond the buildings, the condition of the roads and fire apparatus is the quality of our work force,” Bunker said. “Being able to retain our current employees and be able to recruit others to work in town and maintain good morale is the number one issue. Once these issues are addressed, we will be able to use increased revenues to reduce the mil rate, pay off bonds.”

Bunker said he is very concerned about the reaction of employees if they are not seen as supported by the town. They could seek collective bargaining and unionize which would not be good for either the town or the employees, he noted.

“Having a respectful working relationship outside of contracts is always the best way,” Bunker stressed.

Bunker was dismayed by the tactics used at the March 28 elections. Bell and Staples were write-in candidates, not all of the citizenry knew they were interested since they didn’t take out nomination papers, he said.

Wednesday selectman Scott Landry said he did not receive a letter, was a little surprised when he learned of it.

“They have taken this to a whole new level,” he said. “I am really disappointed, will see what happens.”


Landry said he agrees with planning ahead.

“Our employees haven’t had a raise in over 12 years,” he noted. “I am sure E.L. Vining will pay more than we can pay the road crew. This is shortsighted.”

Selectman Chair Matthew Smith did receive a letter, noting it was very random who got them. His parents did not receive one, he said.

“I don’t like the division within the board,” he said. “I wish in hindsight they had come to us. I would have agreed to give them a platform to present it.

“This feels underhanded,” Smith said. “It makes me sad that this is what the politics in Farmington has come to.”

For updates, additional information from Byron Staples visit the Franklin Journal website,


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