Farmington Town Manager Christian Waller speaks at the annual Town Meeting Monday night, May 9. Most town officials had proposed one budget. Selectmen Joshua Bell and Byron Staples presented lower amounts for seven departments. Five were approved. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Voters at town meeting Monday night, May 9, approved a municipal budget for 2022 that was a mix of what town leaders had proposed and alternative numbers presented for the first time that evening.

Michael Fogg at right is thanked for his nine years of service as a selectman at the Farmington Town Meeting Monday night, May 9. Fogg said he couldn’t explain how much it meant to him, that he truly appreciated it. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

The proposed budget approved by Selectmen and the Budget Committee was $8.4 million, a 22.54% increase over the current $6.9 million spending plan. Last week Selectmen Joshua Bell and Byron Staples sent a letter to some residents stating they would be presenting an alternative budget proposal for voters to consider.

The alternative budget proposal was for $7.5 million, a 9.83% increase over this year. It included decreases for seven departments, an increase for one and had 11 remaining the same.

Staples and Town Manager Christian Waller were each given five minutes to explain their proposals.

Record high inflation is causing many in the community to struggle more than ever, Staples said. The town of Belfast, used for comparison to determine wages for 10 town positions, has almost double the property valuation of Farmington, a 37% higher household income and is in debt, he noted.

Staples said he found over $400,000 in miscalculated or misappropriated funds in the proposed budget. He considered the alternative budget as being fiscally responsible.


When he came here, Waller said he was asked to produce a budget, take a look at what needed to be added, what needed to be kept and what needed to be reduced or taken away. There were three key areas, he noted.

“One was in regards to compensation,” Waller said. “The town had several employees, the majority had not had any change in their pay for a number of years. In one instance it was 14 years. I would not work anywhere that didn’t give me a raise for 14 years.”

Standard human resources practices such as time in position, skill set, certifications needed and education were utilized to evaluate what the pay adjustments for each employee should be, Waller said. In the past there was no systematic means of determining pay raises, he noted.

Budget figures are also geared to help in employee retention, Waller said. Several are due to retire, the town could lose institutional knowledge, the available pool of talent is very sparse and current rates of pay are not tenable for filling positions, he stressed.

“Almost all organizations are finding they have to increase pay to fill positions,” Waller added.

Another item was unfunded liabilities — items the town had wanted to put money aside for but for one reason or another funds weren’t appropriated for special reserve accounts, he noted. One example Waller shared was funds to replace Engine II for the fire department.


The third factor he noted are the unusual economic conditions, the strangest economic environment he can recall in his professional career. “The budget addresses the needs presented by the economic conditions,” Waller said. “As inflation goes up, the cost of services doesn’t go down.”

At the annual Town Meeting in Farmington Monday evening, May 9, voters raise pink cards to make it easier for ballot clerks to determine outcomes. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

There was a debate over whether non-voters should be allowed to speak. Some felt only taxpayers should be allowed since they foot the bills. Others felt department heads have big responsibilities, should speak if need be. Waller noted department heads, experts from connected organizations could provide information in the best interest for the town.

Department heads, town employees and experts being allowed to speak on a case by case basis was approved.

Budget Committee member Ed David said the alternative proposal was not a considered judgment of each department. “These amendments have nothing to do with the merits, what the town needs, what employees need,” he said. He asked if anyone had vetted them prior to 7 p.m.

“It is up to the people to make the final decision, it is not up to the board,” Bell said. He explained letters were only sent to some residents as he paid for them, couldn’t afford to send them to everyone.

“Anyone in this crowd could make an amendment,” Bell noted. “Everyone is here because they want to participate.”


Selectman Stephan Bunker had concerns with the strategy and transparency of how the alternative budget was presented, calling it a recipe for poor public policy. His suggestion to pass over the articles to allow time to reflect on the proposals, get answers did not happen.

“I think it is amazing, these people in power for the last 40 years … feel slighted because we the people are going against their numbers, challenging their budget,” Conrad Bailey said.

Ryan Morgan said people would have been in favor if pay increases had been addressed incrementally. “A little prior planning could have prevented this,” he noted.

“I think what is apparent is you are going to have your way,” Janice David said. There is no justification for why these numbers make sense, the budget was cut without any thought as to employees, in terms of fairness, she noted.

Resident Jim Andrews said he received the letter but not a copy of the ‘phantom’ budget, considered it guerilla tactics at best. With the process used in the past issues are submitted to the Budget Committee and anyone can take part in the process, he noted.

The Police Department budget stayed the same in the alternative proposal, Andrews said. “The law of supply and demand applies to everything,” he noted. “There are 300 police vacancies in this state, probably just as many for treasurer, highway. You are not just competing with Belfast, Maine. You are competing with Belfast, Ireland. This is not the same world.”


The budget approved was $7.6 million or 16.2% over 2021. Public works was cut $199,183, parks and recreation $183,738; general administration $132,623; fire department $79,552 and code enforcement $57,684.

General administration was the first department considered. The vote to amend to $860,275 was 197 to 119. The amended amount then passed.

Executive Assistant Nancy Martin said after the vote she wasn’t sure how bills were going to be paid, things repaired unless the office is closed one day a week.

Selectman Scott Landry said department increases came about after Police Chief Kenneth Charles explained he was losing talent in his department. Pay increases were approved for that department to try to keep it staffed.

“One percent a year over 12-15 years [for cost of living adjustments] is not a merit raise, why we we’re discussing why other employees should be getting a raise,” Landry said. “We lost a treasurer, had to do something different.”

Of the $79,552 removed from the Fire Department budget, $75,000 was for the first payment for the new fire truck, Staples said. “It can’t be used this year, the truck is not available this year,” he added.


Bell and Staples did not lower the $1.7 million for the Police Department in their proposal.

Voters approved $510,000 for capital road improvement. The original proposal was for $650,000 with the alternative at $325,000. The amount approved last year was $300,000.

“The number one raised complaint of citizens is the condition of our roads,” Bunker said. “The $300,000 per year wasn’t keeping up.”

Approving $510,000 would allow the department to stay on the five-year road plan regardless of what the economy does, Public Works Department Head Phillip Hutchins said. The town would be able to enter agreements with contractors, drop prices because of volume increases and there would be less liability costs, he noted.

The alternative proposal to raise debt service $110,500 to pay off the Police Department building early failed. Moderator Paul Mills said because the article was capped as written, the amount couldn’t be increased.

Town Manager Christian Waller said paying off the loan early would cost the town $41,649. The town’s debt ratio is low, it wasn’t a pressing financial need, he noted.


A proposal to cut the library budget by $4,110 also failed.

A 9% versus 11% budget change is more impactful with a small budget, Barb Marshall, Farmington Public Library board president, said. “We have written grants, invested in staff, haven’t lost staff. When people come they see the same faces.

“It is a safe place for people,” she noted. “We keep the budget as small as possible and still keep it viable.”

David Allen took issue with how the proceedings had gone.

“You are not making this town appealing to young people, down the road need to think about that,” he said.

Dennis O’Neil asked how departments would decide on spending the lowered amounts approved.

That hasn’t been determined, would need to be evaluated by the department head and myself, Waller said.

All other warrant articles were approved as presented.

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