STARKS — Voters approved a 23 percent increase in the town’s municipal budget when they gathered for the annual Town Meeting on Saturday.
The additional funds, which include $60,000 to be put into a fund for future expenses, could act as a cushion for the town if the Legislature approves Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed cuts to revenue sharing, First Selectman Paul Frederic said.
At the same time, selectmen said property tax rates shouldn’t change much, because the town recently increased revenue by switching school districts and hosting a new substation being built by Central Maine Power Co.
The budget for 2013 is $534,436, with $484,210 to be raised from taxes and the rest to come from undesignated funds.
One of the highlights of the meeting was a visit from Rep. Paul Gilbert, who addressed residents on the status of the proposed state cuts. He encouraged the town to support its selectmen in writing a resolution against the governor’s proposals and send it to the Legislature.
“I don’t like this budget and I don’t think many towns do. I would encourage local governments to contact their legislators,” he said.
If cuts to revenue sharing, commercial excise taxes and the homestead exemption act are passed, Frederic said, Starks could lose between 15 and 20 percent of its operating budget.
“We may need to use savings just to maintain our spending,” he said. “I think it is a good idea to set aside some money.”
The town also voted to raise about $7,000 to cover the cost of defects identified by the Department of Labor in the Town Office, the fire station and the public works garage.
In August, the department cited the town for 64 violations, most of which were related to not keeping proper paperwork, but some of which were equipment-related.
The violations, which were cited during a surprise visit by the department in August, have been corrected; and selectmen attended a penalty hearing Monday in Augusta, which they reported “went well.” The fine should be about $200 or $300, they said.
Voters also approved pay raises for the building superintendent and the Board of Assessors. They agreed to spend $82,887 for administrative costs for the town, $42,076 for a payment on a new plow truck, $67,000 for winter road maintenance and $40,000 for summer road maintenance. Those amounts include undesignated funds as well as the amount to be raised from taxes.
In elections, Frederic was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, with 71 votes. Kerry Hebert was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Assessors, with 72 votes; and Jenn Hebert was elected to a three-year term as town clerk, with 72 votes.
During the business portion of the meeting, the town also voted to elect a budget committee. There were six nominees for five seats. The town elected Bob Clark, 41 votes; Ernie Hilton, 39 votes; Carol Coles, 38 votes; Erin Norton, 37 votes; and Charlie Stevens, 31 votes. Paula Day received 21 votes.
The town also honored two citizens, Linda LaRose and Anita Reichenbach, for their citizenship and service to the community.
Gilbert dedicated the meeting to Reichenbach, who moved to Starks from Queens, N.Y., in 1969 when her family bought a dairy farm on Locke Hill Road. Reichenbach raised four children in Starks and has served as a selectwoman, assessor, town treasurer and as a member of the Budget Committee and the Appeals Board.
The town also presented LaRose with the Maine Spirit of America Foundation Tribute, recognizing her for outstanding community service. LaRose has worked for the town library and organized Christmas concerts and the Move More Kids program, among other contributions.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368